Tuesday, April 7, 2009
I wanted to analyze blues from its earliest conception to more modern and popular music that followed. In choosing my playlist I wanted to introduce songs and artists that people may not have heard before, who may have been less mainstream but still powerful and influential. The songs that I chose for my playlist I feel not only encompass a representative body of influential musicians for the blues, but also represent the changes, shifts, and path breaking occurrences in history of blues music. I focused my playlist mainly on artists and songs that were groundbreaking, and proved to be so, by receiving inductions into the Hall of Fame, breaking records of music charts, or being recognized with other honorable awards for their influence and impact on music. Many of the artists and songs I chose are now among the Library of Congress’ music collection, to be preserved and enjoyed for generations to come.
I argue that my playlist serves to reflect the changing social environment throughout the 20th century. The playlist acts as a storyline in which one can understand racism, society, politics and the innovations in technology throughout the century. The songs I chose serve to represent a demographic of people, both blacks and women, who have rarely before had their voices heard in the United States prior to this time. The playlist includes both the first female recording and the first black recording, both setting a precedent for other musicians and leaders in society to follow. The musicians I included served as some of the first minorities to claim national fame, money, and success, all while enduring discrimination, exploitation, and racism that heavily dominated society at the time. The blues itself refers to sad emotions that were expressed through the medium of music. The blues expanded into an arena where, for the first time, musicians were able to openly express feelings of sexuality, violence, and racism- - all vices that were previously kept out of music. Recordings of the blues not only introduced minorities to music that may have reminded them of their history on plantations or as sharecroppers, but the blues served to introduce black music to whites for the first time through minstrel shows, vaudeville's, and hit records.
(Note: Because many of the songs were originally recorded in the early 1900’s many do not have specific discography information such as catalog numbers. However, I have provided the information to the fullest extent that it was available from the time period. Additionally, since many of the songs have been re-mastered and re-released, when possible I have included both their original and re-released record information)
2. Jelly Roll Morton. Jelly Roll Blues
3. Sophie Tucker- “Some of These days”
4. Mamie Smith- “Crazy Blues” was her first recorded song in 1920.
5. Ma Rainey “Prove it on me Blues”
6. Bessie Smith: Downhearted Blues
7. Victoria Spivey- “Black Snake Blues”
8. Lead Belly: “Goodnight Irene”
9. Charley Patton: “Pony Blues”
10. Blind lemon Jefferson- “Matchbox Blues”
11. Tommy Johnson: Song- Maggie Campbell Blues
12. Son House. SONG: “My Black Mama”
13. Blind Willie McTell: Statesboro Blues
14. Muddy Water- Why Don’t You Live So God Can Use You”
15. Muddy Waters- Hoochie Coochie Man
16. Muddy Waters- “Got my Mojo working’
17. Howlin’ Wolf: How Many More Years
18. “Little Walter” Jacob: Juke
19. Robert Johnson: “Kind Hearted Woman”
20. Robert Johnson- Cross Road Blues
21. Robert Johnson: Terraplane Blues
22. Jimmy Reed: Bright Lights Big City
23. Freddie King: “Hide Away”
24. Albert King: Don’t Throw Your Love on Me So Strong
25. BB King. Song: Three O’clock Blues
Buddy Bolden he was born in New Orleans in 1877. He is a very influential figure in the New Orleans style of ragtime, also known as jazz. Bolden was a member of, what many consider, one of the very first jazz bands. He is credited with creating a looser, more improvised version of ragtime and adding blues to it. Buddy was the first player to pursue an improvisational style. He was considered by Louis Armstrong as, “ a genius ahead of ‘em all.” Furthermore, Bolden is also recognized as one of the greatest trumpet players of all time.
“Funky Butt” later became known as “buddy Bolden’s Blues” represents one of the earliest references to the concept of ‘funk’ in popular music. ‘Funky Butt’ was a song in reference to exactly what the title alludes to, a scent that was produced from a lot of sweaty people, packed together in one room. The song represented his loud, powerful, and ‘open’ playing style.
As a tribute to Bolden and his work, Sidney Bechet wrote “Buddy Bolden Stomp” in his honor. Almost all early New Orleans jazz musicians were influenced by his playing. Jelly Roll Morton called Bolden, “the most powerful man in the history [of jazz].”
