Blues is one of the renowned forms of music that emerged in the late 19th century. It came from the African-American communities and the black cultural hub of the American South. This music genre draws mainly from a fabulous combination of African-American spirituals.
It also has the influences of traditional songs, slaves’ work songs, European hymns, and other forms of music. When the slave workers were on the field with their back-breaking work, singing gave them some respite.
The meaning of blues
At the outset, the meaning of blues was mostly sadness or melancholy. It is more likely that the origin of this term is associated with mysticism. This involved the blue indigo, which symbolizes death and mourning in many cultures of West Africa. During the ceremonies following the death of a person, a mourner’s clothes were dyed blue.
This was an indication of suffering and misfortune. The term blues can also be associated with betrayal and regret. Today, it signifies sadness. You get the blues upon losing your job, breaking up with your mate, and so on. The lyrics in blues music mostly deals with some kind of adversity. However, the music is much more than just about self-pity.
It is also about getting rid of frustrations, having fun, saying what you feel, and overcoming bad luck. On a personal level, the best form of blues can be starkly emotional or visceral. The feel in blues can range from immense joy to deep sadness. There’s hardly any musical form that communicates personal emotion more genuinely than blues.
Development of blues music
Blues developed in the Mississippi Delta, which is located just upriver from New Orleans. This city is also the place where jazz was born. The two musical forms of jazz and blues have always had an influence on each other. After the end of the Civil War, most of the black men had to opt for manual labor. The soulful and melancholic lyrics of several blues songs gave them the strength to celebrate life.
These songs created a powerful, rhythmic, and emotive music for them. The lyrics reflected their daily lives, mostly focusing on jail, poverty, drinking, and a few other aspects. In the early 20th century, blues became an important part of the popular culture in the United States. The first copyrighted song in the blues genre was Dallas Blues.
New forms of blues
Between 1915 and 1940, many African-Americans moved to the North. This was due to a failed Reconstruction, rampant oppression, and poor economic conditions in the South. They settled mostly in the urban areas of the North. As a result, a more urban type of blues developed, which eventually became ‘rhythm and blues’.
The popularity of blues then began decreasing considerably after a few years. In the late 1950s, there was a revival of this genre with the introduction of ‘folk and blues’. For quite some time, blues greatly influenced American popular music.
Its popularity in those times was mostly attributed to musicians such as Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. Their style of blues was considerably different from the earlier melancholic tone of the genre. In the years that followed, blues merged with rock music. This led to the formation of the rock blues bands in the 1960s and 1970s.