The History and a Song: Ry Cooder’s “Feelin’ Bad Blues”


After suggesting movies for my wife to watch, one of the movies that I recommended was the coming-of-age drama Crossroads. The movie was inspired by the faustian like legend of blues musician Robert Johnson. The story itself centers around a guitar prodigy named Eugene Martone (played by the Karate Kid himself Ralph Macchio) who may study classical guitar at the Juilliard School for Performing Arts in New York but he has an obsession with the Blues. He breaks convicted felon and friend of blues legend Robert Johnson out of a minimum security prison in exchange for learning Johnson’s ‘missing song’. ‘The one and only’ Willie Brown yearns to travel to Mississippi to take care of his ‘unfinished business’; but along the way Eugene experiences the blues firsthand. He grows as person and the classical guitarist finally gets ‘the blues’.


The soundtrack and all around musical pieces throughout the movie (ie the Juilliard performances and all associated music for the movie) speak to the music lover. The original blues score by Ry Cooder, Arlen Roth, Sonny Terry and Steve Vai are added to a list of blues hits by legendary blues musicians such as Ahmad Jamal, Robert Johnson, Otis Taylor, Noah Lewis, Frank Frost and many more. Ry Cooder (along with legendary American guitarist Arlen Roth) dubbed all slide and regular Blues guitar pieces used in the film and for the soundtrack. The multiple Grammy Award winner Ry Cooder, the multi-instrumentalist-multi-genre musician, songwriter, film score composer, and record producer is well respected in the world of music. Not only was he ranked eighth on Rolling Stones magazines list of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time;” but he has performed with and had collaborations with everyone from bluegrass legend Bill Monroe (known as the ‘father of bluegrass’) to Hindustani classical musician V.M. Bhatt to blues legend Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown to Eric Clapton.


His collaborations and musical influences range from traditional bluegrass to the conjunto musical typically played in Mexico and Cuba. One of my favorite blues tracks and my favorite song by Ry Cooder is found on the above-mentioned soundtrack. His soulful instrumental track entitled “Feelin’ Bad Blues” showcases his talent for playing the electric slide guitar.


Cover art for the Crossroads Soundtrack by multiple artists (specifically Ry Cooder). Cover art copyright is believed to belong to the label, Warner Bros. Records, or the graphic artists. Source, Fair use,

Ry Cooder playing guitar with his famous slide in 2009 by Dani Canto –, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Ry Cooder playing the electric bouzouki while performing with Ricky Skaggs and Sharon White in 2015 by Steve Proctor – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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