Lonesome Blues

The poetic journey through the mind of legendary bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson

The world premiere musical Lonesome Blues is the celebration of the legendary bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson: born blind, but ultimately able to express his deepest emotions through music. Discovered on a street corner in the Deep Ellum section of Dallas, Texas in 1925, Jefferson made more than 80 records over the next four years, becoming one the most prolific and influential performers of his generation and propelling the growth of rhythm and blues, soul, doo-wop, rap, and hip-hop.

Building on the success of their earlier musical Blind Lemon Blues, presented by the York in 2007 and 2009, Alan Govenar and Akin Babatundé have used new research to probe deeper into the life and psyche of Blind Lemon Jefferson. In Lonesome Blues, Babatundé plays more than ten different roles, channeling the spirits of men and women alike, in a journey that is at once evocative, troubling, and transformative. Songs and monologues bring to life the voice of Blind Lemon Jefferson, his community, and his musical contemporaries, including Blind Willie Johnson, Lillian Glinn, Hattie Hudson, Bobbie Cadillac, and Lead Belly—all coming together in Jefferson's mind on the day of his death, December 19, 1929, in Chicago.

Special Panel Discussions

"Putting the Rhyme in Rhythm"

Tuesday, June 26th, at 8:30 p.m.

Production Photo from Blind Lemon Blues,
Photograph by Alan Govenar
Developing a new musical takes an entire village of collaboration. The York unites a group of musical theatre collaborators to discuss the process of  collaborating on a new piece.

"Rhythm, Rhyme and Racism"

Saturday, June 30th, at 4 p.m.

The only known photo of Blind Lemon Jefferson, 1926
Any discussion of the history of the blues
has to begin with race. A special panel of
experts discuss the history of racism in
the music industry and how it's still
pervasive today.

"The Many Shades of The Blues"

Thursday, June 21st, at 4 p.m.

The Blues, Kathleen Kelly Thompson, Acrylic
The Blues, Kathleen Kelly Thompson, Acrylic

From the Dallas Blues to the Memphis Blues, and country blues to urban blues, The York hosts a lively discussion on the many shades of the blues and the evolution of this uniquely American

Guest panelists include Alan Govenar and Keith "The Captain" Gamble, moderated by The York's Executive Director Evans Haile

ALAN GOVENAR is a writer, playwright, photographer, and filmmaker. He is the founder and president of Documentary Arts. Govenar is a Guggenheim Fellow and the author of 29 books. He has also produced and directed numerous films in association with NOVA, PBS, and La Sept/ARTE. Govenar is also the recipient of a “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award from the Blues Foundation in Memphis.

KEITH "THE CAPTAIN" GAMBLE is a vocalist, guitarist, and harmonica player. He applies his many talents to film and theater, also as a guest artist, lecturer, and a guest instructor with various cultural and educational organizations. Gamble has also performed in New York City venues including B.B. King’s, the Apollo Theater, St. Nick’s Pub, Lenox Lounge, and Londel’s and appeared regularly with his band in Greenwich Village. He was commissioned by the US State Department to perform at the W.E.B. Dubois Center in Ghana, honoring the first Inauguration of President Obama.

EVANS HAILE is currently the General Director of Opera North and Executive Director at The York. Evans has over 25 years of experience as a producer and advocate for the arts. He is a grant recipient of the National Endowment of the Arts, and has been twice profiled on “CBS Sunday Morning,” and has proudly produced over 250 Equity productions.

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