Thursday, December 01, 2011

J Blackfoot RIP - and others

Another great soul man has died. J Blackfoot, a dynamic solo soul singer and former member of the Soul Children, was just 65. Born John Colbert in Greenville, Mississippi (where he played as recently as September at the Delta Blues Festival), he got his stage name from his habit of walking barefoot on the sidewalks of Memphis where he grew up. After a spell in prison he was heard singing in the streets by David Porter of Stax Records and for a while was lead singer of The Bar-Kays after the plane crash which killed many of the band. He became a founder member of the Soul Children who had major hits with The Sweeter He Is, Hearsay and I'll Be The Other Woman. After the band broke up in the late 70s he had a massive solo hit with Taxi in 1984 and recorded a string of excellent soul albums.
I first saw J at Porretta in 1997, where his stage act was one of the highlights. I saw him subsequently at Jazzfest the following year and again at Porretta in 2009. We had heard that he had suffered a stroke but he seemed in good health and showed that his exciting stage act was still very much intact as he performed Taxi, Hearsay and a selection of Wilson Pickett, Sam and Dave and Johnnie Taylor numbers. The top photo shows J with other performers at the finale of Porretta 2009.
* Sadly J isn't the only soul/blues performer to have died recently. Lee 'Shot' Williams has passed away aged 73. He sang with Magic Sam's band in the sixties before having success with I Like Your Style in 1969. In 1995 he recorded an album called Big Shot which was voted Best Blues album of the year by readers of Living Blues magazine and followed it up a couple of years later with Hot Shot. He continued recording until 2010 and had success with It's Friday (Time To Get Paid) and Wrong Bed.
* Another recent death is that of hoodoo New Orleans bluesman Coco Robicheaux, who died while performing at the Apple Barrel on Frenchman Street in the city.
* On this side of the pond Keef Hartley has died aged 67. Keef played with the Artwoods in the sixties before forming his own band and recording five albums, including Halfbreed and The Battle of NW6.


At 3:02 pm , Blogger Nick said...

Rod Jolliffe wrote:
Another loss to the soul world, but I have to admit he didn't look well when I saw him in September (in Greenville).
It may have been his last live appearance.

At 7:21 pm , Blogger Dave C said...

Death always seems to come as a shock, even when it is expected. When Rod sent me a photo of J Blackfoot, which he took at this September’s Mississippi Delta Blues & Heritage Festival in Greenville, I did not recognise him. He had announced from the stage that he had been diagnosed with cancer, which confirmed the thought that the loss of hair had been caused by radiation treatment. When we saw him in Porretta in 2009, I came to the belief that J Blackfoot was the greatest soul-singer still alive, not just because of his vocals, overtly gospel in nature, but also for his stagecraft, dramatic and with apparent spontaneity. Much as I loved his solo stuff, for me his best was with the Soul Children.


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