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New Left Review I/29, January-February 1965


Alan Beckett

Two Country Blues Singers

This article will focus upon two of the most important earlier blues singers, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Robert Johnson, whose styles represent successive stages in the development of this musical form.

Lemon Jefferson was born into a poor farming family in Couchman, Texas in 1897; he was born blind and was given his first name by his parents. He started to play and sing in his early adolescence, and, in 1917, he left home and went to Dallas to work as a singer. During the next few years, he seems to have travelled sporadically through the Southern states, and in this way he came to influence many other singers. Artists as diverse as T-Bone Walker, an aggressive urban blues singer and Josh White, a polite, diluted entertainer and folk singer claim him as part of their inspiration. However, only one contemporary singer, Lightning Hopkins, who grew up in the area where Lemon worked, shows his influence to any considerable extent.

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