The Blues: Retrospective value is not enough / are the blues treated fairly?
posted at 12/12/2012 1:08 PM EST
I read what I felt was a bothersome article on Buddy Guy and the blues a few days ago. I'm calling the opinion piece bothersome because it bothered me. Even though I am the least likely person who can speak eloquently (or otherwise) about the blues genre of music, I do have a little more heft in my ability to speak for the value of cultural heritage, and have strong feelings that "you can't know who you really are, unless you know where you're from" (to put it very simply). This lead in to rock and roll is obvious (I hope).
The assertion in the article, "Bluesy time for the blues" : Tribute to Buddy Guy is overdue, but his music belongs on a bigger stage", is that the blues, commercially, for at least half a century, has been a junior partner to rock and soul and other musical genres that grew from it, and which have for a long time, dominated the blues in the music industry, thereby making it impossible for the blues to compete. The assertion goes further in stating that because the blues can't compete in the current music marketplace, it has been relegated to *primarily* retrospective value, and as the source of *other* music.
This translates to the idea that it's "thank you, Blues journeymen" you were a great influence, but not enough recognition crediting the blues as a primary source, not *JUST*, or merely an influence. Referencing the blues as an influence is not giving credit where it is due in this instance. Close, but no cigar (or maybe not even close).
Are the blues an "endangered species" ? Just look at all of the tourist destinations that preserve it under glass or pay tribute to it in documentaries, or consider it a part of our cultural heritage, but not part of the present.
Rock and roll, in all of the various genres and styles, has grown exponentially, we all know that. But why not the blues? The revolutionary blues rockers, at the top of the heap let's go with Led Zeppelin for an example, are said to be peerless to this day, and the root of their music is purely blues-derived. The rockers took from the blues. But blues musicians, in comparison, are few and far between.
Or, in your estimation, are the two fused now? Is that how the blues went forward?
"Artistically, (Buddy) Guy was the maestro, the source; commercially, the rock stars were the important figures and Guy the junior partner."
Is it your perception that it's "enough" for blues-inspired rockers like Clapton, the Rolling Stones, Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Slash, SRV, etc., to carry the torch? The blues has found it difficult to recruit new musicians -- but the listener also has to be open to what updated, fresh blues music might sound like.