Guest Post: 'Black Brown White' Part 2



Big Bill Broonzy - Black, Brown, White

“If you're Black, get back/ If you're white, you’re alright/ If you're Brown, stick around/ If you're Yellow, you must be one mellow fellow.”

Vic Simms and Big Bill Broonzy both mined this early 20th century rhyme for their respective songs about discrimination. Broonzy penned “Black, Brown and White” in 1947 in response to an experience at his long time job when he watched a new guy he'd spent a month training get promoted to become Broonzy's own boss. Not surprisingly, “Black, Brown and White” was extremely controversial at the time. While numerous labels refused to release it Stateside, Broonzy reportedly considered it the most important song he ever wrote, and in the 1950’s he happily traded American audiences for a new and more appreciative legion of fans in Europe.

By then, Big Bill Broonzy had already enjoyed a thirty year career that saw him recording for Paramount, Columbia, Okeh! and Bluebird. He also played and recorded with the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson, Memphis Slim, Brownie McGhee, John Lee Hooker and Memphis Minnie. In short, Broonzy went from literally being born on the banks of the Mississippi, to pioneering a Chicago legend.

This simple accoustic version of “Black, Brown and White” was recorded the year before Broonzy’s 1958 death. It appears with a spoken word introduction on the Smithsonian/Folkways album, ‘Trouble in Mind’. Clean and seemingly effortless, Broonzy’s rich voice and guitar are only enhanced by the occassional sound of his tapping toe.

Posted by j.lil

'Trouble in Mind' review

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