Shit. R.L. Burnside died today. Or yesterday by the time you read this. I can't even begin to properly describe what his legacy means to us here at the Mountain. At a time when I equated blues music to the clean tones of BB King and dozens of generic "boogie" bands, or faded old music that I had no connection to, Burnside sent me searching out Lightnin' Hopkins, Junior Kimbrough, Bessie Smith, Howlin' Wolf, the list goes on and on and on. An ongoing lifetime of obsession with the Blues was born here with Burnside. Yeah, stupid. But true. Guess it has to start somewhere with everyone. Purists never really like Burnside. Too much dirt on his strings and flirtation with hip hop beats (where do they think rap came from?). Whatever.
I can't really properly eulogize the man. He's been sick for awhile, and this comes as really no surprise to most paying attention. I'm just going to quote the Fat Possum news release:
Blues artist 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.
Those wishing to help should send donations to:
Freeland & Freeland Trust Account Burnside Memorial P. O. Box 269 Oxford, MS 38655 (662)234-3414 All proceeds will go directly to RL's widow, Alice Mae.
Too many places to send donations these days.
Rest In Peace, R.L.
R.L. Burnside: Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down (mp3)