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Chicago’s blues musicians, clubs hit hard by pandemic: ‘There’s gonna be a lot of songs to come from this’
Blues guitarist Wayne Baker Brooks had major plans for his 50th birthday: A May 3 gig at City Winery, jamming with some of Chicago’s blues luminaries. But the coronavirus quashed those plans — indefinitely.
Then, last week, the city canceled the 37th annual Chicago Blues Fest, which was scheduled for June 5-7 — an announcement that sounded like a death knell to many of the city’s blues artists, including Brooks.
“We definitely got the blues right now; everybody in the world got the blues right now,” he said.
Brooks, the son of blues legend Lonnie Brooks, had a big summer of touring ahead. Like other Chicago area artists in the genre, he wants to keep the blues alive, and relies on live shows to make a living.
“Every single day I’m getting a cancellation, and it’s very disheartening,” said Brooks, who’s performed with Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, Bo Diddley, Taj Mahal and Otis Clay. “This is my main source of income.”
Some of the venues where many of the city’s blues artists plied their trade are also working to stay afloat, while trying to help artists do the same. A GoFundMe page for Kingston Mines says the famed Lincoln Park club might close for good without more cash, while Rosa’s Lounge in Hermosa is providing a platform for artists to perform online and solicit donations through its Facebook page.
Gary, Indiana, blues singer and guitarist Donald Kinsey, an original member of The Wailers — reggae singer Bob Marley’s band — says blues musicians will continue to roll with the punches because the genre often documents when people are down on their luck.
“One thing for sure: there’s gonna be a lot of songs to come from this,” said Kinsey. “That’s what we do with songwriters and musicians and so, you know, we look forward to being able to get back out and do what we do: traveling and move people’s spirits.”
More news you need
- The city has created an app, called “Chi COVID Coach,” that allows Chicagoans to pre-register for a coronavirus vaccine. It also provides those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms guidance about where and when to seek medical care.
- Researchers at the University of Chicago have been testing the efficacy of various materials for making homemade masks. Here’s the combination they say is nearly as effective as an N95.
- Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she’s been having “ongoing conversations” with the owners of both the Cubs and the White Sox about what the baseball season could look like if the stay-at-home order continues to be extended. There’s one key component she said will definitely be missing.
- The April 11 smoke stack demolition that enraged and endangered Little Village residents triggered “no apparent health risks,“ according to air quality tests released today. The health department “will continue to sample, monitor and publish data … to track any changes in air quality.”
- President Donald Trump and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley are attacking Illinois Democrats for using the COVID-19 crisis to ask for a $10 billion state pension rescue and other federal aid. Take a look at what they’ve been tweeting.
- A federal judge has ordered Sheriff Thomas Dart to move most Cook County Jail detainees into single cells to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The massive facility has been identified as one of the nation’s top coronavirus hot spots.
A bright one
Chicago Public Library e-book checkouts have skyrocketed during the coronavirus crisis. During the first weeks of the stay-at-home order, e-book use increased 51% over the same period in 2019.
So what are Chicagoans reading while staying at home? According to a list obtained by the Sun-Times, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”reigns supreme as the top e-book checked out from CPL between March 15 and April 23. Michelle Obama’s memoir, “Becoming,” and “Crazy Rich Asians” by Kevin Kwan were also popular titles.
To check out an e-book, any Chicago Public Library cardholder just needs to create an online account. From there, readers can find links to multiple e-book suppliers on the library’s website. Just like regular library books, though, some e-books only have a finite amount of copies available for use.
From the press box
The Bulls continue their front office makeover by bringing in Marc Eversley as the team’s new general manager. Eversley will be the first black GM in franchise history.
The Bears’ draft haul looks a whole lot better when the Khalil Mack trade is taken into account.
Are you watching “The Last Dance” yet? Check out these six key moments from Episodes 3 and 4 of the ESPN documentary. And if you want more, Rick Telander and Richard Roeper take a deep dive into the relationship between Dennis Rodman and Phil Jackson in the Chicago Six-Times podcast.
Your daily question☕
What are the books or TV shows you’re happiest about being able to catch up on now that you’re not commuting every day?
Email us(please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.
Friday, we asked you what new habits you’ve developed while staying at home. Here’s what some of you said…
“Learning to speak French. I’m 70 and retired and mostly stay at home anyway. But now that I have to, I finally worked up the motivation to learn another language and it’s great fun.”—Joyce Juzwik
“I’ve been doing 10 minutes of meditation first thing every morning! And I’ve started doing yoga again (in my living room, of course).”—Marylyn Folino
Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition.Got a story you think we missed?Email us here.