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Thanksgiving with Hendrix and Handy

This year, Thanksgiving Day falls on November 27th, which also happens to be the birthday of legendary guitar player, James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix.

Hendrix was born on November 27, 1942, and influenced the world with his lengthy solos and stylistic touch to the electric guitar during the late 60’s. In the spring of 2006, Hendrix’s album, Are You Experienced?, received notoriety when it was named by Librarian of Congress, Dr. James Billington, to the Library’s 2005 National Recording Registry. Jimi passed away in 1970 at the age of twenty-seven. Jimi’s cousin, Robert Hendrix, was present to accept the award. 

Check out our instructional audio book of the single “Red House,” from the aforementioned album; Bill Brown teaches how to play this song on guitar, DBM 02055, also available on BARD.

Not a Thanksgiving Day birthday, but a November one, W.C. Handy, commonly referred to as the “Father of the Blues,” would have turned 141 this month. I wanted to mention Handy to our readers, even though his birthday fell earlier this month, because he fits well into the context of NLS and our services to the blind and disabled. Handy was born on November 16, 1873 in Florence, Alabama. Having suffered from vision problems throughout his life, Handy lost his sight completely in 1943 after a head injury suffered from a fall off a subway platform.   

Perhaps most well-known for writing the 1914 classic, “St. Louis Blues,” and others like “Beale Street Blues,” and “The Memphis Blues,” Handy was prolific in his writing and influential to the world of blues and music as a whole. There is the W. C. Handy Music Festival  that takes place every year in Northwestern Alabama.   

I suggest downloading (from BARD), or requesting The Father of the Blues, DBM 00343, to learn more about him. This book is a 1970’s recording of the radio broadcast program, Kaleidoscope, hosted by Mike Whorf. In this episode, Whorf narrates a discussion of Handy’s life, which includes segments of Handy’s music.  Mrs. W.C. Handy contributes to the narration through her own words. Handy passed away in 1958, over a decade before this broadcast premiered. His voice is heard within the program through archival recordings. It is memorable to hear Handy himself discuss parts of his life and the music he wrote. And, for our braille readers, a transcription of “St. Louis Blues” is available for voice and piano, BRM 27034, also on BARD.

Photo of W.C. Handy

Photo of W.C. Handy, standing facing the camera, holding a trumpet to his left side.

There are more birthdays we could discuss; singer Tina Turner celebrates her 75th today, on November 26th. And, jazz artist Ethel Ennis, from our neighboring city Baltimore, celebrates her 82nd birthday on the 28th.

Perhaps you have your own favorite artists in mind this time of year? We are always open to comments. Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Braille Music Transcribers

The Music Section often touts the large number of braille music scores in its collection (20,000+).  Without braille music transcribers, there would be no such scores.  Some of you may know or know about music transcribers and may even have made use of their skills.  You should also know that these transcribers transcribe for everyone […]

Sousa’s Birthday

Last week on November 4th, Americans performed their civic duty and voted in the 2014 mid-term elections. Last week on November 6th, one of America’s most famous composers, native Washingtonian John Philip Sousa, celebrated his 160th birthday. It is fitting, then, to celebrate a composer’s music that is inextricably tied to American patriotism, both at […]

Braille Hymnals: A Big Request

Braille music hymnals are a big request in the Music Section — big as in the amount of requests we receive, and literally big in size, often expanding over numerous volumes. Part of my job is to digitize them, and I can say without hesitation that braille hymnals take the cake as some of the largest […]

Who Needs Country Music?

The following is a guest blog by Benjamin Bass who was the recorded sound technician in the Music Section of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. If you’ve ever had a conversation asking someone about what kind of music they are into, I’m sure you’ve heard something along the lines of […]

Some Splendid Saint-Saëns Selections

Today we celebrate the 179th birthday of Camille Saint-Saëns, a famous French composer, most well-known for his works The Carnival of the Animals, Danse macabre, Samson and Delilah, and a number of other pieces. Saint-Saëns began his musical studies at the incredible age of three, while he was living with his mother and aunt in […]

Folks are Folks; Women in Bluegrass Music and Beyond

As we add titles to our collection from the Smithsonian Collection, we are eagerly learning more about different music genres and their development, particularly of American Folk Music. When I was told I would have “other duties as assigned” there was no indication that those duties would be so enjoyable. I grew up listening to […]

Mahalia Jackson, Lead Belly, Paul Robeson, and Jazz: Our Newest Acquisitions

The NLS Music Section recently acquired audio materials produced by Smithsonian Folkways. I would like to introduce and expand upon four new audio titles that are now available to our patrons. We are excited about these titles because we have added a new braille element to some of our audio. Read more about our new Smithsonian Folkways acquisitions — and our process […]