Blues classics on YouTube: 50 live performances

I’ve been working on this off and on since last Friday: a YouTube playlist designed as a comprehensive introduction to the blues, restricted solely to live footage. Music on YouTube is of course dominated by uploads of songs accompanied by still images, so simply sorting through and identifying live videos was time-consuming in itself. Musically speaking, I’ve cast my net widely, including some songs by performers usually associated with other genres (old-time Appalachian music, gospel, R&B, Sahelian guitar, Mississippi fife-and-drum, etc.) and some pieces by performers usually classed as bluesmen which are not, strictly speaking, blues songs. I wanted to suggest something of the broader context from which the music emerged; I even included a snippet of a lecture (illustrated with music) by multi-instrumentalist Dom Flemons from the African-American string band Carolina Chocolate Drops.

My focus has been on the “greats,” but I’ve also included some fairly obscure artists and a few younger folks as well. I tried to balance the playlist geographically and by gender, style, featured instrument, etc., but unavoidably there are still more guys with guitars playing in the Clarksdale/Chicago style than anything else. I’ve tried to squeeze in as many performers as possible, so very few singers appear more than once, and I didn’t stop till I got to 50 videos. Rather than trying to watch the above embed in one sitting, it might be a better idea to bookmark the page on YouTube and browse at your leisure.

Don’t wait too long, though, because videos are always being removed from YouTube for one reason or another. Just in the past week that I’ve been working on this, one of the videos I’d originally selected has already gone missing. It was a good one, too! It’s almost enough to give a guy the blues…

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