Artists Salute The Blues In New York
Some of the biggest names in soul, rock, rap, and bluegrass joined blues music's biggest and most-revered artists Friday in New York to celebrate the blues -- its history, greatest artists, and influeSome of the biggest names in soul, rock, rap, and bluegrass joined blues music's biggest and most-revered artists Friday in New York to celebrate the blues -- its history, greatest artists, and influence. The landmark five-hour Salute to the Blues concert was filmed for theatrical release directed by Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day") and executive-produced by Martin Scorsese.
Held at the city's Radio City Music Hall, the show featured performances from Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, John Fogerty, Robert Cray, Natalie Cole, Solomon Burke, Alison Krauss, the Band's Levon Helm, the Allman Brothers Band's Gregg Allman and Warren Haynes, Chuck D., the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, rapper Mos Def, Mavis Staples, and such longtime bluesmen as Larry Johnson, Robert Jr. Lockwood, and Honeyboy Edwards.
While the vintage bluesmen mostly stuck to their own material, many of the rock artists paid tribute to the genre's late heroes: Bonnie Raitt covered Elmore James' "Coming Home"; Fogerty offered his classic take on Leadbelly's "Midnight Special." Allman and Haynes dueted on "The Sky Is Crying," while Chuck D. tried out "No Boom Boom," a rewritten take on John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom" protesting the impending war against Iraq.
Keb' Mo' delivered Robert Johnson's "Love in Vain." India.Arie put her stamp on Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit." The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion tipped its hat to a blues great still breathing, but not present, with R.L. Burnside's "Goin' Down South."
The earlier half of the show sought to trace the blues' roots from Africa and its songs about racism -- with Angelique Kidjo performing an African number, Mavis Staples a gospel song, and Odetta delivering Leadbelly's "Jim Crow Blues." The second half touched on Jimi Hendrix classics, songs from Lightin' Hopkins and Howlin' Wolf, and much more, all leading up to B.B. King's two-song, night-ending set.
The show also included performances from Macy Gray ("Hound Dog"), Robert Cray ("I Pity the Fool"), Billy Boy Arnold, Ruth Brown, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Angie Stone, Howlin' Wolf guitarist Hubert Sumlin and David Johansen, the Neville Brothers ("Big Chief"), Chris Thomas King, Lazy Lester, Kim Wilson, Jimmie Vaughan, James Blood Ulmer and Krauss ("Sitting on Top of the World"), Dr. John ("Ain't That a Shame"), Mos Def ("Black Jack Blues"), and Shemekia Copeland.
The event is part of a year-long celebration of the blues that will see PBS air in the fall the seven-part miniseries "The Blues: A Musical Journey," produced by Scorsese. In conjunction, Columbia/Legacy and Universal Music Enterprises will release a companion CD boxed set and single discs devoted to particular artists, while Amistad/HarperCollins will publish the companion book
The miniseries will include separately-themed films directed Wim Wenders ("The Soul of a Man"), Charles Burnett ("Warning by the Devil's Fire"), Clint Eastwood ("Piano Blues"), Mike Figgis ("Red, White, and Blues"), Marc Levin ("Godfathers and Sons"), Richard Pearce ("The Road to Memphis"), and Scorsese ("From Mali to Mississippi").
Click here to read a review of the Salute to the Blues concert.