Roots of Blues and Country Music

Both Country music and Blues have their roots in American history and culture, especially that of the rural South.  These two music genres have the longest tradition when compared to more recent genres such as Jazz, Pop, Rock n Roll, and Rap.  Indeed, their roots can be traced back to early European settlers in the United States going back 300 years.  And the musical instruments and European folk tradition that these settlers brought with them have been integrated into the two genres.  And due to the confluence of inputs from different European ethnic groups, including the Scottish, Irish, English, Welsh, German, Italian and Spanish, these two genres have become unique cultural products.  At the time of their development, its practitioners were majorly ethnic minorities of many sorts; and hence the genre became strongly associated with the economically impoverished and politically disenfranchised sections of emerging North American colonies.  At various times in American history, both Country and Blues have been employed to register social and political protest.  Looking back in retrospect, Country music dealt with the social lives of rural poor (of all ethnicities and races) and Blues was usually employed by African Americans as a way of protesting racial inequalities.  Indeed, while Country music can represent all states of emotion, Blues is primarily melancholic in nature.  Both genres present simple background orchestration, with the emphasis on the content of the lyric and the vocal virtuoso of the singer.  While Country is as old as the first European settlers in American soil, it wasn’t until the late 19th century that Blues really took off as an independent genre of its own.  It should also be remembered that the distinctions between derivatives of Country are not so clear cut.  For example, the sub-genres for Country include Bluegrass, Honky Tonk, Jug Band, Nashville Sound, etc.  Similarly, the sub-genres for Blues include Boogie-Woogie, Country Blues, Electric Blues, Delta Blues, etc.  Today, Blues has lost its prominence when compared to newer genres such as Rap, Rock n Roll and Hip Hop.  But Country still retains its relevance and follower-ship, suggesting that its soulfulness is irreplaceable through any advances in technology and style.  Blues today has virtually dissipated itself as a seperate genre.  Probably, the greater freedoms and rights won over by blacks and other coloreds during the 1960s has made the genre irrelevant in contemporary times.  But Country music continues to thrive even today and has retained its patrons and practitioners.

References:

Larry Starr & Christopher Waterman, American Popular Music from Minstrelsy to MP3, Oxford University Press, Third Edition

Davis, Francis. The History of the Blues. New York: Hyperion, 1995.

Richard, Crawford,. America’s musical life a history. New York: Norton, 2001. Print.

The History of Country Music, retrieved from <http://www.roughstock.com/history/> on 13th September, 2010

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