You never quite know where something’s going to lead you. I fired up Spotify the other day, and it prompted me to look at someone’s blues playlist (to my shame, I didn’t note down whose it was, so that list is lost to me for now)
At the time though I did listen to it, and one particular song caught my attention – John Mayall’s The Death of J. B. Lenoir – which I promptly bought, added to my collection, and used twice at the same event. Maybe I should be ashamed of the latter, but I did play twelve hours of straight blues that weekend, and that was one of only two repeats, so I think I can be excused.
Anyway – I digress. The thing about a track called The Death of J. B. Lenoir is that it instantly got me curious about who Lenoir was. So after a not-so-useful hour of listening to a load of John Mayall’s tracks, I turned my attention to the Chicago-based J. B. Lenoir, who turned out to be a truly great blues musician, with a very distinctive style and a lot of political and racism-inspired themes woven into his music. Sad to say, despite his talent, he struggled for much of his career, and he died from a heart attack in 1967 brought on, it is believed, by his involvement in a car accident three weeks earlier.
His music was wonderful, especially from my own DJing-obssessed viewpoint, as I was able to find a good number of his tracks to add to my DJing collection. His guitar playing was beautifully percussive, and fully of subtleties, which I find particularly appealing as a dancer, and he had a great, and distinctive voice to match.
And there’s this clip below – J. B. with Freddy Bellow playing The Whale has Swallowed Me – and in a nutshell, it’s the epitome of cool. Just watch – it’s hard to get more effortlessly casual than this, and I can’t get enough of it.
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have you seen the documentary film done on lenoir by two swedish blues enthusiasts in the 60s … ?
well worth digging up (i came to it through the same John Mayall track incidentally)