The Blues ( By Tyria Gilmore)

The genre of Music known as the Blues was made during the sharecropping period and started out as the rural blues in the 1920’s. Blue became popular again in the late  1940’s and it was then called urban blues and rhythm and blues. Blues was also formed in the south. Blues can be organized as Country Blues, down home blues, urban blues, harmonica blues, etc. White people have tried to claim this genre as something that their community came up with although in fact it was indeed created within the Black community. The Blues is a performance and art that interprets negro-spirituals. 

An important figure during this time was Bessie Smith. She was born April 15, 1894 in Chattanooga Tennessee. Her parents had died and she would perform with her siblings to make a living.

Her career began in 1923 She was known for being the first performers to include Blues in her stage act. A popular song of hers was “Downhearted Blues” which sold 800,000 copies.

She was known for also having an outstanding voice. She died at the age of 43 in a car crash. This woman helped the world understand that Black women had a place in the music industry. 

Bessie Smith poses for a portrait circa 1925.
A 1924 photo of blues singer Bessie Smith. (AP Photo)

Another important figure during this time was B.B. King. He was born on September 16, 1925 in Berclair , MS on a cotton plantation and worked at a cotton gin growing up.

He was interested in music because of church and the guitar is was attracted him the most. He introduced a sophisticated style of soloing based on fluid string bending, shimmering, vibrato, and staccato picking.

He started recording in the 1940’s and started playing on the street for dimes. He was a unique artist because he mixed traditional blues, jazz, swing, and mainstream pop into one unique sound. One of his most famous was “Lucie” which was his 15th album.

B.B. King performing at the Harlem Cultural Festival in 1969, featured in the documentary SUMMER OF SOUL. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2021 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

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