Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out

Josh White

A Folk Hero’s Farewell

Blues guitarist Josh White sings with his daughter, Judy during a 1965 Swedish TV appearance.

This performance was one of his last. In 1961, Josh White’s health began a sharp decline as he experienced the first of the three heart attacks and the progressive heart disease that would plague him over his final eight years. As a lifelong smoker he also had progressive emphysema, in addition to ulcers, and severe psoriasis in his hands and calcium deficiency in his body that would cause the skin to peel off of his fingers and leave his fingernails broken and bleeding with every concert. During the last two years of his life, as his heart weakened dramatically, his wife Carol would put him in the hospital for four weeks after he completed each two-week concert tour. Doctors felt his only survival option was to attempt a new procedure to replace heart valves.

The surgery failed and folk/blues legend Josh White died on the operating table at the North Shore Hospital in Manhasset, New York on September 6, 1969.

When the Associated Press interviewed Calypso singer Harry Belafonte, upon learning of White’s passing, he said, “I can’t tell you how sad I am. I spent many, many hours with him in the years of my early development. He had a profound influence on my style. At the time I came along, he was the only popular black folk singer, and through his artistry exposed America to a wealth of material about the life and conditions of black people that had not been sung by any other artist.”

Beverly White can also be heard singing with her father and brother, Josh White Jr., on the album “Josh White At Town Hall”.


Following this video, Judy White teamed up with Miriam Makeba’s daughter Bongi, as Bongi & Judy for several recordings for Buddah and Epic Records. Subsequently, she was signed by the Isley Brothers’ T-Neck label, who produced and backed her up on several records. In the 1970s, she formed a gospel group, the Josh White Singers, with her sisters Beverly and Fern, and backed up Josh White, Jr. on several recordings.

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