The blues music has gone through a massive evolution since it first started out as a musical tradition for the African Americans and their slave culture. Since then we have seen many important improvements and milestones for when it comes to human rights and black music. The end of slave import and the end of segregation lead to black music in the radio among others. It became possible to record and possess music by African Americans with help from record labels like Okeh Records and Paramount Records, great artists like Son House, Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters had massive success, and in the late 1940s we even had a black man owning a radio station. After that the blues had a bit of a quiet period before we in the 1960s witnessed the blues revival. Blues influenced bands such as The Rolling Stones, The White Stripes and The Black Keys got formed and that together with the organization The Blues Foundation and older and newer blues record labels are helping to keep the unique musical tradition alive.
The aim of this report is to give a general overview of the history of blues music and to identify its influential factors and current situation. Furthermore the report will content background knowledge about some of the most significant artists from the genre and a description of the music business’ impact on the genre’s popularity. This has been done through online research, watching documentaries and reading relevant books and journals.
The beginning of the blues genre goes back to 1619 when the first slaves were brought from Africa to America. The Africans brought their music with them, which, when arriving to the plantations in the South of America, generated different opinions. Some owners encouraged their slaves to sing and dance, thinking that it would keep them happy and less likely to protest and try to escape. Other owners were more paranoid and believed that the songs with their African dialect and doubled meanings could spread information outside of the owners’ control. Enjoying the black music or not, it flourished everywhere it could and by the mid-nineteenth century the African Americans had developed a slave culture with a unique musical tradition. The slave trade continued until Congress legislated its end the 1st of January 1808, but the racism continued. One of the outcomes of the slave culture was The Minstrel Show starting in 1820, which consisted of white entertainers performing songs and dances in blackface. Very racist but at the same time a big impact on increasing the popularity of black music. In 1867 a collection of African American music sheets was published. It was the first published collection of any kind of African American music. About fifty years later another big step for black music was taken. In February 1920, Perry Bradford, an African-American composer, convinced Okeh Records to record the black singer Mamie Smith. Smith’s record ‘Crazy Blues’ became a big hit for Okeh Records and was the beginning of the so-called “race records”. The “race record” phenomenon created an ambivalent encounter between the white America and the black culture. The music itself was a huge success but a big part of the white Americans were still not ready for black music being more than a taboo. Since 1910, hundreds of thousands black people had been migrating to the North to escape from poverty, violence, and segregation. As the blacks settled in, the blues settled in with them and a new musical culture arose, Delta Blues. Their songs referred to sexuality and the travelling lifestyle, which continued with artists moving further up to Detroit and Chicago. Here they created a pop influenced city blues style, which was displaced by the new Chicago/Electric blues sound in the 1940s with electric guitars, piano and sometimes saxophone and trumpet added. At the same time people were recovering from the Great Depression that since 1929 had lead...
References: Davis, Francis (2003) The history of blues, Da Capo Press
McPherson, I. (2000) The blues revival [online] Available at: http://www.timeisonourside.com/STRevival.html [Accessed the 19th of April 2012]
Koda, C. (2012) Robert Johnson [online] Available at: http://www.allmusic.com/artist/robert-johnson-p91178/biography [Accessed the 16th of May 2012]
Ruhlmann, W. (2012) Eric Clapton [online] Available at: http://www.allmusic.com/artist/eric-clapton-p64692/biography [Accessed the 17th of May 2012]
Bluescentric (2012) Historic record labels [online] Available at: https://www.bluescentric.com/blues-history/labels/ [Accessed the 18th of May 2012]
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