13 - Blues and R&B

13 - Blues and R&B - LECTURE 12: Blues and R&B...

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SLIDE BLUES What are the Blues? any sad or melancholy song • specific lyric and song form • blue notes - bent notes or using minor 3rd (b3, b5, b7) on top of major tonality • Secular ritual that carried black “cultural memory” • “Blue eyes” story blues expresses: pain, oppression, poverty, longing, desire - Male themes of homelessness, love ‘em and leave ‘em - female themes of mistreatment, empowerment, sexual innuendo A cultural response to the disappointing experience of being “free” in a New South in which however hard they worked they found themselves unable to succeed. – Sharecropping became a kind of secondary slavery - indentured servitude – Jim Crow laws, substandard level of existence, – Black codes that forbid Blacks to learn to read or vote – lynchings Blues became a way of taking agency against the ills of the world Ralph Ellison: “the blues resulted from an impulse to keep the painful details and episodes of a brutal existence alive in one’s aching consciousness, to finger it’s jagged grain, and to transcend it, not by the consolation of philosophy but by squeezing from it a near-tragic, near-comic lyricism.” • Singing and playing the blues offered a means of catharsis rather than wallowing in self-pity SLIDE Delta, Rural, down-home, Country, or Folk 1
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• born in the Mississippi Delta among field hands and day laborers – the creators of blues were marginal people even among a marginalized people • considered to be the Devil’s music but at the same time “secular spirituals” • several styles - bottle-neck, single note, Texas-style, etc. Influenced by ballad forms, field hollers (arhoolies) • solo male singer self-accompanied on guitar, or sometimes a diddly-bow : – a string strung on a board, wall, or frame. Instrument is plucked with finger or thumb and pitch is controlled by sliding a bottle, pipe, or knife along string like a slide guitar ex. “I Need a Hundred Dollars” sounds like one string and old dude singing. SLIDE Early Delta Blues Artists Charlie Patton, Son House, Bukka White, Robert Johnson Robert Johnson - most celebrated but actually a late example of the rural blues tradition • born in Mississippi in 1911 • recorded only a few dozen tunes, all of them in a Texas hotel room during an 8-month period a year before his death in 1938. – his repertoire also included tin pan alley songs, ragtime, folk, minstrel songs, etc. • myth that he made a deal with the devil down at the crossroads, sold his soul to become greatest bluesman alive • Only one recording had any significant sales during his lifetime, but a 1990 reissue box set became an international best seller Poisoned by bar owner (laced drink w/ strychnine) after seeing Johnson flirt with his wife PLAY: ROBERT JOHNSON - “CROSS ROAD BLUES” PLAYING ON MYTH, GREAT INFLUENCE ON ROCK MUSIC • He does call and response with himself (vocal–guitar) • flexible form 2
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13 - Blues and R&B - LECTURE 12: Blues and R&B...

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