Commodification of Blues Music

Blues music originated in the south during the late 1800s and has a foundation of African spirituals, chants, field work songs, hymns, and country-dance music. While blues music originated on southern plantations from slaves, it took its rise near the Mississippi Delta.

At the beginning of blues music’s rise, it was not immediately nationally accepted until the 1930s and 1940s. During the 1930s and 1940s, blues music was played in clubs and became the foundation for rhythm n’ blues and rock and roll. As Blues music continued to spread, its audience gradually grew from black to white simply because of the instrumentation and structure within the songs. The instrumentation within blues music consisted of jugs, guitars, manddins, banjos, kazoos, stringed basses, harmonicas, fiddles, and washboards. Additionally, like other genres, blues music consists of an umbrella of subgenres:

Traditional Country Blues

Jump Blues- danceable swing and blues

Boogie-Woogie- piano based Blues

Chicago- Delta Blues electrified

Cool Blues- similar to jazz

West Coast Blues- influenced by swing beat

Like every genre of music, Blues music has a designated father, The Father of Blues, W.C. Handy and a mother of Blues, Ma Rainey. These two musicians and heavy influencers of Blues music helped spread Blues music across the world through their lyrics, instrumentation, and music structure. However, although their influences spread throughout the world, Blues music changed over time. In an interview from the Website, Mother Jones, it is noted,

“The blues, once an intimate, veracious, and mercurial way of telling idiosyncratic story about men and women and everything that unites and divides them, has grown progressively orthodox, self-representative, and fixated on instrumental technique…It has changed from black to white.”

While there is always room and a time for change, the roots of blues music has been lost by way of the change in audience. The Europeanized structure and instruments that it now consists of has caused the genre to sacrifice its origins, history, and culture to become popularized and grow in the economic sector.

Who’s Got the Blues?