Backwater Blues

Big Bill Broonzy

Big Bill Sings

In rare footage filmed in Italy during the 1950’s blues legend Big Bill Broonzy performs “Backwater Blues.”

*”Backwater Blues” was written by “The Empress of the Blues” Bessie Smith. She originally recorded it on February 17, 1927 in New York backed on piano by James P. Johnson.

In 1951 Big Bill Broonzy toured Europe where he was greeted with standing ovations and critical praise wherever he played. The tour marked a turning point in his fortunes, and when he returned to the United States he was a featured act with many prominent folk artists such as Pete Seeger, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. From 1953 on his financial position became more secure and he was able to live quite well on his music earnings. Broonzy returned to his solo folk-blues roots, and travelled and recorded extensively. Broonzy’s numerous performances during the 1950s in the UK, and in particular at folk clubs in London and Edinburgh, were influential in the nascent British folk revival, with British folk musicians such as Bert Jansch citing him as an important influence. While in the Netherlands, Broonzy met and fell in love with a Dutch girl, Pim van Isveldt. Together they had a child named Michael who still lives in Amsterdam today.

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