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W.C. Handy: Father of the Blues (Part 1)

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W.C. Handy at Age 19

Then I saw the beauty of primitive music.” W.C. Handy, Father of the Blues

W.C. Handy grew up in a small town in Alabama in the southern part of the US. His father was the pastor of a church, and Handy was raised in the faith of his father. When he was young, he made soap and worked in the fields picking berries and nuts.

He loved music, so he secretly saved his money and bought a guitar. When he brought the guitar home, his father was not pleased. He said, “Why did you bring a sinful thing like that into our Christian home? Take it back to where it came from.”

After that, his father enrolled Handy in organ lessons. The organ lessons did not last long, and soon, Handy was studying the cornet — a kind of trumpet. In time, he became a professional musician, and today he is known as one of the most influential American songwriters of all time. Handy was an educated musician, but he was deeply impressed by the folk music of African Americans. People called this music the blues.

Handy saw the primitive beauty of blues music. He said, “Their music wanted polishing, but it contained the essence. Folks would pay good money for it.” The genius of Handy was that he saw the commercial potential of the blues. And he polished it into a sophisticated popular music.

He took this folk music, wrote it down, and he gave it a modern form. Before Handy, the blues was a regional music. But with his influence, the blues became a dominant national force in American music. For this reason, W.C. Handy is known as the Father of the Blues.

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