The man who co-wrote the blues classic "Born Under a Bad Sign" is enjoying his share of the spotlight these days.
William Bell received his first Grammy Award in February for the 2016 album "This Is Where I Live," which marked his return to the iconic label Stax Records. Bell will perform at 6 p.m. Nov. 5 at the McAninch Arts Center at the College of DuPage, 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn, as part of the Memphis soul and rhythm and blues review Take Me to the River.
Charlie Musselwhite and Bobby Rush also will perform as part of the show, which is inspired by the award-winning documentary of the same name. Tickets are $47 to $65, available by going to AtTheMAC.org or calling 630-942-4000.
Suburban Life reporter Eric Schelkopf had the chance to talk to the 78-year-old Bell about the upcoming show. The interview has been edited for length and style.
Schelkopf: What was it like working on and being in the documentary "Take Me to the River," and do you think the tour is kind of a natural outgrowth of it?
Bell: It was a joy working on this because as you know, we're passing the creation of the music down to the kids. So we were working with three different generations of people there, and there was a mutual respect among all of us and a love there. ... We were crossing genres, including rap with soul and blues and all of that. It was just a joy to be working on it and to have that opportunity to work with the young people. ... And in doing so, we found out that basically, what we're talking about was the same story from generation to generation. It's about life. They express it a little differently and everything in their generation, but it's the same story.
Schelkopf: Were you surprised at all that these younger musicians really appreciated what you guys have been doing over the years?
Bell: You know, it was a surprise to me a little bit. I guess I shouldn't have been, but I was. You don't think of the hip-hop or rap audience knowing about what we created back in the day. But I've been sampled by people like Ludacris and Kanye, so yeah, they do look at what we're doing. ... What we're trying to do now is to get them out of the sampling mode and get them into more of a creative and collaborative mode to where they can create some brand new music and sound of their own. They need to know the rudiments of how it was created and where it came from and all of that, and that will help them in their creative process. ... And on this tour, that's what we're doing. We've got three generations out here, and we're going along and including rap along with the blues and soul. It's the same thing we did in the movie, and the [tour] is just an extension of it.
Schelkopf: Of course, it's been a big year for you. You received your first Grammy Award in February for "This Is Where I Live." The fact that the album was released on Stax Records, where it all began for you, was that quite the thrill?
Bell: It was. It's like coming full circle. It was just a joy to be back on that label imprint, where I started my career. And to have the success that we had, it was great for the label – which is starting over again with new ownership and everything. I was the first single male act that Stax signed back in the day with the song “You Don’t Miss Your Water (Until Your Well Runs Dry),” which was their first national hit for a single male artist. ... It just kind of brought it all home for me. And to win a Grammy for it, it was just wonderful.
Schelkopf: You've had a great career. You wrote "Born Under a Bad Sign" with Booker T. Jones, which was first recorded by Albert King. Why do you think that song still continues to resonate with people?
Bell: Because there's an honesty about it. I write with honesty, whether it's my experience or whether it's something I've experienced from observation or just a hypothetical situation. ... Some things change, but most things remain the same. [People] can relate to the honesty in how it's written and how it's delivered.