Black and Blues

The Start of Blues

Blues began in the black communities of the deep south with center origins in the Mississippi Delta. It was formed as a secular genre in the beginning of the 20th century. Blues as a genre was a musical outlet for African Americans to express their hardships and sorrows they experienced in their poor communities. Because blues was developed in areas of the south where there was little to no progression so the music did not address the growth or advancement of the black community that was occurring.  

What Is Blues?

The blues combines elements from European and African musical traditions. Its elements include riffs, a piano styles referred to as “boogie-woogie”, and a twelve-bar AAB form which was used in a lot of blues music. Boogie woogie is a piano style that featured repeated bass figures against a syncopated improvised melody and riffs are short rhythmic phrases that are repeated that usually serve as background in addition to vocal lines. As far as instruments, blues was played mostly by the guitar in addition to an artist singing. A singer would make a call and the instrument would respond. Poly-rhythms were also essential in blues. Poly-rhythms are basically the overlapping of phrases and rhythms that are being performed.

Blues' Influence on the Black Community

Educated members of the black community condemned the genre because it talked about certain topics that highlighted flawed or broken features of life for majority in the black community. In contrast to jazz, which favored the upper or educated blacks, blues was more accepted with middle and lower class blacks. Because the lower and middle class blacks were the ones who were actually experienced the hardships exhibited in blues music, they felt more connection to it. On the other hand, with educated blacks, blues was seen with a negative connotation because they believed that blues made the black community look bad and stopped it from growing.

The False Images of Blues

When Blues started to become more popular, white people began to take interest in the ways that blacks expressed their struggles through their music. They captured these messages that black artists were sharing and began to twist their words and create negative narratives about the musicians. They also traveled deep in the South to find black artists. They would then record records for them and sell them in other areas to make money. The true black artists did not receive the appropriate compensation or recognition even when the records became commercialized. 

Prevalent Artists

B.B. King: Reigns as the “King of Blues”. He has released over fifty albums throughout his career and over the years h has developed one of the world’s most identifiable guitar styles. B.B. was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1984 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. He has also received numerous awards as well as honorary doctorates from several institutions.

Howlin’ Wolf: Chester Arnold Burnett had a booming voice and is one of the best-known Chicago blues artists. Some of his most memorable songs are including “Smokestack Lightnin'”, “Killing Floor” and “Spoonful”.

Bessie Smith: She was named the “Empress of the Blues” and was one of the most popular female blues artists and greatest singers of her era. Her most notable songs are St. Louis Blues, Down Hearted Blues,  Black Water Blues, and Careless Love Blues.

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