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Big Bill Broonzy

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Big Bill Broonzy (June 26, 1893 – August 15, 1958) was a prolific American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist. His career began in the 1920s when he played country blues to mostly African-American audiences. Through the 1930s and 1940s he successfully navigated a transition in style to a more urban blues sound popular with working class African-American audiences. In the 1950s a return to his traditional folk-blues roots made him one of the leading figures of the emerging American folk music revival and an international star. His long and varied career marks him as one of the key figures in the development of blues music in the 20th century.
Broonzy copyrighted more than 300 songs during his lifetime, including both adaptations of traditional folk songs and original blues songs. As a blues composer, he was unique in that his compositions reflected the many vantage points of his rural-to-urban experiences.

Born Lee Conley Bradley, “Big Bill” was one of Frank Broonzy (Bradley) and Mittie Belcher’s 17 children. His birth site and date are disputed. While he claimed birth in Scott County, Mississippi, an entire body of emerging research compiled by blues historian Robert Reisman suggests that Broonzy was actually born in Jefferson County, Arkansas.

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