Although few resources offer audiences to listen to 'Funky Butt', here is a 'Funky Butt' rendition reconstructed by Humphrey Lyttleton: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9diLGxlGWqw
Here also is Jelly Roll Morton singing "Buddy Bolden Blues' (I thought I heard Buddy Say)": http://www.last.fm/music/Jelly+Roll+Morton/_/Buddy+Bolden%27s+Blues+%28I+Thought+I+Heard+Buddy+Bolden+Say%29
Informational sources: http://www.redhotjazz.com/Buddy.html
In 1915 his song “Jelly Roll Blues” was the first jazz composition ever published.
Morton has record music and interviews preserved now in the Library of Congress. Morton's ‘Jelly Roll’ nickname is a sexual reference and many of his lyrics were very vulgar. Some of the Library of Congress’ recordings were unreleased until near the end of the 20th century due to their distasteful nature. The Library of Congress released his interviews and records in 2005 and the collection won two Grammy Awards, in addition Morton was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
She set the standard for the women following her, specifically Bessie Smith who she took under her wing and helped to train. She was an enormous figure in the development of the blues, R & B, and rock ‘n’ roll.
'Black Snake Blues’ was her first record which she created with Okeh Records in 1926 and proved to be successful. This record was the cause of a several year rift between her and her long time friend Blind Lemon Jefferson. When Blind Lemon Jefferson recorded "Black Snake Moan" and it proved to be more popular than Spivey's, Spivey accused Jefferson of stealing her song. The dispute was settled amicably and Jefferson and Spivey remained friends
Victoria Spivey's vocal style was characterized by angularity, nasality, and a type of moan, which she called the "tiger moan," reminiscent of a style of black church singing. She also altered the familiar twelve-bar blues structure by adding another four bars, resulting in a sixteen-bar form. Her songs were filled with sexual overtones, double entendres, and outright pornography. The lyrics dealt with contemporary subjects and problems including drugs, the penal system, capital punishment, and lesbianism, all of which were of concern in the daily lives of her listeners.
She formed her own label “Spivey Records”. In 1951 Spivey retired from show business to play the pipe organ and lead a church choir, but she returned to secular music in 1961 upon the revival of folk music and opportunities for a comeback. In 1962, Bob Dylan recorded on her label as a backup harmonica player.
If youre interested in hearing "Black Snake Blues", check it out here: http://www.last.fm/music/Victoria+Spivey/_/Black+Snake+Blues
You can also check out Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Black Snake Moan" and hear the song that caused the long standing rift between the two freinds: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3yd-c91ww8
**NOTE: Music at this time is undergoing a signficant shift. Because of the onset of the Great Depression in the late 1920's and early 1930's, in addition to the grandiose nature of female performances (which included costumes, stage props, back up instruments, ect) there was a signficant shift from the popularity and viability of producing female music that now began to focus on male music. Male music was downscaled to a great degree and was more economically effective to market at the time.**
In 1917 he shot and killed a lover’s rival and was sentenced to 30 years in jail but managed to write flattering songs about the Texas governor Pat Morris Neff for his early release. The governor ran for political office with the pledge not to issue pardons but let Lead Belly out early, only to be sentenced again for life in prison. But AGAIN he gained his release with the supposed help of record producer John A. Lomax. Allegedly, Lomax placed a petition for Lead Belly’s release on the back of the song “Goodnight Irene” for the Louisiana Governor. His songs were so popular that he made records that are still kept in the Library of Congress.
The lyrics of “Goodnight Irene” tell the story of the singer’s troubled past with his lover Irene, while expressing sadness and frustration. Several verses make explicit reference to suicidal inclinations such as the line, “sometimes I take a great notion to jump in the river and drown.”
Lead Belly has influence infinite number of bands from the Beach Boys, Pete Seeger, The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Led Zeppelin, Ludacris and many others.
To hear Lead Belly's 'Goodnight Irene', click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmQXmqbZ3Pc
Monday, April 6, 2009
He was known for his sexual prowess and was criticized by many for always breaking time in his music. He played guitar in many exciting new ways, such as behind his head, behind his back, allegedly tossing the guitar in the air, and even played with his feet. He was also unique in playing, in that he would beat time on the guitar while he was playing. He also used the slide as a vocal element, using it to complete words of a song. Patton gained notoriety for his showmanship by playing his guitar behind his head, down on his knees, or behind his back.
