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The Songs & the Artists
What was that song? Check out the music from the films in The Blues Series Discography.

Who was that artist? Learn more about the musicians featured in the film series in the Musician Biographies.

The passionate and uniquely American art form known as the blues was born in the steamy fields, dusty street corners and ramshackle juke joints of the Deep South in the late 1800s. An evolution of West African music brought to the United States by slaves, the blues emerged as southern blacks expressed the hardships, heartbreak, religion, passion and politics of their experiences through a blend of work songs, field hollers and spirituals.

Learn more about the origins of the blues in the essay "What is the Blues?"

Many early blues songs were never written down, much less recorded, but were passed from one musician to another and played on whatever instruments were available including clapped percussions, a variety of stringed instruments, harmonicas, horns and more. By the time the blues were first recorded in the early 1920s guitars and pianos were the most frequent instruments of choice by blues artists, but the basic 12 bar style and three-chord progressions have remained essentially the same and continue to define the blues to this day.

Learn more about the musical components of the blues in the essay "Understanding the 12-Bar Blues."

As the blues migrated from the south, through the United States and around the world, countless varieties of styles evolved including: the raw and passionate Delta blues of Robert Johnson and Son House, the brassy New Orleans blues, the relaxed and upbeat Texas blues, the classic blues — a commercially popular, polished style in the 1920s which was performed by women like blues greats Bessie Smith and Mamie Smith, the jug-band and vaudeville-influenced Memphis blues, the amplified and urban Chicago blues of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, the rock-heavy 1960s British Blues of John Mayall, Eric Clapton, and the Rolling Stones, and many more.

For more information on the songs and the artists featured in The Blues film series, continue your musical journey in the Blues Discography and Musician Biographies.

Note: The Blues film series is by no means the definitive presentation of all blues artists and music, but an interpretation of the genre by each of the seven directors.




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