August Wilson and the Blues

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


In this post, we’ll explore how August Wilson’s work drew from the blues to create a new type of American theater.


August Wilson (April 21, 1945 – October 2, 2005) was an American playwright who wrote prevailing, yet controversial works that gave insight into the African American experience. His cycle of ten plays is referred to as “The Pittsburgh Cycle”, as they are all set in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during different decades. The first play in Wilson’s cycle is Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which is set in the 1920s and focuses on the indomitable Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, one of the first professional blues singers. Blues is a genre of music steeped in African American history and culture, and its influence can be seen throughout Wilson’s work.

What is the blues?

The blues is a style of music that originated in the African-American communities of the southeastern United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is a form of music that is characterized by its use of the blue note, and its related chord progressions, and instruments. The blues has been a major influence on later American and European popular music styles, including jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll.

August Wilson and the blues

Blues is a music genre that Originally developed in the American South in the late 19th and early 20th centuries from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads. The use of blue note Jazz scales, heavily embellished & improvised melodies and a swingQuarter note or 8th note pulse are important characteristics of the blues. Work and prisoner songs might be the beginnings of the blues. In Texas Instruments located an African-American field Work Song Blues from the 1860s, which explains some sent working in cotton fields.

The connection between August Wilson and the blues

Though August Wilson is best known for his plays, he was also a passionate fan of the blues. In fact, he once said that the blues were “the fundament of my work.” He saw the blues as a way to connect with the African-American experience and to give voice to the struggles and joys of everyday life.

The connection between August Wilson and the blues can be seen in his plays, which often feature characters who are struggling with personal or societal problems. The blues often deal with similar themes, such as love, loss, poverty, and injustice. In addition, Wilson’s plays often make use of the African-American oral tradition, which is also a key element of the blues.

The blues were a big part of August Wilson’s life, and his work was greatly influenced by this music. For anyone interested in learning more about his work, or in exploring the connection between the blues and Wilson’s plays, there are many resources available.

How the blues influenced August Wilson’s work

The blues is a genre of music that is often associated with African American culture. The blues originated in the late 19th century in the southern United States, and it has since spread to other parts of the world. The blues is characterized by its use of blue notes, which are notes that are played at a slightly lower pitch than other notes in the song.

Blues music has had a significant influence on the work of American playwright August Wilson. Wilson was born and raised in the African American community in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He began writing plays in the 1970s, and his work is often set in the early 20th century. Many of Wilson’s plays deal with the experiences of African Americans living in poverty, and the blues is a recurring theme in his work.

One of Wilson’s most famous plays is “Fences,” which was first performed in 1985. “Fences” tells the story of Troy Maxson, an African American man who struggles to provide for his family during the 1950s. The play includes several references to the blues, and Troy’s character often sings blues songs throughout the course of the play.

The blues can be seen as a symbol for the struggles that African Americans have faced throughout history. Wilson’s use of the blues in his work helps to bring these struggles to life for his audience.


In conclusion, August Wilson was one of the most important playwrights of the 20th century. He was a master of the dramatic arts, and his plays are still performed all over the world. He was also a passionate advocate for the blues, and his work helped to bring the music to new audiences. His legacy will continue to inspire generations of artists and music lovers.

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