Webster’s dictionary defines Blues as a style of music that was created by African-Americans in the southern U.S. and that often expresses feelings of sadness. I am a southerner from the great state of Louisiana. I currently reside in the Midwest but the south flows through my soul. My parents are from the state of Mississippi and all of my relatives are breed from southern stock. It is just different there. The hospitality is legendary and the food makes a person’s mouth sing. All of these ideas are what the southern United States means to me. However, the most intricate part of me is my love for the Blues. I imagine a Black sharecropper in the hot bowels of Mississippi sitting on the porch of his shack strumming a guitar and singing his pain to the world. I hear his voice lifting to the heavens as he cries out his despair over toiling in the red dirt. He imagines shaking the dirt of the Magnolia state from his beaten up shoes and going to Memphis, St. Louis, or Chicago to make his fortune singing his lamentations to the world. He moans thru Blues rifts about how his love left him broken and down trodden. I see Blues clubs filled with patrons sitting at low tables while nursing a whiskey and bobbing their heads in agreement as the music of the South flows over them like a river of soul.
I was raised on a steady diet of Blues greats while growing up in the Crescent City. My late mother spoon fed me B.B. King, Little Milton, Bobby Blue Bland, ZZ. Hill and others that are too numerous to name. I understand the genre is associated with sadness and loss but in my home it seemed the music made my late mother happy. She had a huge stereo with an 8 track player and a DJ worthy turntable. The tower speakers looked like mythical shaking giants as they throbbed with the throaty wails of the men she loved. The walls would be shaking and rocking sometimes until the late night hours. During the holidays she would cook great pots of gumbo, huge pans of steaming stuffed peppers, and numerous cakes and pies. Christmas was laced with Blues songs with titles like “Back Door Santa” and “Santa Claus Needs Some Lovin”. She would stay up all night clanging pots and pans and singing her favorite blues songs. My mother may have been sad for any number of reasons, but when she would turn on her stereo it seemed whatever pain was in her soul seemed to drift away and become a huge smile. I believe the pain these men spoke of gave her hope in her times of sadness. In reality Blues and Gospel came from the slave fields of the south. These songs were sung as a way of escaping the harsh reality of the whip, so it makes sense hope can be found in these songs that speak of sadness.
I listen to these songs as a way to remember the hours my mother and I shared talking late at night about whatever was on her mind. I turn on my music and remember those days in the Deep South. It helps me paint a picture of my mother still sitting in her beloved kitchen cooking meals that attracted friends and family from miles around. The music helps me to cope with the loss. I know anyone that has lost a parent usually has something special to remember them by, so I know they will understand implicitly where I am coming from. I hope you enjoyed reading this and that it conjures up good memories of your childhood.