This course is a general overview of the history of American Blues music. The blues are often defined as a
musical and/or lyrical form, but they must also be considered based on their African origins and American
While the blues are known primarily as a musical influence on many other forms and styles:
jazz, rock and roll, etc., few are aware of the great socio-cultural impact that the blues have had on
Blues is a prototypical American music, and as such must be regarded in its own right,
not just as a precursor to jazz and rock and roll. The musical language of the blues expresses something
profoundly important about the depth, vitality, and continuity of African American culture.
understand the blues we will examine what and where blues came from, where and how it grew, how it
changed, and in what sorts of ways it altered itself in order to adapt to changing conditions and to
preserve its identity.
In this course we will examine the history of the music and the postmodern mythology that has helped us
create our “Bluesmen” precursors and their past.
We will also look at how race relations have altered
perceptions of blues music, for in order to gain an understanding of the music we need to understand the
people who made and listened to blues, not just as Blacks or oppressed Americans, romantic archetypes,
clever technicians, or successful entertainers, but as particular people who made particular and personal
choices in a particular place and time.
Through tracing the history of the blues we will uncover the history
of America and the way(s) in which this music represents both the history of a people, and American socio-
cultural relations in a variety of contexts and styles.
Broadly speaking, this course is designed with the following objectives in mind:
Identify and describe various genres of blues music
Identify and discuss blues artists from the 1880s to present day
Discuss the history of the blues
- their history, social, cultural, political implications and current
Explain the implications of race and gender within blues lyrics, musical production, and social