Blues: The Musical Coping Mechanism

The phrase “I have the blues” is synonymous for feeling sad, down in the dumps, or upset. Black music is often reflective of the time period and the black experience at the time. The blues period coincided with Jim Crow Laws, so the name makes sense. A time of segregation, discrimination, and hate, would likely produce less jubilant music. 

The Blues originated in the 1890’s with no concrete birth place. It had been in the works and was used in various states in the US such as the New Orleans, Memphis and St. Louis, showing that it was a general consensus of pain that was stirring in the black community instead of an isolated event. 

The genre of Blues music was very different from previous genre’s which were very upbeat, a fast rhythm and multiple instruments. On the contrary, blues music was slower, more melodious and had a sorrowful tone. The lyrics embodied the pain of the black community and how they felt in response to the strict laws prohibiting their freedoms. The blues music was a coping mechanism for many black musicians because they were releasing their pain into a creative outlet.

Blues lyrics were very candid unlike other genres and the focus was on the self rather than others. The lyrics were heavily based on emotions, feelings, actions and interactions. These lyrics also expanded to include their daily problems and begrudges that affected their lives other than racism. A common theme was heartbreak or troubles with a significant other. 

A popular example of this is “Baby Please Don’t Go” by Muddy Waters. In the song, he sings “Baby please don’t go… know your man down gone.” He is talking about a lover who seems to be leaving him and turning it personal. He begs her not to leave because he is “down gone.”

In conclusion, the genre of Blues music was a creative outlet and coping mechanism for the black community. While every song wasn’t about the pain caused. by the system, society and the government, it allowed a pathway to show real black emotion. Black pain and sadness wasn’t something that was depicted or heard in music and media and it was a great Segway for the genesis of its appearance in music. 

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