Mississippi John Hurt – Musician, Hero, Saint

Mississippi John Hurt had a style all his own.  He was a blues man like no other.  His guitar playing is complex and tuneful, unique and relaxing, toe tapping and head nodding, and always harmonizing with his singing.  His voice is resonant, soulful, sad, happy, enduring, sweet, and peaceful.  He came from a little town, Avalon, in the Mississippi Delta, and always sounds as if he’s sitting on the front porch, watching everything roll by.

Oh, Mary Don’t You Weep is an old gospel number that has always delighted me.

Mary weep, Martha moan
All around God’s holy throne
Pharoah’s army got drownded
Oh, Mary don’t you weep
 
If I could, I surely would,
stand on the rock where Moses stood
 
 Sinner’s don’t come by the (something something)  (I’ve never been able to figure it out)
No need to come when the train’s done gone
 
One of these days ‘bout 12 o’clock
This old town gonna reel and rock
Pharoah’s army got drownded
Oh, Mary don’t you weep
 

A girl with glasses and a severe haircut gave me this album in high school and I played it so much that for years I could sing the whole thing, while I was out walking or watching the creek.  The applause at the end of each song, at first, seemed like an interruption to the wonderful spell that he casts on the listener, but, in time, I appreciated it for the love that it is.

Mississippi John Hurt recorded a bunch of tunes in 1928 and then went back home to the porch, for 35 years.  Some guys during the Folk revival in the sixties heard him on an old recording sing, Avalon, my hometown, always on my mind, and went to Mississippi and found him.  He had a too brief time of wider appreciation for three years before he died.  He made an indelible contribution to music and to the world and left behind many songs full of the warmth and goodness of his personality.  He was a blues man who had transformed his blues into something else entirely.

About Ted Ringer

I am a writer, artist, and listener. Great music is everywhere and has no limits. Some of it is well-orchestrated and some is short and sweet. It can spring out of a moment of deep feeling or result from long periods of development. Music is communication, inspiration, and a million other things. This blog wants to share the wealth and keep toes tapping.
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