#844: 1965, Son House, Death Letter Blues

by Jackie_South on January 27, 2014

Back in his post on the first 800 Songs To Learn and Sing posted here on All That’s Left, my colleague George East pondered on artists yet to feature. Number one on his list was Son House.

Son House is one of the great fathers of music: born and brought up in Clarksdale, Mississippi (well, technically in its conjoined village of Lyon) preacher, pastor, convict before turning to secular blues in the late 1920s, the Depression made sure he never made any money. However, his music inspired local boys such as Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters to pick up the guitar. Later, it was to inspire those as varied as Lynyrd Skynyrd (who name-checked Son House in Swamp Music) and the White Stripes (who covered this song).

By 1942, he decided that neither The Blues nor Mississippi would earn him a living, so he moved to Upstate New York and gave up music altogether. It was 22 years later before he was rediscovered and coaxed back to making music. Death Letter Blues was released shortly after, based on his 1930 song My Black Mama.

I love the stripped back Blues of Death Letter Blues, a song about a man learning of his love’s death, visiting her in the morgue and going home in a state of devastated depression. This is the Blues as it should be done, in my humble opinion. Marvelous.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

George_East January 28, 2014 at 7:24 am

Fantastic stuff. Long long overdue

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Charlie_East_West January 28, 2014 at 9:14 am

Agree. A great choice of song.

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