Today, I’m going to be controversial. I seldom do this on my weblog, because political weblogs abound. Also, politics usually gets people angry and fighting with one another.
The history of the blues is the history of racial intermixing. Throughout my life, I’ve been told that blues is black music. Many times, I’ve been interviewed by kids at college radio stations when I’ve played in their towns, and often the questioning becomes quite hostile, along these lines:
“What do you think you’re doing playing the blues? Aren’t you ripping off blacks?”
Well, no. I grew up a little south of Chicago, and my musical career started there. If you are from Chicago, white or black, you play the blues. I didn’t decide to play the blues. The blues was just always there, always part of my life. The great Paul Butterfield was a boyhood friend, and he was Jewish, for God’s sake.
The blues was born in whorehouses, shotgun shacks and dives throughout the South, and eventually found its urban expression in Chicago. One of the reasons that blues has been defined as black music is this: the political left makes its living focusing on racial hatred and violence. Thus, the history of racial intermixing, and interracial sex, is one of the greatest taboos of the left. To be blunt, folks go to the whorehouse for a different kind of meat.
If the blues is black music, then why is Eric Clapton probably the best known electric blues guitarist and vocalist of the past 40 years? Why is Jorma Kaukonen probably the best known acoustic blues guitarist and vocalist of the past 40 years?
“The House of the Rising Sun” is probably the most famous of all blues songs, and the structure of the song is pure Irish lament. For that matter, the I-IV-V chord structure and the melodic patterns of the blues are borrowed directly from Irish folk music. Isn’t it interesting that the Animals, an Irish group, sought to sound as if they were born with a black Chicago dialect when they recorded the song?
Blacks migrated to Chicago from the South on the Illinois Central and on the Mississippi River. Irish migrated from the East Coast to Chicago along the Ohio River. The collision of these two cultures in Illinois gave rise to the modern blues form.
In any event, the notion that blues is entirely black music accounts for the depressed economic state of the blues. Why do liberals enforce this idea of segregation on the blues? The result is that the kids stay away, for two reasons. First, they hate the idea of segregation. Second, the liberal outlook on the blues makes the music seem as if it’s a preachy lesson delivered by a Sunday school teacher. Blues last prospered in the 1960s when musicians deliberate sought to break down the racial barriers.
This is not to deny the great contributions of black blues musicians. Muddy Waters has always been my inspiration, but so has Jorma Kaukonen. (Interestingly, Jorma and Paul were both neighbors in Woodstock at one time. Gabe, Paul’s son, showed up a few years ago wanting to form a band.)
The history of the blues holds some great secrets that leftists don’t want you to know. In Chicago, blues is still thought of as get down music. Integrated audiences dance to the blues. On both coasts, the blues is mainly thought of as a lesson in the Civil Rights movement. Who wants to hear that? And, this is what has been most suppressed by the leftist insistence that blues is black music. Blues tells the story of racial intermingling, the story of blacks, whites and Asians having a good time together and loving one another. As I said, this is the great taboo of the left. Leftists don’t want you to know that the past is a history of anything except racial violence and hatred.