Josh White could be the most famous American musician you’ve never heard of, not for a long time anyway. One of the finest, and unluckiest, as well. Josh White learned the breadth of black roots music as a child playing brilliant guitar accompaniment for blind singers in the Carolinas.
In the generation of Woody Guthrie, Paul Robeson, Pete Seeger and Billy Holiday, Josh White became the charismatic black singer who turned folk music into a protest form. None were more fashionable than Josh White in his left-wing New York moment in the 1940s, when he sang often for Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt in the White House. None were more despised than Josh White when anti-left blacklist politics slashed through show business in the 1950s. And still there’s the music-songs like “One Meat Ball” that nobody else could touch-and a life seen whole by the biographer Elijah Wald.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)
Elijah Wald, blues singer