Last of Delta bluesmen 'Honeyboy' Edwards dies at 96

Monday 10 October 2011 17:11

A chapter in American musical history closed with the death of one the last original Mississippi Delta bluesmen, David 'Honeyboy' Edwards, at the age of 96.

Never as famous as Muddy Waters or Willie Dixon, Edwards was nonetheless an influential voice who played with the founders of the art form that was born in the Delta and rode the rails up to Chicago along with generations of migrants.

Edwards performed at US President Barack Obama's 2008 inauguration, the same year he won a Grammy for the album "Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live in Dallas," and was recognized in 2010 with a Grammy for lifetime achievement.

"Honeyboy was one of the very last links to the real world of the Delta blues, a crucial world in the development of American popular music," said Bruce Iglauer, founder of the Chicago blues label Alligator Records.

"He understood that this music can't be separated from the culture in which he was born and grew up. It can't be separated from the reality of the racial situation in the South at that time, and what black people were and weren't allowed to do."

Edwards died Monday while "resting peacefully" at his Chicago home and had continued to perform regularly until his health took a turn for the worse in April, his manager wrote on the musician's webpage.

"He lived a long, full life, and he felt at peace," manager Michael Frank wrote.

Born the son of a sharecropper and the grandson of a slave on June 28, 1915 in Shaw, Mississippi, Edwards started picking cotton and pulling corn at the age of nine. He bought his first guitar at 12 and was working as a musician by 14.

Edwards slung his guitar on his back and rode the rails across the country as a young man before moving to Chicago in the early 1950's where he played small clubs and street corners at night and worked in factories and construction by day.

He detailed the brutality of life on the plantations and how the blues became an outlet for his pain in a 1997 memoir: "The World Don't Owe Me Nothing: The Life and Times of Delta Bluesman Honeyboy Edwards."

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments