Relive the Blues

Americans need to show more appreciation to blues music

By Chris Skarnulis, Arts and Entertainment Editor

Blues music is arguably the most important genre of mu­sic to exist in American histo­ry. It is the genre of music that is credited to giving birth to several genres of music such as rock ‘n’ roll and alternative music that have defined the 19th and 20th century. Unfortunately, as times change, so does taste. Because the genre was popular throughout the 1920s and 30s, Americans to­day have since long forgotten the genre. However, Ameri­cans should show more appre­ciation for it out of respect.

The birth of blues music dates back to the middle to late 1800s. The Deep South was home to hundreds of seminal bluesmen that helped to shape the mu­sic. Unfortunately, much of this original music followed these sharecroppers to their graves. But the legacy of these earliest blues pioneers can still be heard in 1920s and 30s recordings from many southern states.

Well-known blues pioneers from the 1920s such as Son House, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Leadbelly, Charlie Patton and Robert Johnson usually per­formed solo with just a guitar. Occasionally they teamed up with one or more fellow blues­men to perform in the plantation camps, rural juke joints and rambling shacks of the Deep South. Blues bands may have evolved from early jazz bands, gospel choirs and jug bands. Jug band music was popular in the South until the 1930s. Early jug bands featured jugs, guitars, mandolins, banjos, kazoos, stringed basses, harmonicas, fiddles, washboards and other everyday appliances converted into crude instruments.

While blues lyrics often deal with personal adversity, the music itself goes far beyond self-pity. The blues is also about overcoming hard luck, saying what you feel, ridding yourself of frustration, letting your hair down, and simply having fun. The best blues is visceral, ca­thartic, and starkly emotional. From unbridled joy to deep sad­ness, no form of music commu­nicates more genuine emotion.

Over time, as blues music dramatically evolved, it gave birth to genres such as rock ‘n’ roll that became popular in the 1950s and continues to surge in popularity to this very day. Artists such as “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry paved way for early rock as the 1960s ap­proached. During this time, other independent artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles and James Brown helped project a true theme to rock. At the same time, there was a surge in American popu­larity of British rock bands such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who that have come to design the American culture in the present day.

Unfortunately, the twen­ty-first century has seen the introduction of several other genres of music. These genres have grasped the appeal of Americans and taken away from the appreciation of clas­sic genres of American music. It is not uncommon for people’s taste in music to change as time progresses, but needs to be done so in a way that is not blatantly insulting. Although it may be older, blues music needs to be appreciated by more individuals for its enriching and rhyth­mic tune and overall influence it has had on music to this day.