Bobby Rush photographed on Beale Street during the 2020 International Blues Challenge. (Photo: Joshua Branning)

by Tracy Sow —

Blues legend Bobby Rush has been suffering for the last few weeks with symptoms consistent with the coronavirus.

He has to remain in mandatory quarantine until April 20.

Immediately after his live social media performance March 24, Rush, 86, was rushed to a Jackson, Miss. hospital by his son and grandson. He was running a high fever, aching and coughing.

After being hospitalized, Rush was released and quarantined at his home. His private doctor administered a COVID-19 test that yielded inconclusive results.

Rush has since been tested by the state of Mississippi and has yet to receive the results. However, the state continues to deliver him two meals daily with no physical contact.

Speaking to Rush on Easter Eve was a drastic contrast to weeks earlier when every word sounded as if he was gasping for air and laboring just to give a short answer.

He was talkative and enthusiastic about his recovery. He credits God and his faith for his renewed strength. Many of his fans may not realize, he is the son of a preacher.

“Yes, my father pastored two churches most of his life and I learned a lot of spiritual things from him,” said Rush. “I don’t want to drag my beliefs on everybody, but I can tell you now God is real, and he is still in the healing business.”

Rush, Rhodes College’s inaugural visiting scholar of the arts and who taught blues in the schools for years, was asked what three things he would teach kids about blues today?

“It’s hard to tell you just three things but blues and gospel are the root of all-American music.

“The blues was founded by black people. Although, there are many white people and others that sing the blues, but I’m talking about where it comes from and that’s black people.

“I think everyone should know their history, culture and be proud of who you are,” he said.

In true Bobby Rush-style, he added, “What bothers me is back in the day there was a wah-wah pedal that guys invented for white guys to sound black.

“Now you got black guys buying wah-wahs to sound like white guys trying to sound black. That tells me they are either afraid or ashamed of themselves. Learn the richness of your culture.”

So, what’s left to do for Rush, who has won a Grammy, numerous Blues Music Awards and has performed in every major market in the world (he was the first blues artist in concert at the Great Wall of China)?

“I would love to perform in Africa and connect with the very root. It was on the slave ship that blues was incubated. I have visited, but I really want to perform in the Motherland.”

Joyful about feeling better, Rush said, “I just want to thank everyone that prayed for me. God heard those prayers and saw fit to heal my body. I need us to be kind to one another by adhering to social distancing, washing hands and please cover with a mask.”

Rush encouraged everyone who loves somebody to treat others with the respect that they want their loved ones shown.

Noting how disproportionately African Americans are dying from coronavirus, Rush made a plea to take the warnings and preventative measures seriously.

Here’s a snippet of Tracy Sow’s conversation with Bobby Rush