Skip to comments.From hip-hopper to sharecropper (P. Diddy to pick Cotton)
Posted on 05/19/2003 3:01:43 PM PDT by Mister Magoo
From hip-hopper to sharecropper
His hip-hop majesty Sean Combs wants to pick cotton. The Bad Boy Records boss has been cast to play Delta blues legend Robert Johnson in the HBO movie "Love in Vain." Wasting no time prepping for the part, he's learning some guitar licks.
"I tried playing it when I was young," Combs tells us.
He's also looking forward to heading down South - where, before he died in 1938 at the age of 27, the vagabond Johnson is said to have made a pact with the devil, who promised to make him the greatest guitar player ever.
"I'm doing everything," says Combs. "I'm going to work on a farm, learn about sharecropping and picking cotton."
Excuse us? His Diddyness picking cotton?
"I swear to God," he says. "I'm doing cotton picking."
Forgive us, but we can't help picturing Puffy's version of plantation labor. Maybe, as he does when on holiday in St.-Tropez, he'll have his butler providing shade by trailing him with an umbrella. Or maybe he'll jump on a Jet Ski and zip down a nearby river, his terrycloth beach robe billowing in the wind.
To be fair, Combs received good reviews for his portrayal of a Death Row inmate in "Monster's Ball," playing opposite Halle Berry. And he sounds sincere about bring the roots music to his rap audience.
"I hope it'll introduce young people to the blues," he says.
Shooting is due to start in the fall.
(Excerpt) Read more at nydailynews.com ...
He was playing a different person - Tommy Johnson - the original "crossroads" guy.
Spooky. How many rockers have died at the age of 27? Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Pigpen and Jimi Hendrix are the first to come to mind.
If Diddy introduces more young people to old-school Delta blues, it will be a greater service to American music and culture than all of his own recordings combined. God help me, but I might be finding some glimmer of respect for the dude. If he can be half as good at playing Robert Johnson as Forrest Whittaker was at playing Charlie Parker -- which is a hell of a stretch, I know -- that's a movie I want to see.
When I was in New Orleans a few years ago, before Katrina, I was hanging out in a jazz bar. Fritzel's on Bourbon, and I recommend it. When they started slowing down, one of the locals I'd been talking to all night asked me if I wanted to check out some real blues. I didn't have a lot of cash on me and I figured I could take the guy if I had to, so I went along.
Now, I'll admit, I was somewhat the worse for drink, and the route from one place to the other meandered through enough side streets and back alleys that I couldn't find it again if you gave me a GPS and a highly-trained bloodhound. But once we got there, it was worth the risk.
The place was too nice to be called a shanty or a jook, but I wouldn't exactly call it a club, either. On the stage was one man, playing guitar and providing his own rhythm section by thumping his foot on the wood floor. The guitarist was -- I swear before almighty God, I am not making this up -- a blind albino, who looked about seventeen. He was incredible.
I dropped a fin in the bucket and requested "C'mon in my Kitchen," which I'm sure marked me as a tourist. A real blues fan would have tried to establish some cred by asking for a song you can't buy at Tower Records. But he played it, and knocked it out of the park.
As an ohbytheway, Robert Johnson died young for reasons that have never been fully explained. He spent a lot of time on the road, and met a lot of young women along the way.
The leading theory is that he died after one of those young ladies' husbands poisoned his drink. His friends warned him not to swig whiskey from any already-opened bottle that got handed to him, but he just wouldn't listen.