FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Cry, Cry, Cry

by DAVE MARSH

Bobby Bland was, in his prime, the most powerful blues shouter of all time, though capable as well of a caressing tenderness. “Turn On Your Lovelight” is what the rock world knows, I guess, but the man’s legacy is also in “Ain’t Nothing You Can Do,” “Farther Up the Road,” “I’ll Take Care of You,” “I Pity the Fool,” “Cry Cry Cry,” “If You Could Read My Mind,” to my ear the finest “St. James Infirmary” of them all, the entire Two Steps from the Blues album (which is, without any doubt in my mind, the best Southern soul album, even including Otis’s; it has the impeccable and beautiful and scary “Lead Me On,” for many (including me) the greatest performance of his career. The list goes all the way up to his Malaco sides, particularly “Ain’t No Love In the Heart of the City.” It is not true that Bobby Bland never made a bad record; it is true that his ratio of great to mediocre is as high as any other singer you can name, in any genre you care to cull.

To call him Bobby “Blue” Bland always seems so redundant to me–like, as if he could be heard for so much as eight bars and you wouldn’t know that this was his core, his essence and, one way or another, a heap of your own.  But you can make too much of this essentialism–finally, you know Bobby Bland’s name and music less well because he was like his audience: He was a key voice of the black Southern working class from the ’50s onward. His role was to play the shouter from the anonymous ranks, the totally heart broken man among an all-but-totally heart broken folk. (And of course, once in a while, shouting with exuberance all the greater because of that every day heartbreak.)1271_10152969549800179_556618509_n

He was completely non-intellectual about the whole enterprise, as far as I can tell. Told Peter Guralnick that his ambition was to be able to sing each song the exact same way, every time he sang it. A strange kind of perfectionism, I guess. But his command of tone and phrasing was so great that  for me, he held the place that Frank Sinatra held for a lot of other people. “Lead Me On” in particular has never not brought me to tears, not once, though I sometimes listened to it many, many, many times in a row–when I was by myself, the way that particular act of allegiance is best performed. And you know what? He sings it the same way every time.

Perfection is what he knew a lot about. And I, especially the I who found him on the radio and held him very close to the center of my being for the better part of half a century, will never be able to thank him enough. Or often enough. Or even express what I’m thanking him for altogether adequately.

I will tell you the real truth: He was, for me, probably the greatest blues singer of any kind, and the reason I can say this know instead of at the beginning is quite simple: I started listening to Two Steps from the Blues. 

“No matter what you do, I’m gonna keep on loving you and I’m not ashamed, oh no, I’m not ashamed.”

Dave Marsh edits Rock & Rap Confidential, one of CounterPunch’s favorite newsletters, now available for free by emailing: rockrap@aol.com. Dave blogs at http://davemarsh.us/

 
More articles by:

Dave Marsh edits Rock & Rap Confidential, one of CounterPunch’s favorite newsletters, now available for free by emailing: rockrap@aol.com. Dave blogs at http://davemarsh.us/

Weekend Edition
November 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jonathan Cook
From an Open Internet, Back to the Dark Ages
Linda Pentz Gunter
A Radioactive Plume That’s Clouded in Secrecy
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Fires This Time
Nick Alexandrov
Birth of a Nation
Vijay Prashad
Puerto Rico: Ruined Infrastructure and a Refugee Crisis
Peter Montague
Men in Power Abusing Women – What a Surprise!
Kristine Mattis
Slaves and Bulldozers, Plutocrats and Widgets
Pete Dolack
Climate Summit’s Solution to Global Warming: More Talking
Mike Whitney
ISIS Last Stand; End Times for the Caliphate
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Darkness, Part Two
James Munson
Does Censoring Undemocratic Voices Make For Better Democracy?
Brian Cloughley
The Influence of Israel on Britain
Jason Hickel
Averting the Apocalypse: Lessons From Costa Rica
Pepe Escobar
How Turkey, Iran, Russia and India are playing the New Silk Roads
Jan Oberg
Why is Google’s Eric Schmidt So Afraid?
Ezra Rosser
Pushing Back Against the Criminalization of Poverty
Kathy Kelly
The Quality of Mercy
Myles Hoenig
A Ray Moore Win Could be a Hidden Gift to Progressives
Gerry Brown
Myanmar Conflict: Geopolitical Food Chain
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: Robert Redford’s Big Game in Nairobi
Katrina Kozarek
Venezuela’s Communes: a Great Social Achievement
Zoltan Grossman
Olympia Train Blockade Again Hits the Achilles Heel of the Fracking Industry
Binoy Kampmark
History, Law and Ratko Mladić
Tommy Raskin
Why Must We Sanction Russia?
Bob Lord
Trump’s Tax Plan Will Cost a Lot More Than Advertised
Ralph Nader
National Democratic Party – Pole Vaulting Back into Place
Julian Vigo
If Sexual Harassment and Assault Were Treated Like Terrorism
Russell Mokhiber
Still Blowing Smoke for Big Tobacco: John Boehner and College Ethics
Louis Proyect
The Witchfinders
Ted Rall
Sexual Harassment and the End of Team Politics
Anna Meyer
Your Tax Dollars are Funding GMO Propaganda
Barbara Nimri Aziz
An Alleged Communist and Prostitute in Nepal’s Grade Ten Schoolbooks!
Myles Hoenig
A Ray Moore Win Could be a Hidden Gift to Progressives
Graham Peebles
What Price Humanity? Systemic Injustice, Human Suffering
Kim C. Domenico
To Not Walk Away: the Challenge of Compassion in the Neoliberal World
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Giving Thanks for Our Occupation of America?
Christy Rodgers
The First Thanksgiving
Charles R. Larson
Review: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “We Were Eight Years in Power”
David Yearsley
On the Road to Rochester, By Bike
November 23, 2017
Kenneth Surin
Discussing Trump Abroad
Jay Moore
The Failure of Reconstruction and Its Consequences
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Trout and Ethnic Cleansing
John W. Whitehead
Don’t Just Give Thanks, Pay It Forward One Act of Kindness at a Time
Chris Zinda
Zinke’s Reorganization of the BLM Will Continue Killing Babies
David Krieger
Progress Toward Nuclear Weapons Abolition
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail