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Blues

Blues

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The blues, a term coined by the writer Washington Irving in 1807, is defined by Websters Dictionary as a type of music marked by recurrent minor intervalsso-called blue notes and by melancholy lyrics. These lyrics reflect the oppression experienced by people of African descent in the United States: slavery, prison, chain gangs, and the indignities of the Jim Crow era.

Blues is a typically American music with its earliest roots in African forms. It originated with the slaves that were brought over from West Africa. The contemporary Malian musician Ali Farka Touré considers blues to be the type of music most similar to his own; specifically, Touré hears echoes of Tamascheq music in the music of blues artists such as John Lee Hooker. Because slaves were forbidden to use drums, they turned to traditional African ring shouts and created rhythms with their hands and feet. Through ring shouts slaves worshipping in praise houses connected the newly imposed Christianity to their African roots. Field hollers, produced by slaves as a means of communication, were another early vocal style that influenced the blues. Work songs sung by prison road gangs also highly influenced the blues in its early days. The art of storytelling is another important element of the blues. Lyrically, the blues ranges from forms based on short rhyming verses to songs using only one or two repeated phrases.

Over time, the blues evolved from a parochial folk form to a worldwide language. The influence of the blues can be found in most forms of popular music, including jazz, country, and rock and roll. The lines between blues and jazz are often blurred. Kansas City jazz, for example, is known for its bluesy sound. Certain artists, such as Charles Brown, Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff, and Mose Allisonall masters of the keyboardmake music that is hard to categorize as either purely jazz or purely blues. Likewise, gospel is closely related to the blues. The music of the father of gospel, Thomas A. Dorsey, was a blend of blues and spirituals.

Ashenafi Kebede (1982) assigns the blues to four categories: country blues, city blues, urban blues, and racial blues. Country blues was traditionally performed by street musicians without any formal training. City blues is a standardized version of country blues. During the 1940s, as a result of the impact of communication media, city blues evolved into the more commercialized and formalized urban blues, a style characterized by big band accompaniment, modern amplification devices, and new instruments like the saxophone and electric guitar. Racial blues are songs based on racial distinctions between blacks and whites.

The great composer and musician W. C. Handy (18731958) was one of the first to bring blues into the popular culture, around 1911. Instrumental blues was first recorded in 1913. Aaron Thibeaux (T-Bone) Walkerwhose recording debut, Wichita Falls Blues, was cut in 1929 for Columbia Recordsis believed to be the first bluesman to use an amplified acoustic guitar.

The first vocal blues was recorded by an African American woman, Mamie Smith, in 1920. Angela Davis (1998) argues that in the early 1920s African American females were given priority over African American males as recording artists due to their initial success (p. xii). Bessie Smith is said to be the greatest and the most influential blues singer of the 1920s. Bessie Smiths catalogue of blues recordings still stands as the yardstick by which all other female blues singers are evaluated. Gertrude Ma Rainey is also regarded as one of the best of the classic 1920s blues singers. She was most likely the first woman to incorporate blues into ministerial and vaudeville stage shows, perhaps as early as 1902 (Santelli 2001, pp. 386-387). Alberta Hunter is identified as helping to bridge the gap between classic blues and cabaret-flavored pop music in the 1920s (Santelli 2001, p. 226).

Artists such as Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, and Magic Sam moved the blues guitar into the modern era. Other prominent figures of the second half of the twentieth century include Son Seals, one of the leading guitar stylists of Chicagos post-1960s blues generation; Muddy Waters, who has been dubbed the patriarch of postWorld War II (1939-1945) Chicago blues; and Howlin Wolf, who was a singer, a songwriter, a guitarist, and a harmonica player. Sonny Boy Williamson was responsible for the transformation of the harmonica (or blues harp) from a simple down-home instrument into one of the essential parts of the Chicago blues sound. Little Walter is noted for his revolutionary harmonica technique, and was also a guitarist. Blues guitarist Luther Allison, from the late 1960s, was influenced by Freddie King, who was considered to be one of the linchpins of modern blues guitar. Albert King, who played left-handed and holding his guitar upside down, was one of the premier modern electric guitar artists. Jimmy Reed sold more records in the 1950s and early 1960s than any other blues artist except B. B. King, who is the most successful blues concert artist ever. Bobby Blue Bland is considered one of the creators of the modern soul blues sound. Blues giant John Lee Hooker is known as the father of the boogie an incessant one-chord exercise in blues intensity and powerful rhythm.

While the blues was historically an African American form, in the early 1960s the urban bluesmen were discovered by young white American and European musicians. Prior to this discovery, black blues artists had been unable to reach a white audience. Among the best-known English blues artists are Eric Clapton and John Mayall; celebrated white American bluesmen include Paul Butterfield, Charlie Musselwhite, Johnny Winter, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. All were heavily influenced by the great African American blues artists.

At the start of the twenty-first century, the blues is still going strong, as evidenced by the numerous national and international blues societies, publications, and festivals.

SEE ALSO Bluegrass; Jazz; Music; Music, Psychology of; Popular Music; Rock n Roll; World Music

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Belafonte, Harry. 2001. The Long Road to Freedom: An Anthology of Black Music. Rochester, NY: Riverside Group. Book accompanying 5-CD set released by BGM/Buddha Records.

Davis, Angela Y. 1998. Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday. New York: Random House.

Garon, Paul. 1975. Blues and the Poetic Spirit. San Francisco: City Lights.

Kebede, Ashenafi. 1982. Roots of Black Music: The Vocal, Instrumental, and Dance Heritage of Africa and Black America. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Pareles, Jon, and Patricia Romanowski, eds. 1983. The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll. New York: Rolling Stone Press.

Santelli, Robert. 2001. The Big Book of Blues: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Rev. ed. New York: Penguin Books.

Dorothy Hawkins

Shakuntala Das

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"Blues." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Blues." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/blues

Blues

BLUES

BLUES as a musical term can describe an oral tradition of African American poetry set to music using blues form (typically three-line stanzas with the first two lines being similar, set to a twelve-bar harmonic framework called a blues progression); the form of the poetry and/or the music; and an aesthetic that remains an ideal for Jazz performance in general.

Blues originated as an expression of the individual and interactive social tradition of a displaced African American population. It began with the African American agrarian working class of the Mississippi Delta and combined African American and European American traditions, particularly hollers (field work songs) and British ballads. It was established by the late 1800s as primarily a vocal and improvisatory genre, often with instrumental accompaniment. Later it became a purely instrumental genre as well, and other blues regions developed—each with its own localized style. Until about 1930 there was a distinction between the earthier style of country blues and the smoother urban blues. Only after blues was well established did it broaden to include the white middle class and function as a form of entertainment.

Often using slang, blues texts address life's troubles, freedom, and gender roles and relationships, and are often explicit about sex. The recognizable style of the blues may include call and response, a constant rhythmic pulse, blue notes (lowered third and seventh scale degrees), and gritty timbres.

Publications (from about 1912) and recordings (from about 1920) came after blues had long been an established oral practice. The leading performers to popularize classic blues with early recordings were Mamie Smith, Ma Rainey, and Bessie Smith. Blind Lemon Jefferson, Robert Johnson, Big Bill Broonzy, Muddy Waters, and B. B. King exemplify styles after 1930.

Many small and large jazz ensembles still play blues titles, use blues form, and borrow its manner of expression. Blues has influenced many substyles of jazz and instigated numerous pop genres, including Rock and Roll. The participation of different races and nationalities in the production and consumption of blues today make it a global phenomenon.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Erlewine, Michael, et al., eds. All Music Guide to the Blues: The Experts' Guide to the Best Blues Recordings. 2d ed. San Francisco: Miller Freeman, 1999.

Murray, Albert. Stomping the Blues. New York: Da Capo, 1989. The original edition was published in 1976.

Oliver, Paul. Yonder Come the Blues: The Evolution of a Genre. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Christina Linsenmeyer–vanSchalkwyk

See alsoMusic: African American .

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"Blues." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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blues

blues Form of African-American music, originating in the late 19th-century folk traditions of the American South. It evolved from gospel and work songs. The standard verse pattern is the 12-bar blues: three sets of four bars, the second set being a repetition of the first. The first published blues piece was “The Memphis Blues” by W. C. Handy (1912). ‘Jelly Roll’ Morton incorporated a jazzier style in “Jelly Roll Blues”. Great vocalists such as Bessie Smith (‘Empress of the Blues’), Robert Johnson, Huddie Ledbetter and ‘Ma’ Rainey, helped popularize the blues. The northerly migration of African-Americans in the 1930s saw the emergence of a brasher, urban blues tradition based around Chicago. After World War II, instruments were amplified, and the electric guitar became the dominant voice, with artists such as Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. In the 1950s, new forms such as rhythm and blues, and rock and roll drew on the blues. During the 1960s, rock and pop bands, such as the Rolling Stones, were also directly influenced by the tradition.

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"blues." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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blues

blues. Slow jazz song of lamentation, generally for an unhappy love affair. Usually in groups of 12 bars, instead of 8 or 16, each stanza being 3 lines covering 4 bars of music. Tonality predominantly major, but with the flattened 3rd and 7th of the key (the ‘blue notes’). Harmony tended towards the plagal or subdominant. The earlier (almost entirely Negro) history of the blues is traced by oral tradition as far back as the 1860s, but the form was popularized about 1911–14 by the Negro composer W. C. Handy (St Louis Blues, Basin Street Blues). Composers such as Gershwin, Ravel, Copland, and Tippett have used the term to indicate a blues-type mood rather than a strict adherence to the form. Among notable blues singers were Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday (though Holiday's main repertoire was pop music).

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"blues." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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blues

blues The blues are feelings of melancholy, sadness, or depression. The term is recorded from the mid 18th century, and comes elliptically from blue devils ‘depression or delirium tremens’.

Blues is also used for melancholic music of black American folk origin, typically in a 12-bar sequence. It developed in the rural southern US towards the end of the 19th century, finding a wider audience in the 1940s, as blacks migrated to the cities. This urban blues gave rise to rhythm and blues, and rock and roll.


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blues

blues / bloōz/ • pl. n. 1. [treated as sing. or pl.] (often the blues) melancholic music of black American folk origin, typically in a twelve-bar sequence. 2. (the blues) inf. feelings of melancholy, sadness, or depression: she's got the blues. DERIVATIVES: blues·y adj. (in sense 1).

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"blues." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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blues

blues: see jazz.

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"blues." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"blues." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/blues

blues

bluesabuse, accuse, adieux, amuse, bemuse, billets-doux, blues, booze, bruise, choose, Clews, confuse, contuse, cruise, cruse, Cruz, diffuse, do's, Druze, effuse, enthuse, excuse, fuse (US fuze), Hughes, incuse, interfuse, lose, Mahfouz, mews, misuse, muse, news, ooze, Ouse, perfuse, peruse, rhythm-and-blues, ruse, schmooze, snooze, suffuse, Toulouse, transfuse, trews, use, Vaduz, Veracruz, who's, whose, youse •Andrews •Matthews • circumfuse • Syracuse •purlieux

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