The Blues

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					The Blues
    What does the term “the
       blues” refer to?

A melancholy, sorrowful feeling
  – Getting dumped
  – Tax day
  – A visit to the auto mechanic
  – SF in the summertime
  – Being a Chicago Cubs fan
     When using the term “the
    blues” in music, it can mean
        one of many things:
-   A scale
-   A note (the blue note)
-   A style (she sings in a “bluesy” style)
-   A song structure (the 12-bar blues)
-   A genre
              The Blues Scale

• Comes from the minor pentatonic w/ an
  added flat fifth (sharp fourth)
• Can be compared to the major scale as:
  – 1 , b3, 4, #4/b5 , 5 , b7 , (1)
• One can use the blues scale to improvise over
  the common 12-bar blues chord progression
          The “Blue Note”
• The “blue note” is typically the b3, b5, or
  b7 of a major scale

  – These notes are in the standard blues scale
• The “blue note” is usually performed
  slightly out of tune, sometimes
  smeared, and very often emphasized in
  blues music.
• <Koko Taylor sings "Voodoo Woman">
               The “Blue Note”
• Use of the blue note has its origins in “negro
  spirituals”, which in turn has its origins in
  field hollers and work songs

• <1929 staged video of a performance of a spiritual>

• <Recording of field holler from 1930>

• <Recording of work song from Texas prison, 1966>
             The “Blue Note”
• The stylistic use of the blue note for emotional
  emphasis is one of the primary components of a
  “bluesy” sound. Since this sound has the same roots
  as spirituals and work songs, which were also highly
  influential on jazz, gospel, and soul music, the use of
  the blue note for emotional emphasis is common in
  all of the above styles.

• <Cannonball Adderley - jazz>
• <Mahalia Jackson - gospel>
• <Aretha Franklin - soul>
         The 12-Bar Blues
• A simple, standard, 12-measure chord
• The harmonic fingerprint of blues music
• Simple enough to be used by even
  novice musicians
• Repetitive cycle sets up a familiar and
  predictable lyric pattern
The 12-Bar Blues
         The 12-Bar Blues
• The 12-bar blues chord progression
  combined with the corresponding blues
  scale equals a music that can be called
  “the blues”

• The C-Blues
  – In-class example
            The 12-Bar Blues
• Here are just a few examples of songs from
  various eras in multiple genres that are
  examples of the 12-bar blues

•   Jimi Hendrix "Red House”
•   The Clash "Should I Stay or Should I Go?”
•   Johnny Cash "Folsom Prison Blues”
•   Led Zeppelin “The Girl I Love”
•   Elvis Presley "Blue Suede Shoes”
     The Genre of The Blues
• Can be divided into a few sub-categories

  – Country Blues/Delta Blues
  – Classic Blues
  – Urban Blues/Chicago Blues
  – Rhythm & Blues
    Country Blues/Delta Blues
•   Earliest known style of Blues
•   Rural music
•   Descended from field hollers & work songs
•   Usually only a singer and his guitar
•   Delta Blues = Country Blues from the
    Mississippi Delta Region
    – Most influential style of Country Blues
    – Fairly synonymous
The Mississippi Delta Region
   Country Blues/Delta Blues
      Son House
• 1902(?) - 1988
• Born in Clarksdale, MS
• Huge influence on
  Robert Johnson, Muddy
  Waters & The White
• Did a year in prison for
  murder (self-defense)
• Originator or the Robert
  Johnson Devil story
• <Son House video>
  Country Blues/Delta Blues
Huddie Ledbetter   • 1885 - 1949
  “Lead Belly”     • Born on a plantation near
                     Mooringsport, LA - grew up
                     in Leigh, TX
                   • Performed in the Red Light
                     district of Shreveport, LA by
                     age 14
                   • Master of the 12-string guitar
                   • Prolific songwriter
                      – “Good Night Irene”
                      – “Midnight Special”
                      – “House of the Rising Sun”
Important Delta Blues Musicians
Huddie Ledbetter   •   Jailbird
                        – 1915; “carrying a pistol”; escaped shortly
  “Lead Belly”              afterwards
                        – 1918; murder; pardoned 1925 by LA
                        – 1930; attempted murder (knife fight);
                            pardoned in 1934 by a different LA
                              • Petition was written on the back of
                                 a recording of Lead Belly singing
                                 “Good Night Irene”
                        – 1939; assault (stabbed a man); released
                            in 1941
                   •   Tough
                        – Was stabbed in the neck, pulled out the
                            knife and nearly killed his assailant
                        – Covered the scar for the rest of his life
                            with a bandana
Important Delta Blues Musicians
Huddie Ledbetter   • Lead Belly‟s music has been
                     covered by:
  “Lead Belly”        – Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, The
                        Animals, Hank Williams Jr.,
                        Creedence Clearwater Revival,
                        Abba, Harry Belafonte, Muse,
                        Van Morrison, Led Zeppelin,
                        Nirvana, Tom Petty, Ry Cooder,
                        Tom Waits, The Grateful Dead,
                        Johnny Cash, Michelle Shocked,
                        Rod Stewart, Nick Cave, The
                        White Stripes, The Doors, Meat
                        Loaf, Ministry, Bill Frisell, Gene
                        Autry, Dr. John, and others…

