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Blues Talk 2 - Blues Conditions
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8 posts
Jan 04, 2013
11:04 AM
I just finishes listening to Blues Talk 2 - Blues Conditions.

Of course when anyone listens or reads about the injustice that the afro-american had to endure shame is felt, at least that is how I feel. I feel the same way when studying the history of Native Americans.

It is quite interesting to hear how much blues music was influenced by the condition Love alone and you can certainly hear it throughout the blues.

Concerning slavery and the conditions that surround it a question comes to mind: Was the music (non blues) in Africa also influenced by slavery? Slavery was present between Africans as well. Are these condition not seen and felt where there is human oppression?
44 posts
Jan 04, 2013
4:29 PM
Working with the concepts a bit and wondering:
1)Perhaps "blues conditions" of one type or another (and probably "blues feelings" of one type or another) are actually fairly common in the world. This would help account for the huge receptivity to the music beyond the original culture that it grew within. Of course the specifics of history and culture where blues music was born shaped its specific "expression" as blues music.

2) What were the specific "blues conditions" among whites in the 60s that made them so receptive to the music? Let me speculate (as I was a young person at that time). Some might say that the baby boomers were spoiled and had no darn "blues conditions," but something was bursting through something or the 60s would not have happened. So, I'd say that white middle class conformity was a sort of cultural/psychological confinement. Also, there were certainly in my case many restrictions placed on my behavior just as a matter of still being a kid.

There was also a serious disenchantment/disappointment with the culture when waking from a fairly innocent childhood into a world of racism and war. In my case, I grew up in a neighborhood in Brooklyn that (looking back) was "in transition" to becoming an African American neighborhood. Being a kid (2 years old to 7 years old there), all I knew was that my friends were naturally of all colors -- I think I still carry a deep disappointment -- being thrown from that garden of eden! (The feelings and the conditions don't want to stay separate.)

Last Edited by on Jan 04, 2013 7:30 PM
9 posts
Jan 05, 2013
4:05 AM
Well put Tetonjohn. I grew up in the Civil Rights Era as well. Viewing a guerilla war daily on the television, body counts, the fear of communism being drilled into our heads, the arms race, the bomb and civil unrest all around us created a condition for everyone. I do however think it was in fact the baby boomers who, fed up with the McCarthy Era, censorship and the Red Scare, that were actually awaken by the vivid truths coming from a new form of media - the television and started to act against the system. My father and aunt hated the 50's. They were, I might add, educated young liberal Democrats.

This is however about the Blues and the conditions within Afro-American society in dominant white America. You bring up a very good point concerning it's receptiveness by non Afro-Americans and especially Europeans during the 60's when the so called British Blues Invasion started. I should note that Western Europe was sympathizing with the USA but had a difficult time accepting the civil unrest and racism that was taking place there. I live in Germany and that is the common viewpoint here still to this day. Some of the best footage of 60's Blues comes out of Germany where the audiences were quiet and showed the respect the musicians deserved irregardless its form. Very interesting.

I would like to say that I too was involved in the civil right movement as my father and aunt were very politically involved during the 60's and early 70's and were very good friends of Hubert Humphrey and the widwestern Democrats of that period. I experienced a big awakening when I joined the service. Within that small population I was challenged by almost every form of racism known.

Perhaps I was getting a bit off topic opening this thread the way I did. I think it human nature that when people are oppressed it comes out in written form or in the form of music somehow. It sounds a bit schizophrenic but we were blessed with the Blues. It is now that I am getting my second form of education into them thanks to Adam and this forum.
46 posts
Jan 05, 2013
1:15 PM
Hey Bruce, I appreciate your contributions to the conversation.
You mention that this is about the Blues and the conditions within Afro-American society. Yes, I agree that this is the focus of the talks. I was just using the concepts (in this case mostly "blues conditions") to see how they may or may not shed light on one of Adam's important observations about the shifting racial composition of the blues audience in the 60s.

Regarding my own wondering, I'm not sure (hence wondering) if an expanding blues audience actually needs any "blues conditions" to become enthusiastic about the music. I assume those conditions were crucial to the creation and early evolution of the blues, and I would expect were crucial to the original audience's receptivity.

Like most things, there is probably a range of conditions (not all "blues conditions") among a later audience that leads to enjoyment of the blues. For example,from someone who knows almost nothing of the roots of the music but gets off on the guitar work; to the person who really inhabits a world of "blues conditions" and resonates with the music in a way at least similar to the original creators and audience; to a person who may not live with "blues conditions" but who has a real appreciation for the beauty and roots of the art form, something great arising from severe adversity. Maybe part of what Adam is doing is creating an opportunity for more of the latter type of blues appreciation/resonance (whether or not one lives with blues conditions).

Anyway, I do just offer these as (perhaps too academic!) wonderings stimulated by Talk #2.

Last Edited by on Jan 05, 2013 2:19 PM
The Gloth
697 posts
Jan 07, 2013
4:14 AM
I think you're missing a point here, that is : "Blues conditions" are discussed about the creation, the writing of the songs, and not really about the audience.

It's more the blues conditions as lived by the musicians. There is no need to live in poor conditions and/or under oppression to appreciate blues music.
54 posts
Jan 07, 2013
10:39 AM
Hey there,Gloth. Tryng for a quick brief response:
I agree about the main point (didn't miss it). As part of a discussion forum based on viewing talk2, I have been wondering how the concepts might or might not apply more broadly than the creation of the music.

If you look at my third paragraph above, you will see that 2 of the 3 examples I gave of audience say nothing about living poor or oppressed -- so you and I agree that there is no need for that in order to appreciate the music.

