Saturday, February 11, 2006

Bad News Travels Slow

Johnny Cash once said, "Bad news travels like wildfire, good news travels slow." Such wasn't the case for me as I just learned yesterday that bluesman R. L. Burnside passed away on September 1st, 2005. Who the hell is R. L. Burnside? you're probably asking. Here's a brief biography I swiped from another website:

R.L. Burnside, who redefined the blues genre by incorporating indie rock acts and hip-hop production, died September 1, 2005, at St. Francis Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Burnside was born November 21, 1926, in Harmontown, Mississippi, and spent most of his life in the north Mississippi hill country, where he worked as a sharecropper and a commercial fisherman and played guitar at weekend house parties. In 1968, noted folklorist George Mitchell recorded Burnside for the first time. In 1991 Burnside was the first artist signed to then-fledgling Fat Possum Records in Oxford, Mississippi. His debut, "Too Bad Jim," was produced by former New York Times pop critic Robert Palmer. Along with his friend, neighbor, and label-mate Junior Kimbrough, Burnside was one of the most popular and important blues musicians to emerge in the last two decades. He recorded the crossover collaboration "A Ass Pocket of Whiskey" with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion in 1996 and became a cult hero. In 1998, music from "Come On In" was featured in several movies and television shows, including The Sopranos. Burnside sold hundreds of thousands of records in his lifetime. He is survived by his wife Alice Mae, twelve children, and numerous grandchildren.

It was back in '98, when I was awakened from my sleep by what was probably the coolest song I'd ever heard. Back then, I used to sleep with the radio on. WXRT, out of Chicago, used to play some pretty awesome music after midnight and that night was no exception. The song turned out to be "It's Bad You Know," off of Burnside's then just-released CD "Come On In." I went to the nearest music shop the next day and was surprised to find not only "Come On In," but a bunch of other CDs by Mr. Burnside.
How could this be? I wondered. How could someone as cool as this guy escape my watchful ear? It was just one of those things. Like discovering a novelist for the first time only to learn they've written a ton of books already!
If you haven't heard Mr. Burnside's music, pick up one of his CDs today. I'm sure his widow, twelve kids and numerous grandkids could use the money.
Rest in peace, Mr. Burnside. Hope you made it to Heaven before the Devil knew you were dead.

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