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W. C. Handy
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Musician
    (November 16, 1873-February 28, 1958)
    Born in Florence, Alabama
    African-American musician
    Known as the Father of the Blues
    Played the cornet
    Full name: William Christopher Handy
    Wrote five books about African-American music
    His father and grandfather were ministers, and growing up, all he listened to was church and classical music and didn't discover popular African-American music until he was an adult.
    When he saved up money to buy a guitar as a teen, his father made him take it back and start taking organ lessons. He ended up playing the cornet.
    He got a job as a school teacher at age 19, but quit to work in a factory because it paid more.
    He taught at Alabama A & M, but quit after two years to go on the road.
    He didn't like jazz.
    He was never even nominated for a Grammy.
    Like all blacks of his time, he suffered at the hands of legal discrimination ,but through hard work, overcame it.
    He virtually invented the blues as a musical genre; taking popular southern African-American music, traditional gospel and work songs made up by black laborers.
    To this, he added what is now the standard 3 line, 12 bar pattern and the flattened third, fifth, and seventh notes, also known as the blue or bent notes.
    He started a publishing company in Memphis, and later New York, to publish blues music.
    He wrote what is considered the first blues song, 'Mr Crump,' later known as 'Memphis Blues.'
    One of his finest numbers, 'St. Louis Blues,' became the battle song for the Ethiopian army in its fight against Italy, and inspired the dance the foxtrot.
    He was born in a log cabin and had to work very hard as a physical laborer for a long time before he hit it big.
    He kept copious notes of his discoveries and work, leaving an invaluable history of the blues.
    He suffered from ill health in his later years; being blinded in a fall in 1943, crippled by a stroke for the last three years of his life, and dying of pneumonia in 1958 at age 84.
    150,000 people attended his funeral at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York.
    In 1969, a US postage stamp was issued in his honor.

Credit: tom_jeffords


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