Monday, 6 October 2014

Blues Monday #2: Baby Don't You Tear My Clothes by Lightnin' Hopkins

This month's offering comes from a giant of the blues - Sam John "Lightnin'" Hopkins. Mentored by the legendary Blind Lemon Jefferson following a meeting at a church picnic when Hopkins was just 8 years old, he went on to become one of the most respected performers in the genre's history. For much of his early career he was practically unknown outside his home state of Texas, finally breaking out nationally during the folk revival of the early 1960s. Hopkins is reputed to have recorded more albums than any other blues artist in history recording somewhere between 800 and 1000 tracks.

In 1961 he released Baby Don't You Tear My Clothes, a song that has its roots in an old American folk song. Numerous versions were recorded during the 1930s, but it was folk singer Eric Von Schmidt who had a hit with a new version in the late 1950s entitled Baby Let Me Follow You Down. Hopkins blended the original with Von Schmidt's version to come up with this, one of my favourite recordings of his.

Hopkins made some of the best quality blues recordings of the times which is partly how his reputation grew. I particularly love those where it's just him and his guitar. He doesn't overcomplicate things; the simplicity of his arrangements allow the songs to take centre stage. His extended instrumental segment is where his musicianship could shine, but he never loses sight of the fact that it's the song that matters most, not how good a guitarist he is.

Meanwhile, also in 1961, a young folk singer was recording his debut album which included a take on Eric Von Schmidt's version of the song. This version would eclipse all others in terms of popularity thanks to this new upstart's rise to superstardom over the following decades. His name? Robert Allan Zimmerman, alias Bob Dylan.


No comments:

Post a Comment