Reviving and Highlighting Why Blues is Fundamental to Modern Music
The Blues is a music tradition that pre-dates the 20th century and defines the condition of the Black community in bondage. It has expressed the African American condition living in America and celebrated some the local music traditions, from Chicago to Mississippi.
Here are 10 facts about some of the genius musicians who help create this genre as we hear it today:
Leadbelly is known as one of the most famous Blues artists who ever picked a guitar and moaned a melody. He has collaborated with some of the most renowned folk artist, people like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. What many may not know is that he served two life sentences and both times was pardoned. The Midnight Special was composed in response to his second incarceration.
Son House can be considered one of the greatest mentors in the Blues. It is said that in his tenure he has given guitar lessons to both Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson. Though his career was marked with a drinking problem, he lived longer than most music artist of any genre, born around 1902 and dying in 1988. He had lived 86 years singing and promoting the Blues.
Chess Records, famously, has been one of the biggest recording companies for Blues and R&B music, promoting Black culture through its recordings. It has become a legendary company by developing artists like Muddy Waters and Etta James. What many people don’t know is that the record company was started by two white immigrant brothers from Poland.
Bessie Smith, the Empress of the Blues, was the most successful and well-paid black artist before the Great Depression. Her name had become obscured by the middle of the 20th century, but many famous artist in the sixties still remember her. Janis Joplin notably helped pay for the final tombstone upon her grave.
Big Mama Thornton was one of the few and greatest women Blues artists. She also was well-known for writing Presley’s most celebrated song. Big Mama wrote Hound Dog from a woman’s perspective before being adopted for the classic Presley Canon.
Howlin’ Wolf is one of the most famous voices in Blues. He was also was in the army during World War II as part of the 9th Calvary Unit—one of the famous Buffalo Soldier regiments. When the unit dissolved, Howlin’ Wolf could claim to be not only one of the last Buffalo Soldiers, but also one of the last Calvary soldiers to ride a horse.
Little Walter, an iconic Blues player of the fifties and sixties, is known as the greatest harmonica player in the Blues. His beginnings are more humble. He started his career as a member of Muddy Waters Band. Eventually, he would go out on his own a define and celebrate the harp in Blues music.
Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup became known as “the Father Of Rock And Roll” in part by Elvis Presley’s covers of the song, which includes That’s Alright Mamma. He is truly one the fundamental artists in both the Blues and Rock and Roll. Unfortunately, he was never fairly paid royalties for his songs covered by Presley. He eventually had to work both as a laborer and bus driver to support his family.
Muddy Waters, a legendary Chicago Blues artist and one of Chess Records first stars, was instrumental for defining the Chicago Blues sound and Blues Rock. His song Rollin’ Stone is one of the first tracks recorded by Chess Records. It is also the song that inspire the Rolling Stones and Rolling Stone magazine to adapt as their names.
Robert Johnson is the Shakespeare of the Blues. He has been covered by innumberable Blues artitst throughout the years, along with my other musicians from other genres. His legacy is based off 27 songs who wrote between 1937 and 1936. He died mysteriously from poisoning, which took three days to kill him.
We have compiled playlist of popular songs from Blues artists listed in our top ten via Spotify. Click Here to listen.