Joseph Spence

Genres: World Music
Decades Active: 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s

Biography

August 1910, Andros, Bahamas, d. 18 March 1984, Nassau, Bahamas. Playing guitar and singing, Spence built an extensive repertoire of songs that incorporated Bahamian folk music and a great many hymns. He performed all his music in a highly distinctive and usually somewhat eccentric manner that brought him many admirers. While he inspired other artists, such as Ry Cooder, John Renbourn and Taj Mahal, his style was so idiosyncratic that few if any appear to have attempted to emulate him. The Bahamian folk music that Spence performed is known as rhyming and might be described as a form of rhythmic verse. Spence’s vocal sound was hoarse and he sometimes forsook words for guttural moans and grunts. His guitar playing was complex and strikingly unlike that of other folk artists of his own or any other land. Indeed, his tuning of the guitar (D A D G B E) was unusual by orthodox standards. He sometimes performed with his sister Edith and her husband Raymond Pinder,...

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