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Big Bill Broonzy
On this date, we celebrate the birth of Big Bill Broonzy in 1893. He was a Black blues singer and guitarist.
Born William Lee Conley Broonzy, he was from Scott, MS, but grew up in Arkansas. He served in the army from 1918 to 1919, and moved to Chicago a year later where in 1926, he made his recording debut as guitar sideman to a number of Black blues singers. Later he became a singer, making his New York City concert debut at Carnegie Hall in 1938. By 1940, Broonzy was recognized as one of the best selling blues-recording artists. In 1951, he toured Europe becoming popular across that continent. Many students of the blues have found his work almost as fascinating for its sociological as for its strictly musical content.
His mother, who was born a slave, died at the age of 102, having survived to see her son become a world-famous musical figure. His autobiography, “Big Bill Blues,” appeared in 1955. Broonzy embodied a tradition of itinerant folk blues. At the height of his popularity in 1957, his vocal effectiveness was reduced by a lung operation. Bill Broonzy died of cancer on August 14, 1958 in Chicago, Illinois.
Nothing But the Blues: The Music and the Musicians
Edited by Lawrence Cohn
Copyright 1993 Abbeville Publishing Group, New York