Modern Blues has it’s roots in the tribal songs of the west coast of Africa among others. These work songs were used to keep good morale during the work day and the rhythmic bass lines and rhythms from the traditions of the villages would keep them to a steady pace.
When the music landed on the shores of the United States, it slowly evolved into two distinct styles, Gospel and Blues .
One side was the good, clean ,god fearing, hard working face of the coin. The other was the late night drinking, dirty dancing, secretive face of the coin. The first celebrating the lord and giving prayer. The latter, bitching and moaning about your boss working you too hard or you wife not paying you enough attention.
The funny thing is that these two very contrasting styles, were mostly played by the same people. Musicians in the black community in the south at the time were few and far between, so lots of blues musicians used to play whatever would pay the bills. We should also remember that way back to the origin of the Blues, the most influential blues-men of the time had been preachers or very religious.
The interesting thing about this evolution of the music is that it changed to suit the climate that it arrived in. It took influences from whoever it came into contact with. The blues has adapted to whichever place it landed. But it has always remained the music of the people. It still serves essentially the same purpose as it did in West Africa, to celebrate life and bring to light the troubles of the day, but most importantly to bring people together to have a good time.
I knew that I loved Jazz and Blues when I realised that all the TV shows I loved when I looked back on my childhood had been Jazzy or Bluesy. Sesame Street for example…..Who knew that was a Jazz Blues structure? But the more that I looked at it, the more I found that ALL the cartoons from my childhood, favourite TV shows, favourite Movies and favourite records were either jazz, blues or based upon the standard forms but made more child friendly.
I don’t know if I developed a taste for Jazz through my favourite shows or that I got attracted to shows that had these great theme tunes that I loved.
I grew up in the UK in the late 70s and early 80s, and as you may or may not know, us Brits cottoned on to the Blues pretty late. But, thanks to young white bands like the Rolling Stones brought them to a new audience on the other side of the Atlantic. Young British people from all over were hooked on the classic Blues guys that had not been popular in the states for a fair few years. Muddy Waters himself commented on his british performances during the 1970s, “I play in places now don’t have no black faces in there but our black faces.”.We didn’t have the roots or the history of the Blues running through our veins in the same way as the US had at the time. But we embraced it as if it were our own.
It was literally all over the place…..Our rock was modified from the old school blues structures. Kids shows coupled psychadelic imagery with blues based Rock or Jazz. Anything that came from New York seemed to have a Jazz theme.
Looking back on my youth I was astounded at how we embraced this type of music so whole heartedly. Even today in the centre of London, England, you will be able to find more legitimate Blues and Jazz bands every night of the week than in most cities in the world.
As I mentioned, it is quite interesting to me that I seemed to be attracted to Jazz and Blues from an early age. To this day, it has remained the basis of all my favourite music. Be it Blues, Jazz, Soul, Motown, Reggae or Rock…..
“The Blues is the roots, everything else is the fruits” – Willie Dixon
To be continued…..