Friday, September 02, 2005


Nobody knows just how the blues began.

Some say it was in the work songs of Negro chain gangs in southern penitentiaries. Others say it grew out of the bordellos and speakeasies in red light districts of southern cities around the turn of the twentieth century where booze was sold illegally and prostitution flourished. Still others say it was the howl of the wind in the trees of the rural south where black tenant farmers could listen to it in isolation from the noise of the city.

I think the blues began as a feeling.

The kind of longing that you get late at night when you are all alone and the one you love isn’t there with you.

And you know that your dream just won’t come true.

The kind of feeling that you get when all you want to do is forget. But you can’t stop remembering. And you keep thinking about that one thing that keeps coming back over and over again to haunt you.

And you know that you can’t sleep. And there isn’t anything you can do about it except take a deep breath and wait the lonely hours until dawn.

Or maybe you wish that you could be someplace far away, in another city or town, doing other things with other people.

Or when you’re far away and all you can think about is how much you wish that you could be back home.

They say the blues ain’t nothing but a woman cryin’ for her man.

They say the blues ain’t nothing but a good love that’s gone bad.

They say the blues began as a lament or song of mourning, heartbreak, and strife.

Nobody knows for sure just how the blues began. But what we do know is sadness is best overcome by talking about it, and the surest way to perpetuate it is to bottle it up inside.of you. And by submitting these feelings to the various processes of blues music, the flatted thirds and bent tones of the blues scale, the repetitive call and response of the lyric, the throbbing beat of the blues rhythm, they become imbued with the peculiar alchemy and curative powers of the blues that can change sadness to happiness and transform tears into joy.

When I listen to the blues, I hear one person, no better or worse than any other person, and subject to all the frailty and uncertainty, the longing and hopelessness, and awareness of the transitory nature of human existence that affects all people. And in his countenance I can also see myself. For I too am human, and uncertain, and aware of the transitory nature of my own life.

They say the blues has always been here. Before there was blues music, people still had the blues. It is common to all people in all walks of life. Truly, the blues belong to everyone.

The blues is made from heartache and misery. But the blues makes them easier to be borne.

It is more to me than just another twelve bar music form.

It is bittersweet notes being played on a golden horn.-


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