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Friday, November 1, 2013

Watch Rare Film of Richard Pryor Singing the Blues: No Joke, All Heart

via Open Culture:

None of Richard Pryor's raunchy or self-deprecating wit here, just a genuine, heartfelt rendition of Jimmy Cox’s 1924 “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.” According to eOne Music’s Eric Alper, Pryor not only started performing comedy after he moved to New York City in 1963, he also sang, opening for such soon-to-be-greats as Nina Simone and Bob Dylan. Pryor in fact got his start on the club circuit as a drummer, so “he was familiar with the scene.” recounts a poignant story from Simone’s autobiography about Pryor’s intense stage fright before one of these early gigs:
He shook like he had malaria, he was so nervous. I couldn’t bear to watch him shiver so I put my arms around him there in the dark and rocked him like a baby until he calmed down. The next night was the same, and the next, and I rocked him each time.
As a singer, Pryor doesn’t channel and focus his anxiety so much as he slowly masters it, appearing a little stiff at first but eventually knocking it out with a surprisingly good performance that well deserves a listen. The provenance of the clip isn’t exactly clear, and some intro material marks it as part of a documentary, maybe. Please weigh in if you know or suspect the film clip’s source.

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