THE BLUES: A BRILLIANT MISTAKE?

No one really knows who “invented the Blues”. Although W.C. Handy is often credited as the “Father of the Blues”, he did write Blues songs and was the first musician/arranger to lay that strange new form of music out on a sheet music but the form existed long before him. What is certain is that the Blues came from American slaves who chanted African chants during their harrowing journey from Africa on slave ships while they rowed to the rhythm of a wood stick being banged on the ship’s floor. This gave rise to an early form of blues called “Shouting music” and/or “Spirituals” that were perpetuated in cotton fields where the slaves were sent to work upon their arrival. After that, one can only infer that one slave probably learned to play rudimentary guitar and laid three guitar chords over a twelve bar  form to keep chanting/shouting. By the accepted musical standards of the day, the Blues was a double mistake because although the three chords are the first, fourth and fifth chords of the scale (said chords being the cornerstones of any piece of music), the bluesman usually played these chords not as straight major chords but as three 7th major chords, something Mozart would probably never have done (though he most certainly would have loved it!). It was a brilliant mistake because it is precisely the use of these three 7th chords that makes a song blues or “bluesy”.  Equally strange was the twelve bar form since “normal” songs were and still are laid out over sixteen bars and yet, the twelve bar form brings a natural flow to the marvelous turnaround/resolution that brings you back to the first chord.  Another brilliant mistake…

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