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Why is Bert Williams a nobody?

434px-WilliamsWalkerJohnahMan Maybe it’s the black face?

I’ve loved Johnny Cash’ recording of the song “Nobody” for years, but only recently did I check for the composer’s name. It turns out it that the song was written by Egbert Williams, better known as Bert Williams. He’s the gentleman on the left.

It’s always a shock to confront the casual racism that was once so prevalent in this country. Imagine a talented black songwriter, singer and clown being forced to war blackface to make a living! When people say “nothing has changed” it sounds like they are very uninformed about how bad things really were for black people at previous points in this country’s history.

Hear Bert William’s version of “Nobody” recorded from a cylinder or a more upbeat recording form the Library of Congress.