How the Blues Started: A Brief History

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Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


How the Blues Started: A Brief History

The blues is a genre of music that originated in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The term “blues” refers to the blue notes used in the music, which are slightly flattened third, fifth, and seventh notes. The blues began as a way for African American musicians to express their feelings of sorrow and oppression. Over time, the blues developed into a distinct musical style, with its own form,

The Origins of the Blues

The blues is a genre of music that originated in the African-American community in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The term “blues” refers to the blue notes used in the music, which are slightly flattened third, fifth, and seventh notes. The blues started out as a simple 12-bar chord progression, but has since evolved into a complex and diverse genre of music.

The Mississippi Delta

The Mississippi Delta is a region of the U.S. state of Mississippi that lies between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers, and is considered the birthplace of the blues. The region is famous for its fertile soil, which is perfect for cotton cultivation, and its long history of African-American culture and music.

The first blues recordings were made in the Delta region in the 1920s, and the style quickly spread throughout the country. Delta blues is characterized by its simple, powerful chord progressions and soulful vocals. It was a major influence on subsequent genres such as rock ‘n’ roll, funk, and hip hop.

African American Work Songs

The blues is a genre of music that has its roots in the African American experience. It is a style of music that is characterized by its use of the blue note, which is a note that is played at a slightly lower pitch than usual. The first recorded instance of the blues was in 1912, when W.C. Handy published “The Memphis Blues.” However, the most commonly cited date for the beginning of the blues is 1903, when Handy heard a street musician playing a song called “The New Orleans Blues.”

The blues began to gain popularity in the 1920s, when it was played by jazz musicians such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. In the 1940s and 1950s, the blues became even more popular, thanks to the work of artists such as Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. The blues continued to evolve in the 1960s and 1970s, with artists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix taking the genre in new and exciting directions.

The Spread of the Blues

The blues started in the Mississippi Delta in the late 1800s. African Americans were working in the cotton fields and singing songs to pass the time. The blues spread north to Chicago and other cities during the Great Migration. In the 1920s, the blues became popular with white audiences. Today, the blues is enjoyed by people all over the world.

The Migration of African Americans

The migration of African Americans from the American South to the American North is known as the Great Migration. This period of time, from 1916 to 1970, saw six million African Americans leave the South in search of better economic opportunities and social conditions. The blues was born in the American South, and many of the musicians who would go on to influence the genre migrated north during this time. This migration had a profound impact on the sound of the blues, as well as its popularity.

The blues rose to popularity in the early twentieth century, when musicians began to perform the music in nightclubs and bars. The first recordings of blues music were made in the 1920s, and the genre became hugely popular in the 1930s and 1940s. The blues had a profound influence on other genres of music, including jazz, rock and roll, and country. In the 1960s and 1970s, the blues experienced a renewed popularity, as many young people discovered the music of older blues musicians.

The Evolution of the Blues

It is widely believed that the Blues evolved from the spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants of the African-American slaves. These Slavic people were brought to America against their will and were forced to work on plantations in the South. As a result of their difficult situation, they created a unique form of music which became known as the Blues.

The Electric Guitar

In the early 1930s, the electric guitar began to replace the acoustic guitar as the preferred instrument for blues musicians. With its amplified sound, the electric guitar allowed players to be heard over the noise of crowded bars and dance halls. The most popular model of electric guitar during this time was the Gibson ES-150, which was used by legendary bluesmen such as Charlie Christian and T-Bone Walker.

In the 1940s and 1950s, a new style of blues music emerged that came to be known as “electric blues.” This style was characterized by its use of electric guitars, drums, and horns. Electric blues bands were often made up of former swing and big band musicians who were looking for a new way to express themselves. Some of the most popular electric blues artists of this era include Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and John Lee Hooker.

The Blues Today

While the blues today can take on many different forms, it still pays homage to its roots. electric and acoustic guitar, harmonica, and piano are still common blues instruments, but the genre has also incorporated saxophones, trombones, trumpets, drums, and even banjos in recent years. In fact, the blues today is so diverse that it’s hard to pin down a single defining characteristic.

One thing that has remained constant, however, is the emotional power of the blues. At its core, the blues is about feelings of sadness, loneliness, and despair. But it can also be about strength and resilience in the face of adversity. The best blues songs are able to capture both sides of this emotional spectrum and convey them in a way that is both powerful and relatable.

The blues today is enjoyed by people all over the world. It has influenced countless other genres of music and continues to evolve in exciting new ways. If you’re curious about the blues, there’s no better time than now to start exploring this rich and rewarding genre.

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