What is the Blues?
In order to understand the blues we must understand the history behind the blues. Lets trace this back to before slavery was abolished. In the late 1820s the performance of minstrel shows were on a high, giving a career to artists such as Ma Rainey, and Bessie Smith. In the mid-1860s, slavery was abolished and all the slaves were freed. From this place places called “juke joints”, were created so that formerly enslaved people could go drink, dance, and gamble. The spiritual had moved from a group setting to a more individualized feeling.
In 1867, the Slave Songs of the United States was published. It was the first publication of the negro spirituals sung by enslaved Africans. From this we begin to see an uprise in people wanting to sing the blues because of the melancholy they still felt from being enslaved. Blind Lemon Jefferson wrote songs such as “Matchbox Blues” Black Snake Moan” and “See That My Grave is Kept Clean”. Jelly roll morton another prominent blues singer said that he first heard blues in New Orleans. After the first blues song was published a few short years after World War I came along. Many people began to flock to the blues because that is what they were feeling at the time. Thousands of women’s husbands were being shipped off to wars from which they had no hope of returning. I believe this sad event caused white people to experience a small bit of what black people had been feeling for the last 500 years: pain. The popularity of blues is also attributed to its rise in the great migration. Later on we would see artists such as Bessie Smith, W.C. Handy, Blind Lemon Jefferson, etc finally get their prasie and credit for the music that has attributed so much to the culture of blues.