“Every bad situation is a blues song waiting to happen.” – Amy Winehouse
This genre of music developed in the fields of America where African slaves worked while singing. This singing included the unique characteristics of African music such as vibrato, tremolo, falsetto while shouting lyrics to relay emotion.
The African slaves endured culture shock upon arriving in America. Music for them in Africa was a form of self-expression. Happiness and joy along with pain and loss were the forefronts of the words that formed a song. Not only were they uprooted from all that they knew, but their coveted musical instruments were also left behind.
Despite the lack of instruments, the slaves had the most important instrument of all, and that was their voice. The rhythmic harmony bellowed out as they endured the suffering of hard labor in the fields. The music conveyed their struggles of hurt and pain while being under the rule of the white man. Their “work songs” came to be known as the Blues.
After the abolishment of slavery, the Blues evolved as an expression of the struggles of the black man. The haunting sound of the solo guitar or harmonica gave body to the words.
Notable Blues Artists
Known as “King of the Blues” for over a century. Born in 1925 on a Mississippi plantation, he played on the street corners for small coins. Hitchhiking to Memphis in 1947 his career took off leaving him as the infamous artist that could play the blues.
Born in 1898, Bessie was no stranger to poverty. Singing in bars, tents, and theaters in small towns, she was noticed in 1923 by a Columbia Records scout. Her success skyrocketed selling more than two million copies of her recordings.
Being the music of the lower class of society, Folk music addresses the struggles of depression, oppression, and war. The lyrics are designed to tell a story and are accompanied by acoustic guitar, banjo, fiddle, dulcimer or accordion. The plight of the working white class and politics have been the basis for the lyrics.
Notable Folk Artists
Hailing from Canada, Joni forged her music career singing songs that were full of melodies that tugged at the heart. Being a founded painter and author of poetry, she detoured to the music industry never imagining it would make her famous!
A native of New Mexico, John left college for New York where his career began. John was not only a famous folk artist but also advocated for environmental issues. He also founded the World Hunger Project.
The Translation of Modern Day Blues or Folk
We don’t stop to think that various music genres have been born as a result of the Blues. Pain and suffering are still evident in our society today.
The pain of drugs, death, poverty, depression, loss, and loneliness consumes the music industry.
The plight of slavery heard in the Blues or the political sadness found in Folk has been replaced with the “in your face” sound of modern day hip hop, rap, jazz, and rock.
Music as we know it changes daily leaving us with what was once familiar now misunderstood and foreign.