Blogs » On Another Note » R.L. Burnside (November 21,1926- September 1,2005)


A few weeks back, I mentioned my love for The Blues... and when prompted to mention some of my favorite living artists... one of them I mentioned was R.L. Burnside.

So while surfing the net and looking at various blogs, I discovered that R.L. Burnside passed away on Sept.1st.

It's not something I expected to be major news... it might have been a footnote on some Entertainment section of a small magazine or a nightly news program if that hurricane wouldn't have been so devastating. But I couldn't let time elapse without mentioning something about his death.

He used to be a sharecropper. Until the 50's when he heard John Lee Hooker's songs, then he started to sing the blues, his first recordings appeared in the 60's. (Don't let anyone ever tell you it's too late to start, Burnside was well into adulthood by then)

He did his share of festivals and local fame, but then faded into obscurity for a while like most Blues artists do... Then in the ninties, he began to tour with rocker Jon Spencer and collaborated on an album with him making him an unlikely icon for indie rockers.

Following this, he did a few records for punk/alternative label Epitaph/Anti. And up until a few years ago was on Fat Possum records (his long time label). No matter what people may say of him, he always did it his way, and he played it like he meant it. Not many artists can bounce out of obscurity like that.

Why do I say all this? Because the blues, like punk and jazz... is a genre that America can claim as it's own. It was born here, the best artists are from here, it's more Americana than what many people call "Texas" music. The real stuff... (like Burnside, Buddy Guy, Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, Son Seals, etc...) is so pure, you almost have to "get it" to really enjoy it. Me? I love the blues. Makes me happy, makes me think of a friend that is no longer with me and every good and bad thing I have ever done.

So thanks Mr. Burnside...

There's a memorial service held for him, but it's in Holly Springs, MS.
There is a memorial account set up:

Freeland & Freeland Trust Account
Burnside Memorial
P. O. Box 269
Oxford, MS 38655
All proceeds will go directly to R.L.'s widow, Alice Mae.

R.L Burnside

picture by David Raccuglia

"The Blues ain't nothing but a good man feeling bad."