music to go with The Color Purple

I’m currently teaching The Color Purple to my 10th grade class and wanted to find some music that would be representative of the period, particularly the kind of music that Shug Avery might have performed on stage. I am pretty much illiterate when it comes to music history so I thought I’d turn to the Dopers for some suggestions. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated. :slight_smile:

Well, Prince obviously.
Oh! You want music to go with The Color Purple not music to go with the color purple. Sorry.

I’m not really familiar with the book (nor the movie), but looks like Shug played blues, huh? And we’re in Georgia in the 1930s? Here’s the origins section of The Blues page on Wikipedia. On the sidebar there are recordings from 1927 (“Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning” by Blind Willie Johnson), 1930 (“Dupree Blues” by Blind Willie Walker as well as “Milwaukee Blues” by Charlie Poole), and 1936 (“Sweet Home Chicago” by Robert Johnson).

I’m scanning through looking for mentions of Georgia in the the Origins section and the Pre-war section (just scroll down at the link provided above). I’m not really a Blues Historian at all. There are Blues Historians here at the SDMB for sure, so hopefully someone more qualified will chime in.

Hope that’s a helpful bit to get you started.

O.K., here’s a good quote from the Pre-war section on the Wiki Blues page:

Now, I don’t know any of those musicians (only because of my own deficient knowledge of Blues) but that’s four names to get you started:
Curley Weaver
Tampa Red
Barbecue Bob Hicks
James Kokomo Arnold

Looking at their career bios, they all would have slightly predated Shug Avery by just enough to have been significant influences.

Again, a real Blues Historian is bound to join the discussion with some better help.

The songs she sings in the movie (Miss Celie’s Blues) and in the musical (Push the Button [might be a bit too racy for the students who can decipher it, though if they’re reading the book they’re reading a whole lot more sexually explicit material than that]) are both great homages to that era.

I’d go with Alberta Hunter for legitimate greats of Shug’s era though.

I’m going to go in another direction here.

Old authentic blues records often sound like crap. Scratchy, too much treble, off-speed. I think your students might latch on to old blues with a slightly more modern sound. The general era of the songs would be correct but with better fidelity and a little more familiarity to modern ears. The class is on The Color Purple, not pre-war blues music, so you can cheat a little.

I’m thinking of:
Guy Davis: Stomp Down the Rider
Etta Baker: anything
Taj Mahal: Taj Mahal or The Natch’l Blues

If you want a quick selection of important jazz recordings from the time, see if a nearby library has a copy of the music CDs that were released along with Ken Burns’ documentary Jazz.

Putumayo World Music has some extremely good jazz and blues CDS.

That’s one reason I recommended Alberta Hunter. After leaving show biz for decades to become a nurse, she had a huge comeback in the 1970s & 1980s (when she was in her '80s) and re-recorded some of her standards (and some new material in similar style) with then state-of-the-art recording technology.

Thanks everyone! Great recommendations. I’m planning to link to some youtube links on my class blog so the kids can listen to stuff at home. :slight_smile:

All I know is Texarkana Rag, best exemplified by Scott Joplin.