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Richard "Rabbit" Brown (c.1880 – c.1937) was an American blues guitarist and composer. His music was characterized by a mixture of blues, pop songs, and original topical ballads. He recorded six record sides for Victor Records on May 11, 1927.
Rabbit Brown was most likely born around 1880 in or near New Orleans, Louisiana. He did live in New Orleans from his youth on, and eventually moved to a rough district called the Battlefield. Here, several events inspired some of his future songs.
Rabbit Brown mainly performed at nightclubs and street corners. He also earned extra money as a singing boatman on Lake Pontchartrain. A couple of his most popular songs were his topical ballads, "The Downfall of the Lion" and "Gyp the Blood", which were based on actual events that occurred in New Orleans They were never recorded, however, and only a verse from one of them has endured.
The songs Brown recorded in 1927 have been extensively re-released. His "James Alley Blues" is included in the Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music and has been covered by dozens of modern musicians, including Bob Dylan and Roger McGuinn. His topical event songs, "Mystery of the Dunbar's Child" and "Sinking of the Titanic" also remain popular - and the latter contained within its verses a truncated rendition of the old gospel music standard "Nearer, My God, to Thee," demonstrating the further versatility of his repertoire.
Not much is known about Rabbit Brown after 1930 other than that he died in 1937, probably in New Orleans.
Five of his recordings were included on the Document Records compilation album, The Greatest Songsters: Complete Works (1927-1929), along with tracks by Mississippi John Hurt and Hambone Willie Newbern.
In 2003 an anthology collection of rural acoustic gospel music titled Goodbye, Babylon was released, bringing to renewed public attention one of the two known recordings made by an otherwise undocumented singer named Blind Willie Harris. This piece, "Where He Leads Me I Will Follow," was recorded in New Orleans in 1929, and in describing it, the authors of the CD liner notes pointed out its "strikingly similar" resemblance to the 1927 New Orleans recordings of Richard Rabbit Brown. Since then, more discussion has ensued among early blues and gospel collectors and scholars, leading some to state without equivocation that Harris was a pseudonym of Brown's. Each listener will have to decide for him or herself the truth of the claim, as no documentation has been found to link Harris with Brown.