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Richard Pryor: that clown can really sing the blues
January 5, 2014 1:57 PM   Subscribe

Richard Pryor moved to New York City in 1963, where he performed regularly in clubs alongside performers such as Bob Dylan and Woody Allen. He even opened for singer and pianist Nina Simone, who talked of his early nervousness, when she put her "arms around him there in the dark and rocked him like a baby until he calmed down." You can see something of that young man in this clip of Pryor singing a bit of jazzy blues in 1966. The performance is also available on YouTube with slightly better quality, but faded in from different scene.

The song is "Nobody Knows When You're Down and Out" by Jimmy Cox, written in 1923. Here's Bessie Smith covering the song in 1929, audio of Janis Joplin performing the song in some live setting, and Eric Clapton doing an acoustic rendition for his MTV Unplugged performance.

For more of the early Pryor, here he is in 1964 as part of a Kraft Music Hall special, and a clip of "little Richie Pryor" in a 1966 appearance on The Merv Griffin Show.

As noted in this post on Open Culture, Pryor gained broader recognition as an actor the 1972 film Lady Sings the Blues, where he was a surly piano man, behind Diana Ross playing Billie Holiday.
posted by filthy light thief (14 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is that John Davidson introducing him?!
posted by dobbs at 3:07 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


Richard Pryor breaks my heart.
posted by vitabellosi at 3:17 PM on January 5 [6 favorites]


It's funny to watch him sing, because I've seen that face pull faces so many times, and I can't help myself from anticipating the laugh that never comes because he's being serious. I keep expecting him to corpse. Respectable singer, too -- I wish he'd made a record as one.
posted by Fnarf at 3:18 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


But also ---

Is that John Davidson introducing him?!

That's Incredible!
posted by vitabellosi at 3:20 PM on January 5


That was great.
posted by Divine_Wino at 3:57 PM on January 5


Wouldn't mind being rocked like a baby by Nina Simone.
posted by uosuaq at 4:17 PM on January 5 [5 favorites]


Peoria artist R. Rashad Reed designed and created the bust, "Olmec Pryor," as an homage to Pryor and the Olmec American Indian tribe.

posted by deathpanels at 6:27 PM on January 5


Started hating it, then when he began SHOUTING the lyrics, he won me over. Genius is like that. Rarely confines itself to one genre.

--

In unrelated news... Diana Ross playing Billie Holiday. Cathy Lee Crosby as Wonder Woman. Lee Meriwether as Catwoman (replacing Eartha Fucking Kitt, for chrissakes). Debbie Reynolds as Annie Oakley (again, replacing Ethel Metafiltering Merman!). George W. Bush as President.

Some castings make no fucking sense at all, except... they had connections.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:58 PM on January 5


Is that John Davidson introducing him?!

Thanks for possibly identifying the host of that show. By hunting around the 'net, it seems that clip could be mis-dated, and it could have been from The Entertainers, which ran in 1964 and '65. The internet has scant information on the program, with 12 cast members currently listed on IMDb, and TV.com only has information on 2 of the 27 listed episodes.

Otherwise, I haven't seen any information about the source of either of these clips. The YouTube one is really odd, as it is clearly part of some bigger production, maybe a documentary.

Last note: the title is in vague reference to Davidson's intro to "Richie" Pryor, in which Davidson says "... he's always a clown, right, we always know him for being a clown. But we found out that Richie's secret desire is to be a singer ..."
posted by filthy light thief at 7:48 PM on January 5


well he sings better than Charles Barkley golfs, give him that much. And he sings MUCH better than JFK JR flies planes.
posted by Colonel Panic at 9:51 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't mind being rocked like a baby by Nina Simone.

This reminds me of the time that Laura Nyro nursed me back to health, like an orphaned kitten
posted by thelonius at 1:38 AM on January 6


Did Labelle bring soup I hope?
posted by Divine_Wino at 2:25 AM on January 6


The Paley Center says this was from Kraft Summer Music Hall, broadcast 1 Aug. 1966.
posted by Knappster at 7:35 AM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Knappster, thanks for that info!
posted by filthy light thief at 9:30 AM on January 6


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