why is it called the blues

October 25, 2020

Blues is a music genre[3] and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1860s[2] by African-Americans from roots in African musical traditions, African-American work songs, and spirituals. This is the latest installment in our weekly series entitled, The Language of the Blues, where author and rocker Debra Devi focuses on the meaning and significance of a unique word used in blues song. -- from Looking Up at Down: the Emergence of Blues Culture by William Barlow, I got the blues so bad, it hurts my feet to walk, I got the blues so bad, it hurts my feet to walk Some labels are famous for rediscovering and remastering blues rarities, including Arhoolie Records, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings (heir of Folkways Records), and Yazoo Records (Shanachie Records).[118]. In addition to Robert Johnson, influential performers of this style included his predecessors Charley Patton and Son House. [75] Classic female urban and vaudeville blues singers were popular in the 1920s, among them "the big three"—Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Lucille Bogan. The first publication of blues sheet music may have been "I Got the Blues", published by New Orleans musician Antonio Maggio in 1908 and described as "the earliest published composition known to link the condition of having the blues to the musical form that would become popularly known as 'the blues.'" Among African Americans, an intimate couples dance called the slow drag that involved plastering as much of one’s torso to one’s partner’s as possible and grinding the hips together very slowly was also called “the blues.” A rural juke joint at the turn of the century would be jammed on a Saturday night with couples getting their drink on and doing the pre-coital shuffle to the accompaniment of a bluesman on guitar, stomping the beat out on the floor with his foot. The aesthetic decision which constitutes excellence will be the timing of the African drummers vary pitches while drumming to mimic both the rhythms and pitches of tonal speech. However, beginning in the 1990s, digital multitrack recording and other technological advances and new marketing strategies including video clip production increased costs, challenging the spontaneity and improvisation that are an important component of blues music. [17] Tampa Red's classic "Tight Like That" (1928) is a sly wordplay with the double meaning of being "tight" with someone coupled with a more salacious physical familiarity. In African Rhythm and African Sensibility, John Miller Chernoff relates how his Ewe drum teacher ordered them some beers: “During my first day practicing with Gideon I was following him well until he suddenly performed a rather complicated series of rhythms and then went back to the basic rhythm he was It made legends of plantation workers like Son House and Charlie Patton. Spirituals or religious chants in the African-American community are much better documented than the "low-down" blues. Handy Awards[117] or of the Grammy Awards for Best Contemporary and Traditional Blues Album. The "Trésor de la Langue Française informatisé" provides this etymology of. Lyrics took up urban themes, and the blues ensemble developed as the solo bluesman was joined by a pianist or harmonica player and then by a rhythm section consisting of bass and drums. Many variations are possible. The superb singer, guitarist, and bandleader “Little” Milton Campbell, Jr., who was born in Inverness, Mississippi in 1934, told me: “This is just my opinion, of course, but when W.C. Handy's "The Memphis Blues" followed in the same year. Plantation work songs were primarily sung a cappella, but after Emancipation traveling country-blues singers used the guitar and harmonica to earn money playing picnics and dances. ** Hart Wand‘s “Dallas Blues” and W. C. Handy‘s “The Memphis Blues”, the first documented twelve-bar format blues. African musicians were also more advanced in polyphonic, contrapuntal rhythms than their European peers. John Lee Hooker settled in Detroit, and on the West Coast T-Bone Walker developed a style later adopted by B.B. This article was most recently revised and updated by,, All About Jazz - A Brief History of the Blues, National Blues Museum - The Evolution of the Blues, New Georgia Encyclopedia - Arts and Culture - Blues Music, blues - Children's Encyclopedia (Ages 8-11), blues - Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up). Hendrix was a skilled guitarist, and a pioneer in the innovative use of distortion and audio feedback in his music. While popular musicians like Bo Diddley[88] and Chuck Berry,[94] both recording for Chess, were influenced by the Chicago blues, their enthusiastic playing styles departed from the melancholy aspects of blues. The name of this great American music probably originated with the 17th-century English expression “the blue devils,” for the intense visual hallucinations that can accompany severe alcohol withdrawal. His style of music was not exactly rockabilly but it has been often called real rock and roll (this is a label he shares with several African American rock and roll performers).[125][126]. West Africans working American fields did what they would have done at home: they improvised songs to the rhythm of the task at hand. The Oxford English Dictionary claims that the term blues came first and led to the naming of ‘blue notes’. As Africans became African Americans, they maintained their ethics and aesthetics -- even as they were stripped of their languages and religions. Today, musicians play "the blues" in the twelve-bar format introduced by William C. Handy in his 1912 sheet music "Memphis Blues." Spiritual singing developed because African-American communities could gather for mass or worship gatherings, which were called camp meetings. [61], The musical forms and styles that are now considered the blues as well as modern country music arose in the same regions of the southern United States during the 19th century. Early blues frequently took the form of a loose narrative, often relating the racial discrimination and