“Pony Blues” was composed by Charley Patton and with the help of record store owner H.C. Speir; Patton first recorded his song in 1929 for Paramount Records. The song later served as a Delta staple and was part of every young guitarist’s repertoire.
Robert Palmer considers Charley Patton as one of the most important musicians that America produced in the 20th century, influencing almost every Delta Bluesman that followed him.
Blind Lemon Jefferson one of the earliest, and most prominent, figures in the blues movement developing in Dallas. His first few recordings were gospel and were released under the name “Deacon L.J. Bates”, before finally turning to the blues. He had such recording success that Paramount Records made their own special label for his records called “Blind Lemon Jefferson’s Birthday Records.” His music was often criticized for “breaking time” and not keeping a steady 12- bar count but his playing was always clean and clear. Blind Lemon is also known for having taught T-Bone Walker the blues basics on the guitar, who himself went out to pioneer the electric guitar and become one of Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
After his work with Paramount, he switched record labels and began working with OKeh Records. From there, he recorded ‘Matchbox Blues’ in 1927, a song about a mean spirited woman. It was only one of two Okeh recordings, probably because of his contractual obligations with Paramount. It has better sound quality than his Paramount records.
Blind Lemon Jefferson is considered by many to be the founder of the Texas Blues sound. He was a very influential figure on the musical careers of Lead Belly and Lightinin’ Hopkins, and Doc Watson. B.B. King even maintains Jefferson’s huge influence on his own singing and guitar playing. More modern artists that drew inspiration from Blind Lemon include Bob Dylan, The White Stripes, and the Beatles, who also sang their version of “Match Box Blues”.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame listed “Matchbox Blues” by Blind Lemon Jefferson as one of the 500 songs that shaped Rock and Roll, in addition to being inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.
Click here if you'd like to check out Blind Lemon Jefferson's Matchbox Blues:
He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1986 as a performer, and his song Big Road Blues was inducted in 1987 as a classic blues recording.
If you'd like to hear 'Maggie Campbell Blues for yourself, click here: http://www.nps.gov/history/delta/blues/people/tommy_johnson.htm
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Check out Son House's "My Black Mama" here: http://www.last.fm/music/Son+House/_/My+Black+Mama+Part+1
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Referring to his nickname, “Muddy Water” he says that as a child his grandmother used to tell him not to play in the muddy water and eventually the name stuck. He even refers to himself as ‘Muddy Water’, no ‘S’. It was Leonard Chess who inadvertently added the ‘S’ to his first commercial recording and his new name was thus created. The songs that Muddy recorded for Lomax are extremely important for the history of the blues because they give a great indication as to not only the place to which the blues were heading, but also the continuing power of the older styles, even the proto-blues.
The song “Why Don’t You Live So God Can Use You” was important in reflecting the influences and musical divides that Muddy was not afraid to cross. He had a mix of many different influences and this song in particular is out of the guitar evangelist tradition. The song is almost identical to Blind Benny Paris’ “I’m Gonna Live So God Can Use Me” which is important in highlighting that ideas of ownership or authorship were not very important at the time.
Muddy referred to his own style as country style. He also used a thumb pick, which had not been used before, and became his signature sound.
check out Muddy Water's song here: http://www.emusic.com/album/Muddy-Waters-Muddy-Waters-1941-1946-MP3-Download/11364297.html
Re-released. Muddy Waters Library of Congress Recordings (1941-1942) and Early Commercial Records (1946-1951).Document Records. Jan 1, 1992
Most of Muddy’s songs were about sex and sexual image, and in his personal life he proved to be a very famous womanizer. The song Hoochie Coochie was a sexual dance that was performed by women, while a ‘hoochie coochie man’ either watched them or ran the show.
informational soruces: www.rockhall.com/inductee/muddy-waters
Muddy Waters. Hoochie Coochie Man. Chess Records. Released 1954.
