"Blues is the roots, everything else is the fruits"

Saturday, November 14, 2009

- Willie Dixon

The contribution of Blues music to the development of many other genres of music is very significant.

From the perspective of musical structure, jazz as we know it would not exist without the Blues. The twelve-bar Blues chorus, with its familiar harmonic structure and narrative form, was the single most popular template for early jazz improvisation, as compact yet profound in its way as the sonnet proved to be in the realm of poetry.

In the 1950's, youthful artists like Elvis Presley and Bill Haley were wrapping the Blues in a new envelope called "Rock'n'Roll" and the players of the electric Blues guitar like B.B. King were heralding the arrival of the lead guitar, soon to be a great attraction for both musicians and audiences. Throughout the evolution of the Blues the electric guitar had always been used for solos in jazz bands but now it competed with the singer for the awareness of the listeners.

After years of imitating their idols something odd happened to the white blues guitar players in Britain and the USA. They developed their own authentic, earliest styles. The elder Blues players even began using the new arrangements of classic songs and adopting some of the unbluesy musical innovations introduced by young white guitarists like Eric Clapton. So the beat goes on. An alien culture influences American popular music and in turn gets fresh input from a new generation of artists from all over the world.

The blues influenced later American and Western popular music, as it became the roots of jazz, bluegrass, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, heavy metal, hip-hop, and other popular music forms.


Tom Colvin November 14, 2009 at 8:02 AM  

Very nice summary. Never heard of that Willie Dixon quote, which says it all so succinctly.

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