Friday, September 16, 2011

Why are the Blues white?

There is a blues event this Saturday at the local junior college that I won't be able to attend because I'll be at work. But husband and I did go to a festival last weekend and had an excellent time, hearing 2 local blues bands jamming. Looking around it was the same crowd that always seems to be at blues venues: older white people, some younger white people, and just a smattering of people with black or brown skins. The sole exception is Asian people, especially if they are only here visiting the U.S. They never seem to be able to get enough of the great American music style known as the blues.

Why have the blues fallen on hard times? My father crossed the pond from Scotland to move here to the Chicago area in the 40s, to be able to hear his favorite musicians play live music. He told me he used to sit in the many bars on the south side and be the only white boy in the place, but the musicians appreciated that he sat quietly and just soaked up their music. Back then all blues musicians were black...the race that had invented the music was the only one to play it, and their listeners were usually black as well. The Harlem Renaissance was the era of jazz and blues fusion, and white composers like Gershwin incorporated the blues into their music, but were looked down upon by both white people who didn't listen to "that kind of music", and black people who questioned whether a "white boy could do the blues". As if feeling the pain of living is limited by the color of your skin!

During the 70s, many white rock bands recorded blues songs, making them palatable to their white fans, many of whom then sought out the originals of songs covered by bands like the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, etc. Jimi Hendrix made screaming electric guitars his trademark, and pointed the way for many axe-men of today, like Kenny Wayne Shepard...young musicians who are usually white. As the older players die off, Buddy Guy keeps on making excellent music and touring, but even he admits that blues clubs all over the country are hurting from a lack of business. Most blues bands have to tour Europe or Japan in order to make any real money.

Why is this? Personally when Buddy or Kenny gets to shredding a guitar, I'm in nirvana! How about you?
Oh, and I have a new book to talk about!
If you read my spy novel Secret Love, you will be interested in the sequel, Undercover Lovers. In this book, Ameena is haunted by memories of the torture she endured years ago at the hands of a serial killer that she helped to put behind bars forever. Or so she was led to believe. Now he has escaped, and her former life as a spy invades her current life as a choreographer for music videos when her ex-handler introduces her to the two men who will split the duty of guarding her 24/7 until the Executioner makes his move. Now her life has more excitement than she can handle, as two hot spies take turns guarding and pursuing her body! Which one will she choose? And will she live long enough to make a choice?
Sheena and Cory from Secret Love make an appearance, as does the handler, Malcolm. And for this book I wrote my first-ever menage scene, which was hard to do while staying true to the character of the hero.

Buy link:


Tina Donahue said...

Congrats on your new release, Fiona - sounds great.

I love the blues. Love Gershwin too.

Adele Dubois said...

As our country becomes more diverse our once separate cultures also meld. Trends come and go.

Best of luck with your new release!


Fiona McGier said...

Thanks for the good will. I've often told my kids that any assisted living place they put me into better play rock and blues music...if they put me into a place that plays disco I'll run away! (or shuffle, as the case may be!) I think it will be funny when today's kids are the old folks...what will be played in their assisted living homes? Rap? Eminem? Vulgar swearing and sexual references?

But then it is the nature of humans for youngsters to prefer that which their parents find unpleasant. Life goes on.

I'm really wondering when the blues stopped being black people music, and became white people music? Was it that once white people embraced it, black folks had to invent a new kind of music that was "just for them", and now that white kids like rap, they are busy thinking up something new again? There was a scene on the TV show, "In Living Color" years ago, that showed black folks in a board room choosing the next "popular word and phrases", now that white kids were using the previous choices. It was a hilarious skit (the Wayan family can be really funny sometimes!), but also had a lot of truth in it!

Brenda Hyde said...

I love the blues too. I wonder if it's just the area you were in. I known in Detroit, Memphis and bigger cities like that it's more a mix of people.

You know though with Adele so popular and Amy Whinehouse before she died a lot of people are getting into blues that didn't before.

Fiona McGier said...

Hi Brenda...I live in a suburb of Chicago! We go to the Chicago Blues-fest every summer, yet even there, the fans are mostly white. One of my favorite new blues singers is Joss Stone. And I'm happy that Rhythm and Blues seems to be making a comeback of sorts. But our local suburban blues club closed down, though it was a labor of love for the owner.