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David “Honeyboy” Edwards, the son of a sharecropper, the grandson of a slave and — for an extraordinary 80-plus years — the voice of the Delta blues, died Monday at his home in Chicago, said his longtime manager, Michael Frank. He was 96 and had been in declining health with heart problems.
He picked cotton and pulled corn on Mississippi Delta plantations from age 9, living the hard life that the blues were created to address. As a young man, he traveled across the South with a guitar on his shoulder, rode the rails, got thrown in prison on various trumped-up charges and, along the way, made music with the founders of the art form: Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton, Son House, Tommy McLennan, Sonny Boy Williamson and Big Joe Williams.
“You could play the blues like it was a lonesome thing — it was a feeling,” he said in a 1998 Chicago Tribune interview. “The blues is nothing but a story. … The verses which are sung in the blues is a true story, what people are doing … what they all went through. It’s not just a song, see?”
He is survived by daughter Betty Washington, and her children and grandchildren; a stepdaughter, Dolly McGinister; and nieces and nephews.
Visitation will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday at McCullough Funeral & Cremation Services, 851 E. 75th St. in Chicago. A “Friends and Fans Gathering” will follow at Lee’s Unleaded Blues, 7401 S. South Chicago Ave., with doors opening at 8 p.m.
Read more at the Chicago Tribune
Honeyboy Edwards (right), Hubert Sumlin (left) and Steven Johnson (center) at the Berklee Performance Center in February 2011.
In 1994, Robert Johnson was featured on a United States commemorative postage stamp, one of the highest honors that can be given to a U.S. citizen. In our first of what will be a series of Robert Johnson podcasts, the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation’s Global VP of Marketing & Media, Ben Minnifield, interviewed the following guests to discuss Robert Johnson’s legacy, the significance of his postage stamp, and an opportunity to reissue his stamp as part of an effort to teach younger generations about the King of the Delta Blues.
– Roy Betts – U.S. Postal Service Manager of Community Relations
– Dr. Tanya Scott – RJBF Global VP of Business Development
– Dr. Bruce Conforth – University of Michigan Professor of American Culture and American Roots Music
If you are a Robert Johnson fan, a fan of blues music, or if you appreciate the impact of African Americans on U.S. history, we invite you to send a brief letter to request a reissue of Robert Johnson’s postage stamp. Your letter can simply state that you appreciate Robert Johnson’s music and cultural legacy, and that you believe he deserves to have his postage stamp reissued.
Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee
c/o Stamp Development
U.S. Postal Service
475 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Room 3300
Washington, DC 20260-3501
Thank you for your support! You can listen to the podcasts below:
On this day 73 years ago, the King of Delta Blues, Robert Johnson died near Greenwood, Mississippi. Robert Johnson is today considered a master of the blues, particularly of the Delta blues style; Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones said in 1990, “You want to know how good the blues can get? Well, this is it.” Today we salute a legend and continue to embrace the legacy of music he left behind.
To illustrate some of the global interest in Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues, you can check out this recent article from Brazil, which includes an interview with Steven Johnson. During the interview, Steven discussed how his grandfather became a master blues artist, and the impact Robert Johnson has had on music. The full article can be translated online from Portuguese to English using Google Translate. Read more at Globo.com.
As we introduce the centennial year festivities for Robert Johnson, The King of The Delta Blues, the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation is proud to introduce the theatrical production of Robert Johnson: The Man, The Myth, The Music starring Vasti Jackson!
The production debuted in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, during Festival South and was produced by the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation and the Hattiesburg Concert Association. The production is a great tool for marketing Mississippi, “The Birthplace of America’s Music” and the unique blues culture created here.
Lastly, the production pays homage to the iconic voice and creativity of Robert Johnson, a young man who was beyond his visionary years.
The Robert Johnson Blues Foundation will introduce the production in the fall at the historic Alamo Theater located on the legendary Farish Street historic district in downtown Jackson, Mississippi.