Blues Revivals, Pop Music Influences

by Gene Morgan - Date: 2007-03-28 - Word Count: 803 Share This!

Every few years someone rediscovers the blues. Pop music, that stuff you hear on most commercial radio stations, is a business. The idea is to make lots of money by selling music like it was toothpaste. You find something everybody likes and then have competitive products that are a little different but all basically do the same thing and even though they taste a little different not enough different to bother anyone. That's pop music.

Now and again the public gets pretty tired of the same old stuff and pop music needs a little kick in the pants. Rediscovering some old form of American music most people have forgotten about and bring it out as the next new thing usually does the trick. It could be Country or Jazz or Bluegrass, but quite often it is the Blues.

The difference between pop music and genre music like the Blues is that there is a much smaller audience for the genre music, but that audience is always very loyal, keeping it going while others ignore it. Blues, being the very root of all roots music, is an obvious choice to gain inspiration from when things are getting a little stale and it's always there in the background just waiting to be found.

In the first half of the twentieth century much of the most popular music was Blues based or at least heavily influenced by it. From Big Band Swing to Jazz to even Country music, Blues played an important part in their developments.

There were many so-called "Blues Revivals" in the last half of the twentieth century. The most recent big one was in the mid 1980's when there was a sudden explosion of new Blues societies and festivals all around the United States. When these revivals happen it usually means that the loyal fan base of the music is expanded by the addition of people who come from other genres who grow to see similarities between what they like and the Blues. Often times it is these new folks who determine the direction the music will take in order for it to reach a broader audience.

The most famous example of this was the birth of Rock and Roll. By the mid 1950's Blues music had lost much of its original black audience, which had moved on to R&B and early Soul. What seemed like something new was just a mixing bag of styles taken from Country, Swing, and mostly from Jump Blues and R& B. This is pretty much how all new musical styles come about. When you mix up a bunch of stuff in a pot and cook it awhile, the soup you end up with has tastes from all its ingredients, but there is always one flavor that stands out. Blues is usually that rich flavor.

In the late 1950's and early 1960's another less obvious revival took place with the popularity of Folk Music. This is an often neglected but very important revival because it was a time of rediscovery and reconnection with the old guard Blues musicians. Young Folk performers were the ones who researched the old country Blues and actually sought out and rediscovered many of the old Blues performers. They learned from those originators, wrote about them, got them performing again, and taught others what they had learned through books, tapes, and nowadays videos. They truly "Kept the Blues alive" in every sense of the words.

In the mid 1960's Blues made an even greater impact on Pop Music when both American and British musicians discovered the power of electric Blues through second generation Bluesmen such as Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf. Rock and Roll became just Rock when lead guitar styles based on Blues improvisations came to the forefront. The Blues this time was the grittier sounding Delta style. Rock became harder sounding with Blues as it's base. That has never gone away.

There was another small Blues revival at the end of the 1970's when the Blues Brothers made Blues hip again. That revival created careers for some new young players and brought some of the old Blues guys back out on the road. It was the availability of all these varied acts that made the revival of the mid 1980's possible.

Blues has always been a bit of a secret ingredient in pop music and even pop culture. It's used to revive careers and sell blue jeans. Every once in awhile it gets pretty cool again. Unfortunately, since something being cool is a short-term state of mind, Blues music has again begun to drift into the genre music status with a diminishing audience. Though there are still many Blues Festivals, they tend to lean toward Rock Blues, leaving the true Blues lover longing for another shot of more traditional stuff. Don't worry, Blues never really goes away. It will be back.

Related Tags: festivals, jazz, rock music, country music, revival, pop music, blues music, music lovers, influences

Gene Morgan experienced the Blues revival of the 1980's firsthand as a founding member of The Mississippi Valley Blues Society in 1984. He was the first editor and feature writer for that group's newsletter. Presently he spends his time waiting for the next Traditional Blues revival and maintaining a t-shirt and apparel shop called Captured Image Design at: Many Americana and Blues Music designs can be found there.

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