The Blues: Warming by the Devil's Fire

The Blues: Warming by the Devil's Fire

Part 4 of 7 - Next Episode

Martin Scorsese's series exploring the history of the blues continues with this aural montage by Charles Burnett, exploring the tensions between the heavenly strains of gospel and the devilish moans of the blues in 1950s Mississippi.

Born in Mississippi in 1944, Burnett grew up listening to the Delta sounds from the radio in his home. Narrated by Carl Lumbly, this semi-autobiographical film is set in the mid-50s. It tells the story of a young boy (played by Nathaniel Lee Jr), living in Los Angeles, who is sent home to Mississippi to be baptised but is taken in hand by his uncle and introduced to the rough and rowdy sounds of the blues. The film's narrative is of secondary importance to the music, which features some of the leading pioneers of the blues in the Deep South. Burnett investigates the blues women who defied the church by singing racy songs, including Lucille Bogan, Mamie Smith, Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, but also pays tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Reverend Gary Davis, blues performers who managed to work within the church's jurisdiction. A glorious variety of archive footage features many others, including Big Bill Broonzy, Willie Dixon, Lightnin' Hopkins, Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, Muddy Waters and Sonny Boy Williamson.

Saturday 24 August at 10.30pm

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