Origin:

The Blues originated from rural areas and small towns in the deep South and Midwest like New Orleans, Memphis, and St. Louis. The blues was the most self-contained type of Black music created during this time and was mostly performed solo. The development of Blues emerged in conjunction with significant new developments in literature, theater, and the arts, as well as in Black political and religious life.

Commodification:

The Blues has always been a genre that was performed with the expectation of receiving money. Blues immediately became popularized and entered the popular entertainment and mass media world. Starting in the 1970s, white people began to take interest in blues music. Over the years, many White songwriters published blues and began commercially recording Blues music as soloists and in groups. White people would often record the voices of Blacks in the South and then sell them on records in the North.

Popular Artists

Mamie Smith: first Black vocalist to record blues commercially.

“That Thing Called Love”

B.B. King: Blues singer, electric guitarist, songwriter, and record producer.

“The Thrill is Gone”

Elements:

Boogie-Woogie: piano style popularized in the 1930s and 1940s that features repeated bass figures (riffs) against a syncopated improvised melody

Jump Blues: an up tempo blues style of the 1940s and 1950s characterized by boogie-woogie bass lines, shuffle rhythms, and prominent brass and reed sounds

Twelve Bar Blues: a stanza of three lines (AAB) of four measures each, the lines beginning respectively in the I, IV, and V chords and resolving in the I chord

Blues Seale: the incorporation of the flat third, flat fifth, and flat seventh degrees in a scale

Griot: West African music specialist of a social caste who serves as a custodian of cultural history

Influence:

The blues have influenced many genres that we see today, including rock and roll, jazz, r&b, and gospel.