The blues are in trouble. Again. Let’s face it, the blues has been in trouble since its rebellious, ungrateful children – namely, jazz and rock – grew up, left home, did drugs, and became famous.
Especially the younger child, which took over the radios and magazines and record stores. (Record stores, kids, were places where you could go to buy round vinyl discs with music, uh, encoded on it. You would give the store money for this music, and eventually, the musicians would get a few pennies of your purchase so they could, uh, program more playlists later.)
So let’s all agree that the blues are indeed in trouble. Now, take any other genre of music, and insert it into that sentence where “the blues” is. Go ahead, try it.
“Classical music is in trouble.”
“Jazz is in trouble.”
“Polka is in trouble.”
Even “rock music is in trouble.”
Every single one of those sentences is true, though with the proliferation of indie rock bands you might actually have a serious Smackdown on your hands. But in industry terms, rock was supplanted by hip-hop well over a decade ago.
Music is always in trouble, when people don’t care enough about it. But as long as there are people who are passionate for Mozart, and Miles, and polkas, those forms will survive. It’s a big world out there, and if you want to hear the evidence of the blues evolving and surviving in the new century, look abroad. The late Malian guitarist Ali Farka Toure opened Western eyes to the real homeland of the blues – West Africa. And bands like Tinariwen, the nomadic guitarists of northern Mali, have become a world music sensation, playing a rockin’, electric, yet completely timeless form of the blues.
What do you think of the future of the blues – bright, or just blue? Leave a comment.