Bobby Rush performing in St. Louis in 2012.
Credit: Entstl / Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

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Bobby Rush Raw: An Intimate Night of Stories and Songs

In April 2020, blues and soul singer Bobby Rush quarantined at his Jackson, Mississippi home with severe Covid-like symptoms (he never got a confirmed diagnosis). The now 87-year-old Rush recovered, and a year later he is busy. Rush, who won his first Grammy for his album Porcupine Meat in 2017 at age 83, is doing a pair of virtual solo concerts this month, making appearances on behalf of a new documentary he is in called The Birth of Soul Music, and will be releasing his memoir I Ain’t Studdin’ Ya: My American Blues Story, in June. Rush, who sometimes appears with a band and twerking dancers (including at a memorable show I saw at Wolf Trap), has in recent years been doing programs more like this month’s “Bobby Rush Raw: An Intimate Night of Stories and Songs,” promoted in part by the Birchmere. Expect Rush, born Emmett Ellis Jr. in Louisiana, to sing, play guitar and harmonica, and weave in joyous, funny, and sad tales from 70 years of doing countless gigs. Known for songs like “Bowlegged Woman, Knock-Kneed Man,” and performing with blues greats like Muddy Waters, Rush also endured decades of racism, like at a gig in 1951 where he and his band were told to perform behind a curtain because the club owner said the White audience wanted to hear the music but not see the Black performers. On his 2020 album Rawer than Raw, Rush’s still powerful and heartfelt voice, strumming, and foot-stomping percussion ensure that blues standards and Rush originals alike sound moving. The performance begins at 8 p.m. on May 16 and 23. Tickets are available at $15–$50.