Yesterday, the world lost one of the last remaining links to the original Mississippi Delta blues.
David “Honeyboy” Edwards, who played alongside Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson and Muddy Waters, died of congestive heart failure at home in Chicago on August 29; he was 96 years old.
Edwards was born in Shaw, Mississippi, in 1915, the son of a sharecropper and the grandson of a slave; by 14, he had strapped his Sears Roebuck guitar to his back and turned to the road, hitchhiking and rail-riding his way across the South under the tutelage of bluesman Big Joe Williams.
He would remain on the road for much of the next eight decades. Famously, he was one of the last to see his friend and frequent collaborator Robert Johnson alive, but Johnson was hardly the only great Edwards came to be associated with as one of the premier practitioners of itinerant Delta blues. Early on, he fell in with the likes of Williamson and Waters, and the classic songs “Long Tall Woman Blues” and “Just Like Jesse James” are generally attributed to him.
“Honeyboy was one of the very last links to the real world of the Delta blues, a crucial world in the development of American popular music. He was a truth teller,” Bruce Iglauer, president of Chicago blues label Alligator Records, told the LA Times. “He understood that this music can’t be separated from the culture in which he was born and grew up. It can’t be separated from the reality of the racial situation in the South at that time, and what black people were and weren’t allowed to do.”
Last year, Edwards was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Grammy, and also won a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album in 2007 for his Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live In Dallas.
Watch him below, still fiery and finger-picking at nearly 90:
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