other challenges experienced by African-Americans. She was a free-born black from Pennsylvania who was working as a schoolteacher in South Carolina, instructing both slaves and freedmen, and wrote that she "came home with the blues" because she felt lonesome and pitied herself. Why is blues music called “the blues”? Please select which sections you would like to print: Corrections? At the time, there was no clear musical division between "blues" and "country", except for the ethnicity of the performer, and even that was sometimes documented incorrectly by record companies. For white Americans, “blue” meant “drunk” as early as the 1800s. This was probably due in part to racial discrimination within American society, including academic circles, and to the low literacy rate of the rural African American community at the time. The lead singer would repeat a line twice while waiting for another singer to improvise a response. The simple but expressive forms of the blues became by the 1960s one of the most important influences on the development of popular music. Bohlman, Philip V. (1999). W.C. Feeling sadness, loneliness, or grief when you go through a difficult life experience is part of being human. Change ). The Billboard Blues Album chart provides an overview of current blues hits. [21] Reverend Gary Davis[22] and Blind Willie Johnson[23] are examples of artists often categorized as blues musicians for their music, although their lyrics clearly belong to spirituals. [82] Dallas-born T-Bone Walker, who is often associated with the California blues style,[83] performed a successful transition from the early urban blues à la Lonnie Johnson and Leroy Carr to the jump blues style and dominated the blues-jazz scene at Los Angeles during the 1940s. While the style is often associated with solo piano, boogie-woogie was also used to accompany singers and, as a solo part, in bands and small combos. Vocally, it is the most speechlike, and the guitar accompaniment is rhythmic and percussive; a slide or bottleneck is often used. Welding, Peter; Brown, Toby, eds. Idiosyncratic numbers of bars are occasionally used, such as the 9-bar progression in "Sitting on Top of the World", by Walter Vinson. For other uses, see. The early African American rock musicians retained the sexual themes and innuendos of blues music: "Got a gal named Sue, knows just what to do" ("Tutti Frutti", Little Richard) or "See the girl with the red dress on, She can do the Birdland all night long" ("What'd I Say", Ray Charles). Handy heard that gentleman [a slide guitarist] playing down in Tutwiler, Mississippi, it fascinated him and he set out and put it to bars. In the fields, these features survived in the work songs that birthed the blues. King or Steve Vai -- and stand back. Several record companies, such as the American Record Corporation, Okeh Records, and Paramount Records, began to record African-American music. The link between “blue” and drinking is also indicated by “blue laws” that still prohibit Sunday alcohol sales in some states. Kunzler, Martin (1988). For your voice to be heard, in most states you must register before you can vote. Handy created sequences -- verse, chorus, et cetera. And I can't get no hearing from that Memphis girl of mine, Although the blues gained an association with misery and oppression, the lyrics could also be humorous and raunchy:[15], Rebecca, Rebecca, get your big legs off of me, Peters’ book was a hoax, and he is believed to have made up the blue laws to poke fun at the colonies, which he had been forced to leave during the Revolution. As guitarist Robben Ford likes to say, “The blues is a big house.” An astonishing amount of music has been birthed under its roof, all of it based on what is proving to be one of the strongest, most flexible, and inspiring musical frameworks ever created. In July of 1965, while nursing a hangover in a New Orleans drunk tank, Walker met a man who would forever change his life – a street performer known only as Bojangles. Other harp players such as Big Walter Horton were also influential. [36] The first noncommercial recordings of blues music, termed proto-blues by Paul Oliver, were made by Odum for research purposes at the very beginning of the 20th century. Among the cities in which the blues initially took root were Atlanta, Memphis, and St. Louis. His first hit, "Boogie Chillen", reached number 1 on the R&B charts in 1949. * Mamie Smith‘s rendition of Perry Bradford‘s “Crazy Blues”. Blue notes (or "worried notes"), usually thirds, fifths or sevenths flattened in pitch are also an essential part of the sound. -- "Lonesome House Blues", Blind Lemon Jefferson. “Homelessness and orphaning were the order of the day for Delta working-class blacks, creating the wellspring of melancholy whose theme song was the blues,” Lomax wrote. [128] In the early 20th century, the blues was considered disreputable, especially as white audiences began listening to the blues during the 1920s. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. The blues became adapted to the more sophisticated urban environment. Because if you don't have space, you don't allow time for the listener to feel what has been said." Divine oracle called Ifá for insights into their personal problems: The life of Ifá surpasses water’s coolness Garofalo, pp. John Lee Hooker blended his blues style with rock elements and playing with younger white musicians, creating a musical style that can be heard on the 1971 album Endless Boogie. [10] Two of the first published blues songs, "Dallas Blues" (1912) and "Saint Louis Blues" (1914), were 12-bar blues with the AAB lyric structure. The audience for both blues and jazz split, and the border between blues and jazz became more defined. "Blue" was slang for "drunk" by the 1800s. Although the audience was largely jolted by the performance, the performance influenced local musicians such as Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies to emulate this louder style, inspiring the British invasion of the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds.[97].

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