Album Reviews

Magic Sam

Black Magic (Remastered)

Artist:     Magic Sam

Album:     Black Magic (Remastered)

Label:     Delmark

Release Date:     12/29/2016

Magic Sam’s story is a true tragic blues story. Born into a sharecropping family near Grenada, Mississippi, Sam Maghett eventually found his way to his relatives in Chicago. The relatives were his Aunt Lily and her husband—harmonica powerhouse “Shakey Jake” Harris. In the early 50’s Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf ruled the South Side, packing the clubs, playing the pounding, electrified Delta blues that would come to be recognized as the sound of the city.

Sam was a generation younger than the first wave of Blue’s legends and clearly was influenced by the city’s burgeoning west side sound of Buddy Guy and Otis Rush. However, bad luck dogged him, and he was passed up by Chess Records. He finally found a home at the Cobra label, but even that was short lived. In 1959 Cobra folded and Sam was drafted. Within weeks, Sam went AWOL to record for Chief Records. He was subsequently caught and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, but the experience had undermined his confidence and immediate recordings for Chief Records lacked the drive and faith of his previous efforts.

In 1963, his single “Feelin’ Good (We’re Gonna Boogie)” gained national attention. He successfully toured the around the world and he was signed to Delmark Records in 1967. Magic Sam’s breakthrough performance was at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1969, which won him many bookings in the U.S. and Europe. Just when it seems like the world was ready for Magic Sam, he returned to the studio and cut the incredible follow-up Black Magic for Delmark. Sadly, on the morning of December 1, 1969, Sam complained of pain in his heart, and collapsed on his way to his bedroom. He was rushed to a Chicago hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. He was 32.

His guitar style, vocals, and songwriting have inspired and influenced many blues musicians. In the film The Blues Brothers, Jake Blues dedicates the band’s performance of “Sweet Home Chicago” to the “late, great Magic Sam”. Black Magic’s excellence indicates that had he lived, he’d have become as celebrated as Buddy Guy. The passionate testifying of “What Have I Done Wrong”, “It’s All Your Fault” and “Keep on Lovin’ Me Baby” demonstrates that Sam not only sang and felt blues; he lived them.

– Laura Sedor

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