The Legacy of Blues

Singin’ The Blues

Blues was a genre created to express the woes of everyday life. It was a description of Black life in its rawest state, and like the genres it developed from, it provided Black people with an outlet: a creative bastion that allowed them to be more than what white supremacist society dictated. 


Blues was developed in the late 19th/early 20th century in the Deep South. It is derived from earlier African American music genres, notably the secular Folk music genre. Blues songs were typically sung by Black laborers, which led to its characterization as “work songs”. As Blues became more popular, notable artists and composers began to emerge. W.C. Handy, a St. Louis born musician, put the Blues on paper, bringing it to wider audiences. The earliest successful Blues musicians, however, were women, such as Bessie Smith and Mamie Smith.


Like its mother-genre, folk music, Blues is heavily based on call and response form. Other stylistic components of the genre were the 12 Bar Blues and the Finger Slide. During the 1960s, Blues experienced a revival that brought it to white audiences. Artists such as Elvis Presley became mainstream, once again, taking credit for Black ideas. 






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