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Skip James - Born this Day in 1902

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Friday, June 9, 2017 - 3:30pm


Greg Johnson

The Skip James song "Devil Got My Woman" is one of the most haunting blues songs, indeed in all of recorded music. The song's minor open tuning, sparse accompaniment, and mournful, falsetto singing are the base for what some have termed the Bentonia style (after James' hometown). This song likely influenced Robert Johnson's "Hellhound on My Trail," and served as the real thematic center of Terry Zwigoff's 2001 film Ghost World

Nehemiah "Skip" James was born on June 9, 1902 at the Woodbine Plantation, about two miles outside of Bentonia. James was initially inspired by his guitarist father, but really learned from fellow Bentonian Henry Stuckey. James worked as a sharecropper and on lumber camps, where he often played piano. In 1931 Skip James made thirteen recordings for Paramount Records, cutting such classics as "Devil Got My Woman," "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues," and "22-20 Blues." He played off and on again for a number of years, until really returning to playing during the heart of the blues and folk revivals in the 1960s. 

The Blues Archive has a number of audio and video recordings of Skip James, as well as books and articles about him.

Assortment of Skip James items in the Blues Archive

If you like the music of Skip James, you won't want to miss the Bentonia Blues Festival on Saturday, June 17, 2017. 

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