When your baby left you, you need the blues. When you can’t get satisfied, you need the blues. When the one you love takes up with someone else, you need the blues. And when you feel you’ve been mistreated, you have got to have the blues.
The blues is bad. Playing the blues is good. It relieves suffering and pain. Maybe for just a while, but then again, that’s life, right? Each moment gives away to the next maintaining an ongoing state of impermanence. And yet, plugging into the blues by playing it and listening to it with friends, connects you with something eternal and real.
The blues is a real as real can be. Created in the rural Southern United States by formerly enslaved African Americans enduring ongoing acts of arbitrary and calculated violence, emotional abuse and material deprivation by a system of preference based on white supremacy; the blues addresses fear. The blues is true. No sugar coating.
If you are lonely you sing “yes I’m lonely—“ owning it—admitting weakness and vulnerability and through this process revealing your own truth. The blues fosters a way of being that accepts reality—the bitter and the sweet—but is not overly attached to it. As long as there is a way to play the blues, there is hope and a pathway to fellowship, community and ultimately—love.
Today, the feeling of the blues is all around us. Conflicts around power, money and the way we treat each other shake our societies to their core. And there in the background is blues music, humbly forming the foundation for popular music all over the globe. The blues made jazz, rock and roll, R & B, and hip-hop. The blues combines east and west, rich and poor, black and white to make a musical form that offers an intoxicating mix of freely expressive singing, steady polyrhythm spiced with syncopation and personal story telling. The blues invites you to holler, cry, scream and moan as needed. The blues invites the audience to respond and co-sign its themes in real time thereby creating a call and response circle of repair.
The blues is older than all of us and will still be here when we are gone. We can find the recordings of its great pioneers with the touch of a button, the click of a mouse. Have you heard B.B. King’s “Three O’ Clock in the Morning,” lately? How about Bessie Smith’s “Backwater Blues,” or Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen”? Each are masterpieces of human expression.
For musicians, these recordings contain the keys to language of the soul. Getting to know the work of Memphis Minnie, Leroy Carr, Muddy Waters, Lightning Hopkins, Dinah Washington and Joe Williams opens doors. It has taken me literally around the world. Listen to “Midnight Moan” from Howlin’ Wolf. Your molecules will be rearranged.
Musicians–Let’s play more blues to repair, to heal, to transform.
Listeners-let’s be honest and be together with the blues. More blues for a more better world.
Thank you Roseanna and George. More blues for a more better world!
Eli, lovely to read your thoughtful truth while enjoying my morning coffee. As a girl who grew up in
poverty but found riches in the gospel music that surrounded me, I agree with your passion for the blues.
With your squeaky clean persona (you always look like a school boy), you’re an unlikely messenger for the blues, but really this quality allows your message to reach an audience of listeners who might never have the opportunity to learn where rock n’roll, r & b and jazz came from. All of my students from NJPAC and NJCU for 20 years learned the basic blues form right
after their sharps and flats. The true value and deep feel of the blues is overlooked and taken for granted by many
hip, well educated musicians because of the basic three chord structure and simple repetitive lyrics.
But it’s more than the structure, it’s the feeling, the conviction of your story, your pain, your joy. Music can be
Mathmatically brilliant but without the heart and soul, it’s empty for a blues lover. Thank you for all you do for the arts
In our little town of New York city and the world. Happy 2017 Eli. Wishes for your continued success, keep up the good
Beautiful, succinct blog. Thank you.