Lightnin’ Hopkins: Can’t Hardly Keep From Crying

[caption id="attachment_149437" align="alignnone" width="600"] Illustration by Courtney Spencer[/caption] This article appears in the May/June 2015 "Blues Issue," now available on newsstands. Listen, if you will, to the first 30 seconds of Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Moanin’ Blues.” Listen to what happens when the weight of the world and love and loss is too much – if that all could form a pulse, a breath, a ratcheted rhythm, it would be this.  Even before his lips form more than a drawn-out “mmmm,” and even without ever touching on a chorus or repetitive, easy vamp, Hopkins breathes and plucks humanity. ‘I can't hardly keep from crying,” he sings, with pulls of the strings cutting through like acid tears, the hollow of his guitar a quivering lip. No one else can capture what life feels like – what it really feels like, in all its ache and sadness and uneasy humor – quite this way. Two and a half minutes of “Moanin' Blues” and we know we all must moan the same: we all, really, get the blues.  “When you get a sad feelin’, you can tell the whole round world you’ve got nothin’ but the blues,” Hopkins says in the 1967 documentary The Blues…

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