Thursday, September 1, 2011
End of an era ... Blues Moon Radio for Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Tuesday's show contained old and new music and was tinged with a great deal of sadness because of the death of every Blues fan's friend: the last living original Delta Bluesman, David "Honeyboy" Edwards, who went to his maker as he rested peacefully early Monday morning in Chicago.
As difficult as it is to learn of the passing of someone whom one has met and admired, there is additional grief at the end of an era. We paid tribute to Honeyboy by playing some of his songs and stories on Blues Moon Radio.
I've had the rare pleasure of seeing Honeyboy play live a number of times and the absolute thrill of meeting him and interviewing him once, as well. I was scheduled to see him again late last winter. I awoke sick that morning, but still made the four-hour drive to North Carolina to see him in Chapel Hill. By showtime, I was in misery - made worse by the fact that Honeyboy had canceled the show because of health issues, but the venue had not notified ticket holders of the cancellation. They refunded our money and I remarked to my companion that I hoped this did not bode ill for Honeyboy's ability to continue to appear and play. I never regretted my decision to "bottle up and go," as it were, to the town near where that song originated, but I paid dearly for my decision to muddle through - I was seriously ill and mostly bedridden for two months afterwards and coughed constantly for two more.
Sadly, the cancellation did bode ill for Honeyboy. He canceled shows for health reasons all through the spring. His retirement from touring was announced a scant couple of weeks before his death. That was the second feeling of dread I experienced. I fervently hoped he had regained his health and was going to spend his time as he wished, with none of the road-weary travel that is so much the part of the life of a Bluesman.
Alas, he never played live again and didn't live much longer... but let's think... how many of us love what we do so much that it would bring us joy to work until the very last of our lives? And how wonderful to live to the age of 96 with such good health that we could work until the few months before passing?
That is a success story - and for a person who was raised in a time when money was so hard to come by; and in a profession that is closest to farming in terms of being "feast or famine" income-wise... he was a "rock-star" of Blues. Honeyboy never seemed to seek the spotlight, but oh-so-many knew of him and about him. I have never heard an unkind word about the man. He was unassuming and small in stature, but HUGE in heart. He filled a room with his smile and his music.
So - how is it we can be so sad at the end of such a wonderful life? Because when we love, we want more. We never want that person to go away; and we love the Blues as well as the original Bluesmen. Honeyboy was among the last of this musical treasure trove who brought us this wonderful, uniquely American music that has become an ambassador for the USA in a time where our country's honor could use a little shining up.
When the tears fall, they fall for us... not for Honeyboy ... who LIVED a LIFE as big as a mountain - he learned guitar from Tommy Johnson (who influenced Charley Patton, who influenced Robert Johnson) and was close with Robert Johnson, and told me that he was surely one of the last to see him alive - the day before he passed away. He was one of the lone icons left of what was and can never be again.
Music moves on; genres change, ebb and flow and sometimes go quiet. We cannot recreate what was... only be inspired by it to make the music that must come next. It might be good, but it will never be the same.
Bless you, Honeyboy - and thanks. Rest well, good man. Rest well.
Blues Moon Radio
Columbia SC USA