Blues Legend Baker Mixed Styles into Joyful Sound

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
  • Transcript

Farai Chideya pays tribute to the late blues guitarist Etta Baker, who died over the weekend in Virginia. The 93-year-old North Carolina native helped revive folk music, and quit her long-time job at a textile mill to focus on her music career that lasted into her 80s. Baker was known for her mastery of the Piedmont Blues, a blend of bluegrass and the Delta blues, which she called "a joyful sound."


Now we say goodbye to a great Southern musician. Ninety-three-year-old blues guitarist Etta Baker died on Saturday. Baker performed on a 1956 album many credit with starting the folk music revival. Baker was a mother of nine. She worked for 26 years at a North Carolina textile mill. She retired at 60 to focus on her music full-time and toured the festival circuit for more than 20 years.

Baker was known for her mastery of the Piedmont blues, a blend of bluegrass and the Delta blues. In an interview last year with NEWS & NOTES, she explained her musical style.

(Soundbite of previous NEWS & NOTES broadcast)

Ms. ETTA BAKER (Musician): Piedmont blues and Delta, it's all pretty. But in the Delta music it's explaining hardship. The Piedmont blues is kind of a peppy joyful sound.

(Soundbite of music)

CHIDEYA: In 1991, Baker won the folk Heritage Fellowship for the National Endowment for the Arts. She eventually gave up performing because of heart trouble, but did return to the studio two years ago to record with blues great Taj Mahal. Ms. Etta Baker died in Virginia while visiting her daughter.

(Soundbite of music)

CHIDEYA: Thanks for joining us. That's our program for today. To listen to the show, visit NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Related NPR Stories



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.