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Saturday, February 22, 2020

Doin’ What He Likes Best

At the 10th edition of the Mahindra Blues Festival in Mumbai, 83-year-old American legend Buddy Guy reminded us why the blues matter

Published: February 14, 2020 3:48:23 am
Doin’ What He Likes Best Buddy Guy during his performance. (Vikram Chandrasekar)

What gets you blue these days?

Earlier, people were more friendly and more honest than what they are today. I own a blues club, Legends, in Chicago, and a man came up to the bar for a drink and he said to my son, ‘I didn’t have to pay when Buddy was around.’ I was standing right there, so I took him outside and when I straightened him up, he was crying. People today are angry about things and they don’t even know why.

What makes you less blue?

I’ve been blessed enough to travel the world and see places I’ve never seen. If I hit the right note on the guitar, I see a smile in the crowd, one that I’ve never seen before, that makes me less blue.

You’ll be 84 this year and you’re still touring extensively, without a break. Your friend BB King died in 2015 and that hit you hard. Do you feel responsible to keep the blues going?

It seemed like only yesterday that Muddy (Waters), BB and I were all sitting around and talking. I wasn’t somebody then but they would always tell me, ‘If I die before you, don’t you let them blues die.’ I never forgot that. My career took off very late; I wasn’t successful when I started. I didn’t get disappointed when I didn’t get paid for playing, I just kept playing.

The hardest part of doing this now, though, is to fly from Chicago to Mumbai for 16 hours. But they told me don’t let them blues die, so I’m here.

These days, musicians are careful about crediting their influences. Earlier, so many British guitar players became famous because they borrowed the blues sound. Do you feel they stole from you?

No, everybody has learned from somebody else. I taught myself by listening to other people — would you call that stealing? Now, none of us made the kind of money Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones were making back then. We only made enough to get from one town to the next. But when the British made the blues popular, it helped us make more money too.

Your youngest daughter, Shawnna, is a rapper. Have you listened to her music?

Yes. I wasn’t paying attention to the lyrics till her mother looked at me and said, ‘Do you know what she’s saying?’ I said no, I just liked the beat. But then I listened and went ‘Oh!’ My daughter had a concert at the House of Blues and I snuck in once. She came on the stage and I cannot tell you what she said out loud.

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