The song “Got my Mojo Working” was popularized by Muddy Waters in 1957 and his rendition featured in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, in addition to being inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2000. On top of those great achievements, the song was included in the list of Songs of the Century by the Recording Industry of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Muddy not only shaped what the blues music was, but he invented the concept of a pop group.The band “The Rolling Stones” got their name from one of Muddy's songs titled, "Rolling Stones".
click here to see Muddy in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhTCYqJsfqs
informational sources: http://www.muddywaters.com/bio.html
Muddy Waters. Got My Mojo Working. Chess Records. 1951
the song made it to #4 in 1951 on the Billboard charts.
Listen to How Many More Years here :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Ou-6A3MKow
Informational Source:Taylor, B. Kimberly. "Howlin' Wolf Biography". www.musicianguide.com. http://www.musicianguide.com/biographies/1608000661/Howlin-Wolf.html
Howlin' Wolf. How many more years. Moanin' At Midnight. Chess Recoreds. Released: August 1951
Jimmy Rogers discovered Little Walter on Maxwell Street in 1947 playing the harp. He immediately brought Little Walter to Muddy Waters, where he played for him and immediately became a member of the band Muddy was forming.
Jacobs is regarded as one of the greatest harp players and was perhaps its greatest innovator in that he was the first player to truly incorporate a cupped mike played through a guitar amp, thereby revolutionizing harp playing. Little Walter utilized amplification to explore radical new timbres and sonic effects previously unheard from a harmonica
The song “Juke” was a massive hit and spent 8 weeks at #1 on the Billboard charts. Juke proved to be the only harmonica instrumental ever to become a #1 hit on R & B charts.
Together, with Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed and Muddy Waters they formed a band which became known as Head Hunters. The name formed because they had a reputation as being the best players in Chicago. They made a habit out of walking into performances unannounced and talking over and playing with the featured bands, a practice that became known as “cutting heads”.
His work earned him a spot in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, specifically for his work as a harmonica player.Check out "Juke" here, http://www.last.fm/music/Little+Walter/_/Juke
Also, here is something really worth checking out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EaqTyDC0TZg&feature=PlayList&p=7E8424FAD3CBCA4F&index=0&playnext=1
its Little Walter's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with a slideshow tribute to his work
informational sources: http://www.rockhall.com/inductee/little-walter
Little Walter. Juke. Chess Record Label. October 1952
Re-released "The Blues World of Little Walter" from Delmark Records in 1993
informational sources: www.robertjohnsonbluesfoundation.org/Bio.html
Robert Johnson. Kind Hearted Blues. Brunswick Records. Recorded on:Nov 23, 1936 in San Antonio, TX
To hear Cross Road Blues for yourself, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yd60nI4sa9A
informational sources: http://www.robertjohnsonbluesfoundation.org/Bio.html
Robert Johnson. Cross Road Blues. Brunswick Records. Recorded on Nov 23, 1936.
Johnson’s major influence has been on rock. Although he was not very well known in African American's music community at the time, he was admired by a small, but influential, group of white record collectors involved in the New Orleans Jazz Revival.
Click here if you'd like to listen to Terraplane Blues: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0033iRJLuB8
Robert Johnson. Terraplane Blues. Brunswick Records. Nov 23, 1936.
He has proved to be very influential, specifically to The Rolling Stones, who also recorded a “Bright Lights, Big City”, among many other of Reed’s songs. Additionally, “Big Boss Man” proved to be a major hit when Elvis Presley recorded it again in 1967. Both records were voted into the list of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
To hear "Bright Lights Big City" by Jimmy Reed click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeaX-Jh_47g
Also, if you're interested in listening to The Rolling Stones rendition of the song here it is:
Jimmy Reed. Bright Lights, Big City. Jimmy Reed at Carnegie Hall Album. Track 1. Vee-Jay Records. 1961
Check out Freddie King in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbqtnNorgQA
Freddie King. Hide Away. The Federal Record Label.August 26, 1960
re-make of Hide Away on Freddie King Is A Blues Master Album(Cotillion SD 9004, produced by King Curtis). 1969.
Albert King. Dont throw your love one me so strong. Album: Wednesday Night In San Francisco. Bobbin Record Label. 1961.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Three O’clock Blues was a national hit in 1951 and reached #1 on the R & B charts in 1952 and stayed there for 15 weeks. The song was a return to the more much basic blues form. Although most people still think of King primarily as a blues guitarist, it’s his vocal mastery and rapport with an audience that are some of his greatest talents
B.B. King. Three O'Clock Blues. King of the Blues. RPM Records. 1951