What are blues music

The genesis of the blues

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The blues is an American form of music and verse with no direct European or African predecessors. In other words, it is a mix of both traditions (although some examples of very similar songs have been found in North West Africa, especially among the Wolof and Watussi).

The word “blue” is generally associated with melancholy or depression. The early (black) history of the blues music tradition can be traced back to before the 1860s through oral tradition.

When African and European music began to combine to create what would eventually become the blues, the slaves sang songs that told of their extreme suffering and hardship. One of the numerous answers to their oppressive surroundings found their way into simple songs at work in the cotton fields. These songs were the basis for the spirituals and the blues and had certain peculiarities of intonation (blue notes).

The blues was initially a male domain (although some of the early blues songs were sung by lady bluesingers such as Mamie Smith (left) and Bessie Smith) and only a few black women sang the blues in the juke joints. Southern prisons have made significant contributions to the blues tradition through work songs and songs about murderers, prostitutes, guards, the burning sun, and a hundred other topics. Many bluesmen got their inspiration from this.

After the American Civil War, field songs, ballads, spirituals and dance songs developed into music for a singer who is closely connected to his guitar through a so-called "call and response". He sings a vocal line and the guitar answers him (before the turn of the century, however, the banjo was the predominant blues instrument). In the 1890s the blues was sung in the rural areas of the south. And around 1910 the word “blues” in connection with the musical tradition was already part of common usage.

The blues became popular around 1911-14 through the black composer W.C. Handy (left) (1873-1958). The poetic and musical form of the blues first crystallized around 1910 and gained popularity through the release of the mobile phones "Memphis Blues" (1912) and "St. Louis Blues ”(1914). Instrumental blues was recorded before 1913. Mamie Smith recorded the first sung blues song "Crazy Blues" in 1920. The widespread popularity of the blues had a profound influence on subsequent jazz. It was the initial spark for jazz / pop. During the 1920s, the blues made their national breakthrough. Blues singers like Bessie Smith and later Billie Holiday sold millions.

During the 30s and 40s the blues spread northwards and with the arrival of many blacks from the south it found its way into the repertoire of jazz big bands. The introduction of the amplified guitar also "electrified" the blues. In the big cities of the north, such as Chicago and Detroit, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker, Howlin 'Wolf, Elmore James and many others played the original Mississippi Delta Blues, expanded to include bass, drums, piano and harmonica, and had with them these songs are national hits. Around the same time, T-Bone Walker in Houston and B.B. King developed a guitar style in Memphis that combined the techniques of jazz with the tonality and repertoire of the blues.

In the early 1960s, the urban bluesmen were "discovered" by young American and European musicians. Many of these bands, like the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, Canned Heat and Fleetwood Mac, brought the blues to a young white audience. Some rock guitarists, like Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix, used the blues as the basis of their own style. The "originals" like John Lee Hooker, Albert Collins and B.B. King, and their heirs Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, later Eric Clapton and Roy Buchanan, went on to make fantastic music in the tradition of the blues. The youngest generation of blues musicians, like Robert Cray and Stevie Ray Vaughan, have opened up a new generation of listeners to the blues.