Blues is often considered the root from which many other types of music derived their inspiration. Although blues music has no official genesis, many claim to have heard the blues throughout the south in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s throughout the Mississippi Delta. Forms of slave and sharecropper music such as: work songs, field hollers, spirituals, and chants, serve as the roots of blues music in the South. Today, blues is known as an emotion, a music genre, a vocal and instrumental form of music, and a foundational base for other forms of music. The codified musical elements of blues include a 12 bar format, AAB, and I IV V progression. These earliest “blues” contained influences from the Tin Pan Alley writers, many of whom were Jewish, and therefore the earliest blues recordings are yet another mixture of cultures and styles. Blues is mostly known as a musical influence on other styles of music from jazz, to hip hop, and funk to rock and roll. However the blues as musical style in itself had a major socio-cultural impact on American society. Throughout my playlist I attempt to analyze the blues, not solely as a source of inspiration for other forms of music, but creation, success, and continuation of blues as a genre of music of its own.
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)