Blues

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Vocal and instrumental musical form, originally derived from African American work songs.

Early blues forms of the blues evolved in the southern parts of the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, using simple instruments such as acoustic guitar and harmonica. Songs came with many different forms of structure, although the twelve or eight bar structure based on tonic, subdominant and dominant chords became predominant. Melodically, blues music is marked by the use of the flattened third and dominant seventh (so called blue notes) of the associated major scale.

Lyrically, verses of early blues songs tended to consist a single line repeated two or three times before, such as:

Woke up this morning with the blues down in my soul
Woke up this morning with the blues down in my soul
Saying "My baby gone and left me, got a heart as black as coal"

The subject matter of the lyrics was typically based around the hardships and injustices of life, giving the blues an undeserved reputation for misery, whereas blues lyrics are often joyous, raunchy and funny.

Mama, Mama, get your big legs off of me,
Mama, Mama, get your big legs off of me,
It's sending you baby, but it sure is troublin' me.

In the first part of the 20th century blues had the single most important influence on the development, in both harmonic structure and the technique of blues singers such as Bessie Smith and Big Mama Thornton.

The 1920's and 1930's brought the rise of the recording industry and led to the increased popularity of country blues singers and guitarists like Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Blake who recorded for Paramount Records and Lonnie Johnson who recorded for OKeh Records. These recordings came to be known as "race" records since they were targeted almost exclusively to an African American audience.

In the 1940s and 1950s, increased urbanisation and the use of amplification led to electric blues music, popular in cities such as Chicago and best exemplified by such artists as Howling Wolf and Muddy Waters. Electric blues would eventually give rise to rock and roll.

In the 1960s and 70s artists such as Eric Clapton, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix influenced by both early and electric blues musicians brought the blues to a new, younger audience. Through these artists and others, Blues music was strongly influential in the development of Rock and Roll.

Since then blues has continued to thrive in both traditional and new forms through the work of Robert Cray, Bonnie Raitt and others.


Other important blues artists:
Early Country Blues


Chicago Blues


Modern Blues (post 1950's)


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See also /Talk