So to enjoy most singer-songwriters you don’t need to be all that Culturally Literate, not so with Ben Bedford. With Bedford it’s always a good idea to have Google or Wikipedia fired up so that you can find out more about the subject of many of his songs. Take the song “Cahokia” from his latest album What We Lost , when Ben sings…
Cahokia what secrets do you keep, your bones buried deep inside the hills,
Cahokia the river runs it course, Mississippi’s swollin force is never still.
I wasn’t quite sure what he was singing about the first time I heard the song, but a search on Wikipedia revealed.
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site ( /kəˈhoʊkiə/) is located on the site of an ancient Native American city (c. 600–1400 CE) situated directly across the Mississippi River from modern St. Louis, Missouri. This historic park lies in Southern Illinois between East St. Louis and Collinsville….
Cahokia was the largest and most influential urban settlement in the Mississippian culture which developed advanced societies across much of what is now the Southeastern United States, beginning more than 500 years before European contact. Cahokia’s population at its peak in the 1200s was as large, or larger, than any European city of that time, and its ancient population would not be surpassed by any city in the United States until about the year 1800
And so it goes, on the album Bedford presents songs about the poet Vachel Lindsay, blues legend Charley Patton and the 1973 standoff between members of The American Indian Movement and federal agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation. You see Bedford is a songwriter whose songs start with an idea for a story that he would like to tell, a literary approach influenced by two of his favorite authors, John Steinbeck and Toni Morrison.
“Usually it starts with something that I’m inspired by in some way. A person and their life in general, or a certain aspect of their life. I’ll have a line in my head and it will materialize and take off from there,” Bedford said. “The hardest thing about writing a song, for me anyway, is getting that first line. Once I get that first line it can start flowing out.”
Bedford refers to his style as American Portrait Songwriting. Over the course of three albums, the Springfield resident has addressed contemporary issues such as homelessness, but his work mainly focuses on historical subjects and figures — not surprising given that he was a history major in college. He has written songs about John the Baptist, poet and artist Vachel Lindsay, and aviator Amelia Earhart. More
What We Lost is Bedford’s third album and each one of them is outstanding! In 201o Rich Warren of the “Midnight Special” broadcast of WFMT-FM 98.7 listed Bedford on his 0 most significant singer-songwriters of folk in the last 50 years! Being on this listen with one of his main influences Townes Van Zant must have been a thrill for Bedford!
So if you’ve never heard Ben Bedford’s music be sure to check him out, but remember to have Google or Wikipedia near by!!
Here’s the title track of the album “What We Lost” a song about his Grandfather.