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Memphis Minnie

Why has this musician who recorded over two hundred sides and was well-loved by the Black blues audiences of the '30s and '40s been comparatively ignored by later audiences? Perhaps it's because Memphis Minnie doesn't fit the myth of the young, tragic, haunted blues singer and she is too complex of a character to be easily marketed. She shaped a life very different from the limited possibilities offered to the women of her time. She lived a long life, was at her best in middle age, and would spit tobacco wearing a chiffon ball gown. Memphis Minnie's music remained popular over two decades because it was lyrically and instrumentally in tune with the lives of Black Americans. It remains vital and influential today because of her inventive, rhythmic guitar playing and her songs, which capture people and events and bring them to life across the years. In terms of her influence on the development of blues, she was an important player in the Chicago clubs during the '40s when musicians like Muddy Waters, Jimmy Rodgers and Johnny Shines, were coming up.

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