This August 25, the great bluesman Mutasim Ra'id "Big Poppa E" Faisal passed away suddenly from an apparent heart attack. At 64 years of age, he was a mere teenager when it comes to blues musicians. An eternal student of his craft, the tradition of blues was firmly cemented into Big Poppa's musical DNA, but it was also rife with sounds from around the globe.
To say his passing leaves a significant cultural void in South Florida is putting it simply. He touched the lives of so many with his music. Perhaps under-appreciated, his house was a frequent stop for national and international musicians who palavered with Big Poppa in the purest exchange of artistic idealism.
While some local talent like Felipe Lamoglia, Jowee Omicil, and Papa Joe will pay tribute tonight at Big Poppa's old stomping grounds, Tobacco Road, we'll take this opportunity to showcase other dearly departed bluesmen in hopes to expose the South Florida community to some great tunes and musicians. This is real American music.
5. Lightnin' Hopkins - "Bring Me My Shotgun"
This Texan gave himself to the blues at an early age and apprenticed under the guidance of the great Blind Lemon Jefferson. Known for his undeniable influence in rock and roll, Hopkins was a playful if albeit slightly heady composer who imbued the blues with a mean edge.
4. Bukka White - "Aberdeen Mississippi Blues"
Booker T. Washington White, known as "Bukka" was a straight-forward bluesman who dabbled in a little country and gospel but will forever be remembered for his heartfelt compositions that gave the 1960's folk movement a good kindling.
3. Blind Willie McTell - "We Got to Meet Death One Day"
This morbid tune was the B-side to 1935's "Ain't it Grand to be a Christian" on the Decca label. If you don't see the humor in it, the blues ain't for you. Blind Willie was prolific in the Delta and Piedmont blues scenes as well as ragtime, which you can hear here.
2. Sleepy John Estes - "Milk Cow Blues"
Sleepy John lost an eye to a rock. But Sleepy never slept on it. He became a full-time country bluesman in his late teens and was a lifelong collaborator with the great mandolin player Yank Rachell. A cover of this track opens the Kinks' 1965 album, The Kink Kontroversy.
1. Blind Willie Johnson - "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground"
More of a preacher in his short life, Johnson's insightful use of religion and the blues could've been of far greater influence had his life not been cut by malaria at the age of forty eight. Take this guitar and humming song and tell us you don't feel the spirit raging through you. We dare you.