House was born in Riverton, a town near Clarksdale, Mississippi, being the middle brother of 17. At the age of eight, and after the separation of his parents, he moved to Tallulah, Louisiana, with his mother. During his teens, he wanted to become a Baptist preacher, starting at age fifteen. Inspired by the work of Willie Wilson, House was drawn to the blues, despite opposition from the Church about this musical style because of the sins that surrounded him, beginning to play guitar in the mid-1920s. until 1942 in Robinsonville, Mississippi, with musicians such as Charley Patton, Willie Brown, Robert Johnson, Fiddlin ‘Joe Martin and Leroy Williams.
After murdering a man, in alleged self-defense for him, he spent time in the Mississippi State Prison, during the years 1928 and 1929.
Son House made recordings in 1930 for the record company Paramount Records and for Alan Lomax (belonging to the Library of Congress) in 1941 and 1942. He later disappeared from the music scene until the 1960s (a period characterized by the resurgence of country blues). , when, after a search by Nick Perls, Dick Waterman and Phil Spiro in the Mississippi Delta region, it was “rediscovered” in 1964 in Rochester, New York, where it had lived since 1943; House was retired from the music scene and working for the New York Central Railroad, being completely oblivious to the international enthusiasm that reigned for the reissue of his early recordings. Due to this, he began a series of musical tours through the United States and Europe, made recordings for the CBS company. Like Mississippi John Hurt, he performed at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964, at the New York Folk Festival in 1965, on the 1970 summer European tour with Skip James and Bukka White, and at the Montreux Jazz Festival there. same year.
The last years of his life were characterized by the disease, retiring again from the music scene in 1974, moving to Detroit, Michigan, where he would reside until his death due to laryngeal cancer. He was buried at Mt. Hazel Cemetery. Members of the Detroit Blues Society held a series of benefit concerts to raise money to build a statue at the Son House tomb.
Musical style and influation.
The innovative musical style of House is characterized by using strong, marked and repetitive rhythms, together with a way of singing that recalls the laments of the chain gang (groups of prisoners). House greatly influenced Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson, the latter being the one who would bring House’s music to other audiences; It was precisely House who, in a conversation with fans in the 1960s, expanded the legend that Johnson had sold his soul to the devil in exchange for being able to play the guitar masterfully. House has influenced current musicians like White Stripes, who performed a cover of their song “Death Letter” on the album “De Stijl”, performing that song at the 2004 Grammy Awards ceremony. The White Stripes also incorporated sections from the traditional Son House song “John the Revelator” to the song “Cannon” from their album “The White Stripes”.