Listen: Before He Tackled Comedy, Richard Pryor Was an Amazing Blues Singer

Listen: Before He Tackled Comedy, Richard Pryor Was an Amazing Blues Singer

Oct 24, 2013


Before he became one of comedy's most famous foul-mouthed funnymen, Richard Pryor was working the club circuit as a part-time singer. He moved to New York City in 1963 after a tumultuous childhood in Illinois and a stint in the Army that found him in prison for the stabbing of a fellow soldier. Pryor had played drums in nightclubs at a young age, so he was familiar with the scene and got himself several good gigs opening for people like Bob Dylan and Nina Simone.

The legendary performer recalled a very nervous Pryor during a show at the Village Gate: "He shook like he had malaria, he was so nervous. I couldn't bear to watch him shiver, so I put my arms around him there in the dark and rocked him like a baby until he calmed down. The next night was the same, and the next, and I rocked him each time."

eOne Music Canada's Eric Alper just shared a YouTube video of a baby-faced Pryor singing the Jimmy Cox blues standard "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out." It's a mesmerizing performance from a multitalented man whose troubled life sometimes overshadowed his massive talent. For more bluesy Pryor, we've also included a trailer for his film Lady Sings the Blues — about the life and career of Billie Holiday. Pryor played a piano player who recognizes her incredible talent during the early days of her career.





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