Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Josh White Black History Month

Joshua Daniel White 

February 11, 1914 to September 5, 1969
Josh White

Josh was born on February 11, 1914 in Greenville, South Carolina, into a family where church music played an important role in family life.  Josh’s father was a minister and his mother played the autoharp.  Josh sang in the choir.  In the You Tube video you will hear Josh describe his parents as very formal with each.  Referring to each other Mr. and Mrs. White in front of their children.

Josh’s father died in 1930 nine years after a savage beating at the hands of white law enforcement.  His crime was to have forcible removed a white bill collector who spit on the family floor in front of his wife.  His physical and emotional injuries were such that he spent those nine years in a mental institution. (Harold & Stone, 2014).  This event launched Josh’s musical career when at the age of eight Josh took his first job as a musician busking with a blind minstrel.  It is here that he learned to play guitar and perform in front of a crowd.

At the age of fourteen he made his first recording in Chicago.  His talent was recognized and his career in music took off.  For a period Josh was supported to return home and attend school all in preparations for his more formal musical career. (Harold & Stone, 2014)
Josh White

Josh was the first black singer to give a Command Performance at the White House (1941) (Wikipedia, 2014) and the first to make a solo musical tour of the United States.

Josh’s talent was such that he was among the first black blues performer to attract a large white middle class audience.  At the height of his career Josh White also acted appearing in films, live theater and television.
Growing up Josh witnessed firsthand the violence that racism and segregationist laws created.  He wrote his worry and hope for a better future into the lyrics of music following a long tradition of African American political music. 

His friendship with President Franklin D. Roosevelt was not enough to keep him out of the line of fire though and he was caught up in the anti-communist scare of the late 1940s through to the early 1960s.  Josh was blacklisted and had to defend himself against lies of communist activities.  Like his father who never recovered from the beating and humiliation at the hands of racist, Josh's career has a headlining entertainer started to fail - he would never recover the support of the middle class audience.

Josh is credited with breaking through the black musical barrier and establishing the blues within the context of main stream music.  He forged a path that other black blues performers would travel.

Josh White
Josh died at the age of 60 of complications from a heart attack and in June 1998 the United States issued a postage stamp commemorating him.

Please visit the references used in preparing this post as this is just a brief summary of the life of a most amazing man and musician.

 Grandma Snyder

Harold, E., & Stone, P. (2014). Josh White. Retrieved from Cultural equity: http://www.culturalequity.org/alanlomax/ce_alanlomax_profile_josh_white.php
McWilliams, T. (2012). Life and Music of Josh White. Retrieved from Special Collections at Belk Library: http://collections.library.appstate.edu/research-aids/life-and-music-josh-white
Wikipedia. (2014). Josh White. Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josh_White
Zowieso. (2013). Josh White. Retrieved from Zowieso: http://members.home.nl/zowieso/blues/joshwhite.html

©2013-2015 twosnydergirls
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