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Searching for Sugar Man -- and for other legends

Everyone is talking about "Searching for Sugar Man." I might have to see this movie!

It reminds me of what I have heard about the folk revivals in the 1950s and '60s when people would go looking for these old blues musicians who may or may not be dead. They found Tampa Red -- once known as "The Guitar Wizard" -- working as a janitor in a nursing home, if I remember correctly. They found Big Bill Broonzy in some similar circumstance.

Thinking of those old blues legends, I often wondered how that felt to them, being rediscovered after all these years. They thought their careers were over, now they were touring again, playing on college campuses to all these white kids who were listening rapt. Leadbelly, Mississippi John Hurt, all these old guys, suddenly experiencing this renaissance.

As in "Searching For Sugar Man," it's great when it happens when these old guys -- or gals -- are still alive.

Here is John Hurt at Oberlin College in 1965. He had been rediscovered at 71, when he had not sung in 30 years. He died about a year after he made this recording. This is one of those sweet naughty old blues songs and it is fun to hear him clowning around with the kids. If you listen closely you can hear one of them yell out, "Candyman!" right before he starts the song.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

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Film | Music
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