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Black Contributions to Music: Blues

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In continuing my Black Contributions to Music series, which explores the many ways Black individuals globally have contributed to different genres of music, I wanted to cover one of the most iconic Black-created genres, blues music. 

Blues first originated in the American Deep South. The genre began with influence from African musical traditions, Black work songs, and spirituals. Blues uses a specific scale and chord progressions and is characterized by the call-and-response pattern. Call-and-response in music can be traced back to African music styles, and blues itself is closely related to spirituals, the religious music of Black Americans. Many early blues songs reflected a narrative on some topic and as blues singer Charlotte Forten is famously quoted, “can’t be sung without a full heart and a troubled spirit.” The genre is diverse and dynamic, able to be appreciated and played by all people of any socio-economic status. Blues is especially important within African-American history because it’s associated with the end of slavery in the United States, the genre is thus bred out of a “celebration of freedom.” The dynamic nature of the genre allowed former slaves to chisel out their own corner of American culture while celebrating their African ancestry. 

The blues genre has evolved to encompass more sound influence and has mixed with other genres to create new styles such as electric blues and blues rock. The genre has continued to influence modern music in America and throughout the world. Blues had a significant impact on early country music and country pop, whose genre’s artists often borrowed the blues scale and tones for their work. The format of most blues music including call-and-response and the blues scale is utilized by and influences jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll genres. Many prominent modern musicians like Louis Armstrong and Bob Dylan  have performed in blues style. 

If you want to learn more about the contributions Black musicians have made to music, please check out the tags below for more posts in the series. 

– Miranda

Sources: I, II

By Miranda

I am a senior in Political Science at NC State and lover of R&B, rap, international, and electronic.