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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,MikeOfNorthumbria (sans cookie) Josh White (108* d) RE: Josh White 27 Jul 15

Dear Private Schweik,

The short answer to your question is "Yes". Now here is the long answer...

I saw Josh at London's Royal Festival Hall in December 1960. I had never heard (or even heard of) him, but a knowledgable friend recommended him strongly,so I went. It changed my life.

Here are some of the reasons why - in no particular order.

Josh was a virtuoso guitar player, who opened my ears to what was possible on the instrument. But there was no self-indulgent grandstanding - the guitar was always the servant of the song.

He had a excellent voice, used in whatever way was necessary to get the best out of a song, but without ostentatiously drawing attention to itself.

He gave every song - from light-hearted romps like "Apples,Peaches and Cherries' to heavy stuff like 'The Man Who Couldn't Walk Around' - total commitment. And each song opened a window, or a door, through which he invited you look at(or maybe even walk into) the picture he was painting for you.

He could make prejudice and injustice look not just wicked, but stupid, with satirical songs like 'Free and Equal Blues'. (Look it up on Youtube - it's still relevant.) But he could also confront racism head on with 'Strange Fruit' - and then say that in spite of that cancer in his country's soul, he was still proud to be an American, and explain why by singing 'The House I Live In'.

And one more thing - about the string-breaking trick. Yes, he did it that night, and I was impressed. And I remained impressed after discovering that it was a regular occurrence.

He broke the string while hammering out the final verse of 'Betty and Dupree', and then fitted (and tuned up) the replacement while singing 'Summertime', accompanied by his bassist Jack Fallon. Josh brought in the (perfectly tuned) guitar seamlessly towards the end of the song, and got a thoroughly justified round of applause when he finished.

Anyone who's tried tuning up on stage - let alone tuning up while singing - should appreciate what an achievement that was. And yes. it was a stunt - but it was also a little piece of theatre, which helped create the informal atmosphere that he wanted, and that the audience appreciated.

Josh was both a craftsman and a showman, both a radical and a patriot. I wish we had more like him.


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