THE BLUES

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THE BLUES. ORIGINS. Lyrically, the blues is a reality show, showcasing life as it is , instead of as a perfect fantasy world. Playing the blues means spinning raw stories about work, abuse, love, sexuality, and death. HOW DEPRESSING?. Is the blues depressing? No
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THE BLUESORIGINS
  • Lyrically, the blues is a reality show, showcasing life as it is, instead of as a perfect fantasy world.
  • Playing the blues means spinning raw stories about work, abuse, love, sexuality, and death.
  • HOW DEPRESSING?
  • Is the blues depressing?
  • NoThe blues was meant not to depress people but to help them chase their blues away, in the same way venting your problems to your friends makes you feel better.WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
  • The blues was born after the Civil War, during reconstruction.
  • Slaves had gained their freedom, but encountered a hostile environment with few opportunities.
  • Many freed men and women worked as sharecroppers, who paid a farm owner for the right to work and live on the land.
  • EVEN FARTHER BACK
  • The blues, they say, was born in the cotton fields of the South.
  • Slaves toiled side by side, hollering across vast fields while working.
  • In fact, the field hollers were even used to pass secret messages so that the slave masters wouldn’t know what they were talking about.
  • THE DEVIL’S MUSIC
  • At first, churches rejected the blues as ungodly: “the devil’s music.”
  • Ironically, the blues borrowed some of it’s musical features from church music, such as call-and-response.
  • TAKE EM TO CHURCH
  • Call-and-response is when a choir leader sings or shouts a phrase, then the congregation shouts it back.
  • After a blues singer sings a phrase, voices or an instrument like a guitar might respond by repeating the same melody.
  • SONGSTERS
  • Blues singers could double their income by playing house parties and in clubs (barrelhouses) after working all day in the fields.
  • One or two guitarists or a pianist were enough to get a whole barrelhouse rocking.
  • Traveling singers, called songsters, learned to sing various styles, including blues, country, church music, and pop music.
  • DELTA BLUES
  • The majority of blues players and singers were illiterate and poor.
  • Wealthier and more educated African Americans often dismissed the blues as music of the wandering “cornfield” people.
  • DISCOVERING THE BLUES
  • Musician W.C. Handy was waiting for train in Tutwiler, Mississippi which was nine hours late.
  • He heard a poor songster from the countryside playing blues guitar, “pressing a knife against the strings to get a slurred, moaning, voice-like sound that closely followed his singing.”
  • DRESSING UP THE BLUES
  • Soon afterward, Handy began composing his own blues songs.
  • His songs were different though, because they contained elements of the blues but were more “mainstream” sounding.
  • Handy’s “St. Louis Blues” became hugely popular and helped bring the blues into the mainstream.
  • WHOZ YO DADDY?
  • Though Handy’s “blues” songs only slightly resembled the downhome delta blues, he is still considered by many to be the “Father of the Blues.”
  • SHOW ME THE MONEY
  • Much of Handy’s success was due to the sale of sheet music, rather than recordings of his songs.
  • Record players were incredibly expensive, but most people could afford sheet music and learn to play the songs themselves.
  • ON THE RECORD
  • The first blues artists to become recording “stars” were women.
  • Mamie Smith’s version of “Crazy Blues” became a smash hit in the mid 1930’s, selling 75,000 copies in the first two months.
  • The success of this recording at the beginning of the Great Depression showed record companies that blues records were big business.
  • DIVAS
  • Bessie Smith went on to be hugely successful, as did Gertrude “Ma” Rainey.
  • In an age when African Americans were still treated like second class citizens, Rainey had her own tour bus, and Bessie Smith her own private, custom-built train car and merchandise.
  • They were the equivalent of early rock stars.
  • Bessie SmithMa RaineyDOWN HOME BLUES
  • As the Great Depression wore on, people bought less music.
  • Record companies turned their attention to songsters instead of female performers because it was cheaper to record them.
  • This began the rise of Country Blues, or Delta Blues.
  • KING OF THE DELTA BLUES
  • Though there were many Delta Blues artists, Robert Johnson remains the most popular and the most intriguing.
  • Though he recorded less than 40 songs in his lifetime, his legend and his influence are still felt today.
  • ACCORDING TO LEGEND...
  • According to Son House, a fellow Delta Blues musician, Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for his awesome guitar skills.
  • Supposedly, Johnson was a terrible guitarist, until he disappeared from the scene for a few years.
  • When he returned, his guitar skills were astonishing. He was suddenly able to play any song after hearing it only once.
  • ALL THAT GLITTERS...
  • As is the case in most stories about people making deals with the Devil, things didn’t work out well for Robert Johnson.
  • He died mysteriously at the age of 27.
  • Some say he was shot, some say he was poisoned, other say he was stabbed.
  • ROCK STAR
  • Many music scholars consider Robert Johnson the beginning of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
  • One said, “His music had a vibrancy and a rhythmic excitement that was new to the country blues.”
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