Journey Through American Music Episode 1: Blues Beginning

2008 • 0h 46m

Episode 1 of a musical journey through the origins of American music presented by Morgan Freeman. Each episode mixes documentary and performance whilst retracing the roots of American music and features performances at Montreux from such legendary artists as Muddy Waters, Ray Charles, Miles Davis, Al Green, Carlos Santana, and Eric Clapton.

The blues was born in the Mississippi Delta over a hundred years ago and is one of America's great gifts to the world of music. To tell the story of its genesis and early development, Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman invites us to his club, Ground Zero in Clarksdale Mississippi. From there he traces the early history of the blues.

It's an astonishing tale, as the simple but powerful songs played by dirt-poor African-Americans went on to inspire the likes of Dylan, Hendrix, Clapton, and The Rolling Stones and helped create modern rock music. Freeman guides us from the music's African roots, through to the old Delta masters such as Robert Johnson. The program then illustrates the rich variety of the blues from the 1940s onwards, as it became electrified and migrated to the cities of the north and west—Chicago in particular.

Freeman introduces live footage of giants of the genre such as BB King, Buddy Guy, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, and Etta James as they play at the world-famous Montreux Jazz Festival. Buddy himself is interviewed and talks about his life and times as Clapton's favorite player. Other insights and musical examples come from expert commentators such as Olu Dara, blues musician and father of rap, superstar, Nas, and musician and actor, Chris Thomas King, who portrayed Delta legend, Tommy Johnson, in the movie O Brother Where Art Thou?. This is an entertaining and educational narrative documenting the early roots and shoots of a seminal American art form.