Also regarding audience, I would guess that the "blues conditions" experienced by the original audience contributed to the original popularity of the blues. I do think there is still an open question (which others may not find interesting) about what made/makes the music appealing beyond the original conditions (and perhaps how might blues conditions or an appreciation of blues conditions play into that for some portion of the audience).

I'm straying from brief, but...
I expect that the growing popularity of blues beyond it's original audience in the early 60s (as discussed by Adam) had at least something to do with a growing recognition of and disagreement with some of the blues conditions -- perhaps this was greater among the early 60s folk revival/country blues audience (generally a pro-civil rights group I think). Don't know -- still wondering.

I am sorry if my wondering seems off-topic to folks -- it is hard to know what is off-topic in this context.

Last Edited by on Jan 07, 2013 10:44 AM
18 posts
Jan 07, 2013
11:04 AM
John I don't think you are off topic at all. I think an important part of the "blues condition" is the audience for with the music was intended. If we look back at blues before the 60's in the 30's before the electrification of the blues, we may see a different audience than the audience of the 50's or 60's, many of the popular blues artists of that era were greatly influenced by those earlier acoustic blues song.

But back to the main point I think yes, the intended audience must be involved when looking at the "blues condition" and the origins of the music.
11 posts
Jan 08, 2013
6:56 AM
I will be honest with you all, I cannot begin to imagine how the slave, post slavery and present Afro-American citizen felt feels today. Therefor, it is quite difficult for me to fathom the kind of feelings they had or continue to have that influences the music they make. When I listen to lectures such as this and start reading and educating myself, it allows me to come a little bit closer to what the feeling was and is. I am curious to know how many of the forum members are of African descent and if they would like to make some input into this part of the forum. Perhaps I will write a couple people and see if they would like to partake in our discussions here.
17 posts
Jan 08, 2013
9:58 AM
Bruce, I'm black. As with white America, today’s black music is based on what people watch on T.V., the clique they hang around, how they're raised, and the music they listen to.

Call and response is still popular in gospel and some R&B music. It's also used in some rap songs, if you listen closely.

Blues is losing ground with young black Americans. Most have no interest, preferring instead to listen to rap, R&B and rock. Problem is there's no blues artists they connect with. Stevie Ray Vaughn was the last blues artist who made inroads to black and white America. Today, he's the only blues artist I'll find on my 25 year old daughter's iPod.
12 posts
Jan 08, 2013
11:14 AM
Hello BikerG,

So do you think that after the civil rights movement, that took place during the peace movement, which afterward found us in the sexual and "black is beautiful" revolutions, that the blues conditions within Afro-America was basically dead due to the change of the mainstream American mindset swaying towards the Afro-American and the black American culture to be more accepted within dominant white America?
19 posts
Jan 08, 2013
11:52 AM
Bruce, I'm not sure when blues conditions within Afro-America changed. From what I've read, blues was seen as a source of “racial pride” in the 1920s. Things changed after the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

As a kid, I recall my mother listened to blues. As I grew to a teen, I considered it old man's music and preferred R&R and R&B.

Rap music developed in the mid-1970s. This was after blacks found themselves segregated in ghettos and plagued by gang violence. Today, what's ironic is how rap and blues have much in common. Both are expressive forms of black culture.
8 posts
Jan 08, 2013
4:06 PM
I haven't worked this out to the point that I would take it into a formal debate so I'll put these thoughts out as speculation or ponderments.

After I dropped out of college I worked at a series of menial jobs and then became a roadie for a country rock band. It was my first experience with having a job that was so much fun that no aspect of it was true work. When the band folded two years later I was bereft. The very thought of punching a clock, of having my time dominated by repetitive labor with objects that were utterly without interest to me, of living without the stimulus of new experience, was enough, just imaging the thought in my mind's eye was enough, to make me shriek inside.

Humping 100 lb corrugated cardboard boxes from a pallet to metal shelving and then humping others from the shelves to a pallet and to the loading dock and matching 15 digit numbers on boxes and lists is onerous in itself. Warehouses are hot and sweaty in the summer and cold in the winter. The boxes have road grime and noxious and toxic dust on them which readily transfers to clothing. So readily that work clothes from commercial laundries were necessary. And those marked you as a working stiff, a warm body. Even the retail clerks looked down their noses at the folks who worked with their backs.

Add to that a boss who spoke only in barks and snarls meant to keep you moving and who delighted in sneaking up on workers so he could keep them on their toes. Many petty supervisors feel it necessary to humiliate workers as a matter of course. Just to "show 'em who's boss". Usually workers are left muttering to themselves about such mistreatment. Keeping a smooth face to prevent those thoughts from being displayed was primary requirement for keeping the job. A job that provided enough money for the only cheapest of necessaries. Being single, I bought good quality boots and gloves and bought lunch from the Coca-Cola sign café around the corner. The guys with obligations carried baloney sandwiches from home.

Working conditions like these or frustration at being trapped at the bottom of society are not solely the property of African-Americans. Although I have met many, many people who think that. But there is common ground in that experience. The difference then was that if you were white, you had a shot at getting out. Nobody assumed that you were stupid, irresponsible, or the spawn of the devil (this is not an exaggeration) because you were white.

What is there to say to a person who is insensate to your humanity when they can fire you at will and deprive you of sustenance? That's some Blues.

That would be a great last line. But my most important point is that Blues Conditions still exist. Hundreds of thousands of people (not all black) today live in hovels all over the USA with no more chance of escaping than their parents or grandparents had. But now we have television and the internet. Today, poor people know what they're missing out on and the injustice of it. Their expectations are much higher than their parents' were and they can exercise freedom of speech. The Blues used allusion and double entendre. Hip-Hop and Rap openly express rage. So society changed some and another musical form came into being.

Oh, if you're wondering about the next job I went to, I unloaded/loaded big trucks for cash until I convinced one of the truckers to teach me how to drive.

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