Bonkers About The Blues

Posted on: 03 April 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Morgan Freeman loves jazz so much he’s dedicated a series to it - A Journey Through American Music.

From the early fusion of gospel, rhythm & blues and soul music, through to modern rock and rap, Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman traces the ancestry and growth of American music.

We’ve seen him give powerful performances in films such as The Shawshank Redemption and Se7en, but now we get a glimpse of Morgan Freeman’s secret passion for blues music.

In this new documentary, Morgan invites us into his own club, Ground Zero in Clarksdale, Mississippi, to discuss the history of the blues and jazz, and the incredible influence they have had.

Born in the Mississippi Delta over a hundred years ago, the Blues is one of America's greatest gifts to the world of music.

From there he traces the early history of the blues. It's an astonishing tale, as the simple but powerful songs played by dirt-poor African-Americans went on to inspire the likes of Dylan, Hendrix, Clapton and The Rolling Stones, and helped create modern rock music. Freeman guides us from the music's African roots, through to the old Delta masters such as Robert Johnson.

The 1960s bring sweet soul music and Freeman travels to Memphis, his birth place to remember The Supremes, Gladys Knight, Otis Redding, Al Green and many other legendary musicians of the decade are given their due.

In the 1990s, neo-soul singers such as Jill Scott and Angie Stone began to look back to these glory days. Music critics Nelson George and Rob Bowman, share their expert knowledge throughout. While musicians Sweet Honey In The Rock and Nona Hendryx, describe what soul meant to them as African-Americans in an era rife with racial tension.

Other musicians join Morgan to show clips of the legends - such as Robert Johnson, Sam Cooke and John Lee Hooker. And Morgan’s musical friends also pick up their instruments and play for us.

You’ll be surprised to know how many of our famous 20th-century bands have been inspired by these icons - the Rolling Stones even took their name from a Muddy Waters song. Morgan is our guide for a remarkable history lesson in the music that shaped musicians.

A Journey Through American Music presented by Morgan Freeman is on Tuesdays, 8pm, Sky Arts (267).

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Photo © DeLong Photography

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