                   • <House of the Rising Sun>
       Country Blues/Delta Blues
• 1911 - 1938
• Born & lived primarily               Robert Johnson
  around Hazelhurst, MS
• “King of the Delta Blues”
   – Nickname/Album title
• Influenced by Son House
• “Deal with the Devil”
   – Myth that was perpetuated as
     a result of Johnson‟s very fast
     mastery of guitar skills and
     his untimely death
   – He himself would hint that it
     was true
• Poisoned; questionable
       Country Blues/Delta Blues
• Recordings
   – Only two recording sessions, one
     in a hotel room in San Antonio, TX      Robert Johnson
     in 1936, the other in Dallas in 1937
       • Dallas session produced two takes
         of each song (rare)
   – 29 songs in total
• “King of the Delta Blues Singers”
   – Album released by Columbia
     Records in 1961
   – John H. Hammond
   – Major influence on rock and roll
       • Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, The
         Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin
   – Johnson was not particularly
     influential or well-known before
     this posthumous album release
               Cross Road Blues
             Robert Johnson - 1936
I went down to the crossroads           Mmm the sun goin‟ down, boy
   fell down on my knees                  dark gon‟ catch me here
I went down to the crossroad            Oooo ooee eee
  fell down on my knees                  boy, dark gon‟ catch me here
Asked the Lord above “Have mercy, now   I haven‟t got no lovin‟sweet woman that
 save poor Bob if you please.             love and feel my care.

Mmmmm, standin‟ at the crossroad        You can run, you can run
 I tried to flag a ride                   tell my friend-boy Willie Brown
Standin‟ at the crossroad               You can run, you can run
 I tried to flag a ride                  tell my friend-boy Willie Brown
Didn‟t nobody seem to know me           Lord, that I‟m standin‟ at the crossroad baby
 everybody pass me by.                    I believe I‟m sinkin‟ down.
             Classic Blues
• Female singers
  – Powerful, gutsy vocal styles
    • Unamplified competition with groups
• Backup bands
  – Dixie-style jazz groups
• Classic Blues was primarily performed
  in cities or with touring Vaudeville
       Classic Blues
“Ma” Rainey   • 1886 - 1939
              • Columbus, GA
              • “Mother of the Blues”
              • Moaning, energetic
              • Recorded with Louis
                Armstrong, Joe Oliver,
                and Tommy Dorsey
              • Friends with Bessie
                  Classic Blues
• 1894-1937                      Bessie Smith
• Chatanooga, TN
• “Empress of the Blues”
• For a time, the highest
  paid black entertainer
  of her day
• Killed in a car accident
    – Though 10,000
      mourners viewed her
      coffin, Smith was buried
      in an unmarked grave
      until 1970, when Janis
      Joplin purchased one
                    Classic Blues
• Starred in a film (St. Louis      Bessie Smith
  Blues) and in a broadway
  musical (Pansy), both in
• Recorded with Louis
  Armstrong, Joe Oliver,
  James P. Johnson, Fletcher
  Henderson, and many of the
  top musicians of the 1930‟s
  Swing Era
• Very influential to jazz singer
  Billie Holliday
• <Bessie Smith in St. Louis
  Blues - 1929>
             Urban Blues
• Result of a post-WWI era migration of
  southern blacks to northern cities
  – Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis, New York
• Blues musicians in bands with amplified
• Chicago became the epicenter of the
  most important Urban Blues movement
              Chicago Blues
• Stylistically, a combination of blues music
  and guitar styles (now electric) with boogie-
  woogie piano and swing jazz
• Chess Records
  – Most important blues and R&B recording studio
    during the 1940‟s and 1950‟s
  – Artists include Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon,
    Chuck Berry, and Etta James
     • “Cadillac Records” - 2008
                      Chicago Blues
• 1915 - 1983
                                                     Muddy Waters
• Rolling Fork, MS
   – Moved to Chicago in the mid
• Perhaps the most influential of
  the Chicago Blues artists
• His sound defined the sound of
  Chicago Blues
• <Muddy Waters - "You Can't
  Lose What You Never Had" -
   – (for the above video, skip through the cheezy
        Chicago Blues
Willie Dixon   • 1915 - 1992
               • Vicksburg, MS
                  – Moved to Chicago in
               • The most influential
                 Chicago Blues
               • Bass player
                  – Played bass on most of
                    his songs original
               • <Willie Dixon sings &
                 plays guitar>
                  Rhythm & Blues
• Essentially, the term Rhythm & Blues means
  African American popular music
  – In 1958 the Billboard category is designated
     • changed from “Blues & Rhythm”, which it had been since
     •   <current Billboard charts page>

  – Previously called “Race” Music throughout the
    20‟s, 30‟s and 40‟s
     • Conflicted term
            – Representative of the segregation of the 1920‟s (today?)
            – Not considered a negative term, but rather a symbol of
              “black pride.. and was favored over „colored‟ or „negro‟”
            – <citation>
             Rhythm & Blues
• In a more specific sense, the term Rhythm &
  Blues is synonymous with “jump blues”
• Jump Blues = a jazz/blues hybrid
  – Fast, swinging blues featuring a vocalist in front of
    a thinned out jazz band and less reliance on the
  – Predominantly popular in the 1940‟s
     • Revival in the late 1990‟s
• Strongly influenced early rock n roll
  – Elvis,”Good Rockin‟ Tonight” - Roy Brown
  – Bill Haley, “Shake, Rattle & Roll” - Big Joe Turner
                       Rhythm & Blues
• 1908 - 1975
• Brinkley, AR                               Louis Jordan
• Louis Jordan and his
  “Tympany Five”
• One of the most popular
  musical acts of the 1940‟s
• One of the first “crossover”
     – Black artist appealing to both
       black and white audiences

•   Louis Jordan - Caledonia
•   Louis Jordan "Let the Good Times Roll"
      Rhythm & Blues
Bo Diddley   • 1928 - 2008
             • McComb, MS
                – Moved to Chicago in
             • Transitional figure
               between R&B and Rock
               n Roll
             • Trademark guitar style
                – Repetitive strumming
                – Clave rhythm
             • <Bo Diddley>

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