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Music of Bessie Smith

  • Taught by: Fred Sokolow Add to Wish List
    Hard Copy   $29.95  Item Number:  GW510

    Music of Bessie Smith

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    In the 1920s and 30s, Bessie Smith was “empress of the blues.” Her passionate singing and performing style and her songwriting influenced all the blues and jazz singers that followed. Many of the songs she popularized, both blues and “tin pan alley” tunes, have become standards in blues, jazz, rock and pop music. Songs in this collection have been recorded by artists as diverse as Eric Clapton, Leadbelly, Billie Holiday, Chet Atkins, Bing Crosby, David Lee Roth, Big Bill Broonzy, B. B. King and Sam Cooke.

    They’re great tunes for guitar pickers, and Fred shows you how to back yourself up singing them, and how to fingerpick instrumental versions of six classics. With his explanations of the arrangements, split-screen, slowed-down versions of the songs, and with the tab and music in the accompanying booklet, you’ll learn how to play St. Louis Blues, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out, Backwater Blues, After You’ve Gone, I Ain’t Got Nobody and the sensational Send Me To the Electric Chair. The songs sound terrific on guitar, and with Fred’s instruction, the arrangements are easy to follow. A 1920s film of Bessie Smith singing St. Louis Blues is featured at the end of the lesson.

    98 minutes • Level 2/3 • Detailed tab/music PDF file on the DVD

    Review: Back when Charley Patton was busy exorcising Delta demons, and Blind Lemon Jefferson doing likewise with his Texas troubles, an "Empress Of The Blues" was holding court throughout the metropolitan north, belting out soon-to-be standards that would far outlive the 1920's. In fact, so valuable was Bessie Smith's songbook that raiders as far flung as Leadbelly to Louis Prima to David Lee Roth have pinched pieces for themselves. Although her sound typically conjures orchestrations rich with pianos, cornets, and clarinets, famed guitarists like Lonnie Johnson and Eddie Lang have been found within Smith's accompaniment. Fred Sokolow now teaches how to fingerpick the cream of her crop, stripping "Backwater Blues" and "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out" down to their six-string essence. The same goes for the darlings of Tin Pan Alley, "After You've Gone" and its emotional counterpart of "I Ain't Got Nobody." But akin to Smith's fabled short fuse temper, how quickly that bitter sweetness sours into blood thirstiness, as "Send Me To The Electric Chair" lyrically slashes apart its peace-loving melody. And not only does "St. Louis Blues" get taught by Fred, but Bessie performs it for a finale, via her only known film footage from a 1929 short. – Dennis Rozanski/BluesRag

    Review: A Great Compliment to Bawdy Songs. I take guitar lessons solely from DVDs and have done so now for about 7 years. I have enjoyed the progress that I have made, especially since I take lessons only when I have free time, and use the Pause Button with great frequency. I have gotten to know some great instructors (Happy Traum, Stefan Grossman and many more) via the DVD lessons and have seen some lessons where the artist plays beautifully, but did not appear to possess the gift of teaching.

    Not so with Fred Sokolow.

    An easy going style and a nice voice contributes to the already professional video work (great close ups, split screens, etc) to make for excellent lessons. What makes this special is the fun of the songs.

    Recently, Sokolow released Bawdy Songs For Fingerstyle Guitar (from the 20's and 30's) with all but one being tasteful and fun (one is not subtle and not one to play around children) and it was from this excellent DVD that he mentioned the songs of Bessie Smith, causing me to purchase this one afterwards. The two go perfectly together.

    The songs are fun to play, Intermediate level (late beginner for Bawdy Blues) and a blast to learn. “I Ain't Got Nobody” sounds great to play without singing, and Fred moves slow enough for the late beginner, but gives plenty of extras for the Intermediate.

    Like Bawdy Blues, learning “Electric Chair”; is as much fun as “She's Your Cook, but She Burns My Bread Sometimes” and has a way of catching an audience's attention (as I see from my family listening!), and the lessons provide months of solid instruction for the learner. These two DVDs contain funny and clever songs, with great bluesy sounds and are perfect for solo acoustic or for bands. – Peter Hyatt/Amazon Customer Review

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