muddy waters biography and impact

Blues as an art form gave Blacks a medium to manifest their feelings. Feelings

ranging from humorous to silly to depressed. Fortunately for a entire genre of music, the

only way for Mckinley Morganfield to express himself was through song. Morganfield

better known as Muddy Waters became a legendary blues vocalist /guitarist. When the

Blues industry saw commercial success many of its artists also saw rising fame. Muddy

Waters enjoyed success in the industry up until and even after his death in 1983.

Morganfield was born April 4, 1915 to Ollie Morganfield and Bertha Jones. He

was born in Rollingfork, Mississippi. Near their two room shack in Rollingfork there was

a creek, Deer Creek. As a youngster he used to play in the creek and get all dirty and

muddy. It was at this point when his sisters gave him the nickname ‘Muddy Waters’.

Bertha died when he was about three. After her death he had to move in with his

grandmother in Clarksdale. Raised in Clarksdale, he also went to school there. He went

to school until he was old enough to work in the fields.

Much like all of the other field laborers Muddy Waters hollered in the fields to pass

time or just to get things off of your chest. Waters would also teach himself to play

instruments. When he was fifteen he knew how to play the harmonica and he would later

teach himself the guitar. The young Waters followed in his fathers musician footsteps. He

was part of a band at fifteen, with Scott Bowhandle on guitar and Sonny Simms playing

the violin. They would play some Saturday nights in downtown Clarksdale and others he

would sell fried fish on nights. And other nights he would watch the greats like Son

House, Robert Johnson and Charlie Patton were great musical influences on Waters. The

main influence on Waters was Son House, although Waters style of play was more similar

Muddy Waters was first recognized by word of mouth. Alan Lomax of The

Library of Congress went to Clarksdale to record Robert Johnson. But to his dismay, he

found out that Robert Johnson was dead and had been for two years. The word on the

street at that time led Lomax to Muddy Waters. Waters would record two songs with

them in 1941, far before he became famous. His name would not reach household status

until 1947 when he recorded his first hit single, ”I can’t be satisfied.”

Muddy Waters style of blues was considered rough and uncompromising. It was

different from all of the other too ‘polished’ for the South musicians. Waters didn’t have a

sing-song voice, but a deep raspy voice. Success was steadily increasing especially since

the addition of band members. The band complimented his sound. Jimmy Rogers was on

the guitar, and harmonica specialist Little Walter. The band provided superb sounds while

the ‘grand ole man’ played his guitar and sang.

Although I listened to more than two selections there were two that stood out in

my mind; ‘The Hoochie Coochie Man’ and ‘Corine Corina’. Waters proclaims his arrival

and his presence as the hoochie coochie man. He wants to let the world know that he is

here. Over a consistent baseline, he begins each verse with a whisper and concluding each

verse with a shout almost. Adding to the effect that says his coming and know he is here.

The next song ‘Corine Corina is fast paced and upbeat. In an almost pleading voice he

asks Corina why she does not love him. He leaves Corina by the end of the song. This

record has a blend of saxophones, a base and a bridge with a harmonica. Neither of these

songs carry the typical thoughts of what a Blues song should like.

“The most astonishing aspect of the blues is that, through replete with a sense of

defeat and downheartedness, they are not intrinsically pessimistic; their burden of woe and

melancholy is dialectically redeemed through sheer force of sensuality into an almost

exultant affirmation of life, of love, of sex, of movement, of hope. No matter how

repressive was the American environment, the Negro never lost faith in of doubted his

deeply endemic capacity to live. All blues are a lusty, lyrical realism charged with taut

sensibility. I’ll never understand why most people define the blues as an expression of

-Richard Wright, definition of blues

Muddy Waters is a legend. Not only is he a legendary Blues vocalist /guitarist, but

he is a musical legend. Inspiring artists from blues to rock &roll. He transformed a single

genre of music into what we can hear today. He brought his Delta roots style to Chicago

and intertwined his with the blues sound of Chicago. The sounds he produced, influenced

many. even though he passed away on April 30, 1983, the memory of Muddy Waters lives

on through his music and through the music of those for whom he was an inspiration.

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