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W.C. Handy

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William Christopher Handy (November 16, 1873 – March 28, 1958) was a blues composer and musician. He was widely known as the “Father of the Blues”.

Handy remains among the most influential of American songwriters. Though he was one of many musicians who played the distinctively American form of music known as the blues, he is credited with giving it its contemporary form. While Handy was not the first to publish music in the blues form, he took the blues from a regional music style with a limited audience to one of the dominant national forces in American music.

Handy was an educated musician who used folk material in his compositions. He was scrupulous in documenting the sources of his works, which frequently combined stylistic influences from several performers.

Handy was born in Florence, Alabama. His father was the pastor of a small church in Guntersville, another small town in northeast central Alabama. Handy wrote in his 1941 autobiography, Father of the Blues, that he was born in the log cabin built by his grandfather William Wise Handy, who became an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister after emancipation. The log cabin of Handy’s birth has been saved and preserved in downtown Florence.

Growing up he apprenticed in carpentry, shoemaking and plastering.

Handy was a deeply religious man, whose influences in his musical style were found in the church music he sang and played as a youth, and in the natural world.

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