The Bitter Living Under Equality Sound (B.L.U.E.S.)

By: Gabrielle Brim

The Blues originated during the 1890s in the southern rural areas. Creativity of the blues occurred during the time of segregation and the Jim Crow laws  that were established to restrict social and economic progress of African Americans.

The genre is usually sung solo; however, duets, quartets and background singers occur as well. Blues singers typically play an instrument, such as a guitar, piano, harmonica, etc. The music contains improvisation of the lyrics, melodies, and instrumentation. It also contains European elements such as multiphrase strophic form and the chord progression I-IV-V, and contains African elements of rhythm, tonal and timbral adjustability. The melodic elements of blues music was derived from the work song, field holler, which contained melodic, timbral and rhythmic freedom and powerful delivery. The lyrics of blues expressed strong feelings and emotions that were non-sentimental and serious. They often contained exaggeration, humor, criticism, commentary, double meanings, etc.  Overall, the blues songs illustrated the ups and down of daily life.

Blues musicians performed in a variety of locations depending on their geographical regions. Southern blues musicians performed at house parties, outdoor picnics and juke joints. Town blues musicians performed in cafes, saloons, railroad and bus stations, and city blues musicians performed at theaters, cabarets, and other venues that were common to town blues musicians.

The blues was performed in efforts to make money. The blues musicians would used the money from playing to help support their families. In addition, the amount that the musicians earned was more than what sharecroppers earned throughout the week.

Some important female blues performers include Ida Cox and Ma Rainey. Ida Cox was a well-known vaudeville blues performer and recorder.


However, Europeans were able to copy the elements of blues music and transform it into a new genre called rock and roll. As a result, they popularized the elements of blues internationally and made a great profit.

Blues music considered to be the most influential genre. Blues notes and improvisation from the blues helped to form the jazz genre. In addition, the blues influenced the genre of rock and roll. Gospel music was also influenced by the blues through the use of blues notes and instrumentationspecifically the guitar. Blues music has also been used by rap artists who sampled blues riffs.

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