The CD is contained in a collectible CD-sized hard-cover book with 48 pages illustrated with
black & white and color photography by some of the greatest photographers of Muddy’s time:
Don Bronstein, Ray Flerlage, Paul Natkin, Marc Pokempner, Art Shay, and D. Shigley, among others. Also included is an original essay by Robert Gordon, Grammy Award-winning author of the definitive Muddy Waters biography “Can’t Be Satisfied— the Life and Times of Muddy Waters”.
The whole story of the blues can be heard, felt, and learned in the life of Muddy Waters. Born April 4, 1915 (or maybe 1913) in the soggy part of Rolling Fork, Mississippi, this mannish boy would soon move north in the delta with his grandmother to Stovall Farms, near where the train lines crossed in Clarksdale, and from there to Chicago. He absorbed the rhythm and feel of the south until it was part of his bones, electrifying that sound in the industrial north. His 1958 trip to England planted ideas there that would awaken America to its indigenous sounds. Muddy’s music ignited a cultural revolution, instilling pride in a people who’d been despised, establishing esteem for the people of a dirt farming culture that had been respected less than the land they worked. Had Muddy Waters been born half a century earlier into slavery, or half a century later when the Civil Rights Movement was raging, his living conditions would not have been much different. The delta land itself rebels against change; when the seasons move from cold to warm, tornados wreak havoc, one wind battling for change, the other for the status quo. When Muddy came of age, even the music was roiling, with the blues taking shape when Anglo-Scottish ballad traditions were picked up by African-American string bands, the dominant form in black music—groups led by violins and banjos with mandolins and guitars playing two-chord breakdowns.
A generation has been born and matured since his death, and the testament to Muddy’s endurance is his power over those who are experiencing a world he never knew. His legacy is as strong as it’s ever been. His culture, the blues culture, considered dirt by his social superiors, had an impact in the 20th century that ranks alongside the heavyweights. Duke Ellington evokes a cosmopolitan sophistication. Harry Belafonte’s catalog captures the breadth of African influence on Western song. Louis Armstrong conjures America’s melting pot. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones built on the blues. Muddy’s music brought respect to a spurned culture. His music spawned the triumphant voice of angry people demanding change. Today, that voice is everywhere. Rock and roll, hip hop, TV commercials for blue jeans, hamburgers and sneakers—the blues has gone more than mainstream, it has become the basic language of modern music, a vehicle for commerce—and there’s no greater sign of acceptance than being co-opted by commerce. Blues is today embraced and adored by the children of those who, for decades and centuries, spurned the music, the people and the culture of the blues. Muddy Waters was the flag bearer for this music, the man who brought it across the tracks, across the oceans, into houses where it sounded like a foreign language until the day has come when it is a universal language. […]