I was just walking down a busy street minding my own business when I saw an old black man. He sat on a small chair, guitar in hand. Even though it was really hot outside and I was sweating in a light shirt, this man wore a suit. It was an old suit, patched up hundreds of times. If suits could talk this one would have much to tell. On his head was a matching, ragged hat. I could tell he was hot by the way grains of sweat trickled down his forehead into his eyes. But nothing could stop this old men. The moment he started singing I recognized his voice. I knew I heard it somewhere, I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
So I got closer to this man that played the blues, instantly I recognized the song. He sang “Going Down Slow”, one of my favorites. After a few minutes of watching him perform I finally recognized him. He was “Big” Bill Burnett. I had his record from the 80’s, back then on the cover he looked old; I couldn’t even imagine how old he is now. I couldn’t recognize him because he wasn’t the same man I remembered from the record. He wasn’t big anymore, he was small and fragile, he lost a lot of pounds. Just like his suit, his face shown years of wear and tear. I couldn’t believe it was the same rock of man he used to be. This man looked like he could drop dead any second, or he could live on for ten more years. I was mesmerized by him.
When he finished his song I dropped ten dollars in his guitar case. He tipped his hat.
“Are you “Big” Bill Burnett?” I asked him.
“Guilty as charged,” Bill said while fiddling with his strings.
“I don’t want to sound insulting, but… What happened? You don’t look like you used to, at all.”
“I get asked that a lot kid. And I always tell ‘em: the blues happened kiddo, the blues caught up with me,” Bill told me without looking away from his guitar.
I wanted to ask him another question, but he didn’t allow me. He started playing another song cutting me off. And when he started to play, and I saw that spark in his eye, I understood what he wanted to say.