Eric Bibb’s story begins in an atypical family in Queens where music ruled the roost. His father, Leon Bibb, was a senior figure on the New York folk scene in the 1960s; his godfather was the actor, singer and activist Paul Robeson, and his uncle the composer and jazz pianist John Lewis, founder of the Modern Jazz Quartet.
The family home was a centre of artistic life where you might find Bob Dylan, Gary Davis, Judy Collins or Odetta Holmes. These encounters fired the imagination and the talent of the boy who turned naturally to the guitar. Bob Dylan gave him this advice in the year he turned 11: ‘play simply and forget about too much sophistication’.
In Paris seven years later, meeting guitarist Mickey Baker cemented his interest in blues guitar. Eric joined up with the Swede and threw himself into the work and composition. At the same time he went on a world tour and became insatiably curious, particularly about sub-Saharan music. Once his 1994 album Spirit & The Blues was released, he became a star.
Bibb has played with Taj Mahal, Pops and Mavis Staples, Charle Musselwhite, Guy Davis, Hubert Sumlin, Rory Block, Bonnie Raitt, Mamadou Diabaté, Toumani Diabaté, Staffan Astner, the Campbell Brothers, Dirk Powell, Cedric Watson, Larry Crockett, Jerry Douglas and Habib Koité… To quote a few!
Today, in his album Migration Blues, he continues to explore the roots of the blues from its origin in the famous Delta blues of Mississippi and the cotton plantations at the end of the 19th century, and bridges the gap between the history of Afro-American people and that of refugees.
‘Whether it’s a former sharecropper hitchhiking between Clarksdale and Chicago in 1923, or an orphan from Aleppo in a boat full of refugees, it’s always about the blues of emigration … With this album, I want to encourage all of us to keep up our spirits and keep our hearts wide open to the distress of refugees, wherever they are. History proves it: we all descend from people who at one time or another were forced to leave.’
– Eric Bibb