How the Lyrics & Themes of Blues Music Holds a Social Significance

By: Nia Simone Weeks

     When thinking about Blues music, you may reduce it to only being a song about heartbreak or just another genre that focuses on making sad music; However Blues should not only be reduced to that. Blues music holds a significance because it was produced from the living conditions and also the emotional experiences of the African- American community in the South. Along with these two factors that contributed to Blues music, another important aspect was the emotional trauma during slavery. The lyrics & themes of blues holds a social significance.

     In Susanna Steinfeld’s essay, “The Social Significance of Blues Music she writes ” In its execution it is democratic, with every member of the band and the audience being actively part of the creative process as a whole, yet it gives attention to the individual who has the space to give their unique contribution. It is adaptive and it celebrates the present, thus leaving space to improvisation in both the composition as well as in the interpretation and the articulation of sound” (Steinfeld, p.19). She also stated that, “Blues songs are sung to transcend reality in order to accept it.”  Blues broke the music status quo by being the voice of those who were suppressed in doing so it dominated social structure.

     Blues themes expressed feelings of pain and grief, and it served as a way of resistance. According to Steinfeld, “Blues artists often deal with the leading idea of  mortality in an ambivalent way” (Steinfeld, p.22). The lyrics of Blues artists often portrayed emotional trauma. They often showed trauma such as death, loss, suffering, and unpredictability. This is done by one of the most important elements in Blues music, which is known as “tension and release.” “Melodically, this is done through “pitch-bending”. “Pitchbending” gives rise to tension as it creates ambiguity between minor and major keys. Blues singers and musicians sing or play sliding up and down around the pitch of a 23 key, therefore somehow being “out of tune” and then resolve the tension created by reaching up or down to the “target” note in the “correct” key”(Steinfeld, p.22-23).

     The lyrics and themes of Blues has played a significant part in social aspects and it continues to play an important role today. It is important to educate ourselves on the information surrounding blues. Through Susanna Steinfeld’s essay, I was able to learn quite a lot about the social significance of Blues.

Blues Artists You Should Get to Know

Other Important Blues Artists

Skip James
Blind Lemon Jefferson
Bessie Smith
Charley Patton

Instruments Used In Blues

Acoustic Guitar
Bass Guitar
Electric Guitar
Upright Bass
Acoustic Drum Set
Hammond Organ


  • Steinfeld, Susanna. The Social Significance of Blues Music .

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