This is not a good time for blues musicians, since most tours and events have been canceled, at least for the foreseeable future.
A number of organizations are trying to help. If you would like to assist them by donating what you can, here are some places that are directly providing aid to needy blues musicians.
The Blues Foundation has created the COVID-19 Blues Musician Emergency Relief Fund. Donate at
The Music Maker Relief Foundation was founded several years ago to preserve the musical traditions of the South by directly supporting the musicians who make it, ensuring their voices will not be silenced by poverty and time. Donate at
The Jazz Foundation of America has created the COVID-19 Musicians' Emergency Fund for both jazz and blues musicians who need help. Donate at
The Sweet Relief Musicians Fund provides financial assistance to all types of career musicians and music industry workers who are struggling to make ends meet. Donate at
The Equal Sound Corona Relief Fund provides direct financial assistance to musicians who have lost work as a result of Corona-related event cancellations. Donate at
The Recording Academy and its affiliated charitable foundation MusiCares have established the COVID-19 Relief Fund to help those in the music community affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. Donate at
Also, remember that, during the pandemic, many musicians are giving virtual concerts and requesting monetary aid. Follow them on Facebook, enjoy the music, and give!
With all the teargas in the air, it's getting harder and harder for all of us to breathe.
So what do we do when all this police violence continues to occur? George Floyd being one of the most recent victims, as peaceful protests in the aftermath of his tragic death continue to be met with teargas, rubber bullets, flash bangs, night sticks, and bellicose threats--all condoned and encouraged by the bully-in-chief, the guileless thug #1, the bigoted, Bible-toting Donald himself.
As in past civil rights protests, most of the violent protests are incinerated by police who continue to embrace a militant, combative, us-against-them mentality. Hell, what are you to do if you're a God-fearing, peaceful protester and are met with an army or storm-troopers, complete with shields, helmets, flack jackets, nightsticks , guns, tanks, and armored vehicles? Looks like war to me. Armed to the teeth, it's only too easy for the cops to take a I-dare-you stance, so they'd have still another excuse/chance to bash some black and brown heads.
What to do?
Continue speaking out. We can't let this thing drop. Until people of color are stopped being murdered, beaten, abused, and marginalized, everyone needs to protest.
Listen to our real leaders. The fearless few who continue to fight for equal rights and respect for people of all colors and classes. Just to start with, those we marched with over the Edmond Pettus Bridge in Selma a few months ago: stalwarts John Lewis, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton, as well as the new breed: Stacey Abrams, Doug Jones, Kamala Harris.
Get involved locally. Join civil rights organizations, attend city and county government meetings. volunteer to serve on police oversight boards. Make a difference.
Vote. Like George Floyd's brother admonished. Vote the scoundrels out and the good guys in. Here in Alabama, don't let an inexperienced, unemployed, ex-football coach replace a true civil rights hero in the U.S. Senate.
Don't give up. Or, as the old saying goes, "don't let the bastards grind you down." We've had more than 400 years of racist exploitation in this country, and it's not going to end tomorrow. But, for God's sake, lets do what we can to make it better for the next generation.
As Eldridge Cleaver warned, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."
Edward Abbey (1927--1989)--a cranky environmentalist, anarchist, curmudgeon, and crazy romantic--remains one of my favorite authors. He wrote about nature and the earth like a lover speaks of his beloved--that is with an open and honest heart. He could be contrary and outrageous in his passion for our world, while holding all governments and developers in well-deserved contempt.
I am reading this week a compendium of excerpts from some of his many books. Entitled The Serpents of Paradise and edited by John Macrae, the book captures some of Abbey's best writing. My favorites are: Desert Solitaire, a soliloquy on the desert, the love of which I share with the author; Black Sun, a genuine romantic love story that celebrates what true love is all about; and, of course, The Monkey Wrench Gang, at once a comic farce and a manual for guerrilla environmentalists everywhere.
Like Abbey, I have always prized the out-of-doors, and, hopefully, I have instilled this appreciation in my kids who I have dragged on endless hikes, wild whitewater raft trips, and primitive wilderness camping jaunts. So I dedicate this blog to them, and to the Ferguson family who have so often joined us, as well as to my female partners who have endured maybe more of this unvarnished nature that they thought they were signing up for.
"May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountain rise into and above the clouds."
Me and my oldest sons, Ian and Dai, on the south rim of the Grand Canyon.
Emily, Sam, me, and Jacob atop a ridge in the Wind River Range in western Wyoming.
May 20, 2020--Well, they are burying Little Richard today here in Huntsville. There's a private graveside service out at Oakwood Memorial Gardens on the campus of Oakwood University, where the singer studied theology back in 1957, and where ethereal music flourishes like cotton in Alabama.
I'm sorry the service is not open to the public. I'm not much for funerals, but I would have gone to this one.
Why? It's just that Little Richard, the self-proclaimed King (and Queen) of Rock 'n' Roll, meant so much to my generation who grew up after World War II in staid, middle class (more or less), white-bread America where a boring, bourgeois life seemed all too certain. Then along came someone who embodied the antithesis of our fate: wild, untamed, black, androgynous, crazy as a mad dog, and oh so lollapalooza loud. Nothing could be better!
When he did shows in the South, back in the 50s, before he found God, they roped off the black kids from the white kids, but by the end of the show the rope was gone and the black and white audience intermingled, dancing for joy with each other. So Little Richard was more than just a Rock 'n' Roll singer (and God knows he was that!), he was also a mighty force of nature.
This excerpt from a poem by Bobby Byrd, entitled "Why I am a Poet, #7," pretty well sums it up for me:
Getting drunk on dreamy horny Friday nights
45 rpm records with the big holes dripping rhythm and blues onto the turntable
Jimmy Reed and Bobby Blue Bland and Little Richard,
God bless them all,
They saved my life I thank them I praise them
It just can't be summer without baseball, but the longer this pandemic drags on, the chillier the forecast appears. At this writing, there is some talk about opening the major league season in some form or another (empty stands?) in July, but who knows? This virus seems to have an angry mind of its own.
E. E. Cummings
A fun poet whose eccentricity of language, punctuation, and point of view set him apart as a true original.
The popular Welsh poet whose poems are as lyrical as they are romantic.
A Kansas-born poet, although she was raised in Chicago, where she became the first African American to receive a Pulitzer Prize (1950) for her second book of poetry, Annie Allen, which painted poignant portraits of the Black urban poor whom she witnessed everyday.
Another fine, lyrical poet from my native state of Kansas whose subject matter runs the gamut, from meditative to playful.
William Carlos Williams
A pediatrician from Rutherford, New Jersey, whose poems celebrate the simple things in life in unique and surprising ways.
I call Bobby the "Bard of the Border" for his delicious and moving poems about living and loving in El Paso across the border from Juarez. They are so good I had to borrow a verse from his "Why I am a Poet, #7" for the introduction to my Bobby Blue Bland biography.
Probably my favorite of the Harlem Renaissance writers, his poems are strong, straight-forward, and always sweetly rhythmic.
My favorite of the so-called Beat Poets whose funny, irreverent poems still speak to the country's outcasts and dreamers.
She was appointed America's 23rd Poet Laureate in 2019, the first Native American to be so honored. She is a member of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation and lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her poems about her culture and family are especially warm and spiritual.
No one spends a love poem like this Nobel Prize winning Chilean poet and statesman:
Don't leave me, even for an hour,
then the little drops of anguish will run together
the smoke that roams looking for a
home will drift
into me, choking my lost heart.
Happy National Poetry Month!
Charles Farley is an author who lives and writes in Huntsville, Alabama.