Ten things I’ve learned from the blues

  1. The pentatonic scale can fake you through a lot of solos, and make you sound a lot better than you are to the untrained ear.
  2. Every day but Saturday can give you the blues. Saturday gives you the blues by Sunday morning.
  3. A woman can really break a man down. And a ramblin’ man can really give a good woman the blues.
  4. If you love your guitar, you may even run back into a burning building to save it.
  5. Don’t drink from an opened bottle of whiskey. Especially if it comes from the husband of the woman you’ve been sleeping with. It’s one of the dangers of being a back-door man.
  6. If you have the blues, sometimes you need to sing it, wail it, holler it, cry it, hoot it, and even wang-dang-doodle.
  7. Rock comes, largely, from blues. It is the foundation of a huge amount of contemporary music. And really, it’s just 3 chords (I,IV,V).
  8. Some people are excellent technical musicians, but are fairly dispassionate in their playing (studio musicians, for instance…or Britney Spears’ backing band). Some musicians are passionate, but technically sloppy (The Strokes, punk bands). At the apex, we see musicians who show both technical skill and passion consistently (Jeff Beck, Andres Segovia, Stevie Wonder). At the end of the day, though, you really can’t play the blues without passion, no matter how technically gifted you are.
  9. Early jazz and blues used to be called “race” music. Hip hop is often called “urban” music. Music is music, and either you feel it or you don’t. That’s not to say that race issues aren’t intrinsically linked to early, and even contemporary, music (songs like “black and blue” all the way to “fuck the police”)…they often are. But to categorize music as if it is only to be enjoyed, played, shared, or appreciated by one specific group of people is absurd.
  10. The blues doesn’t go away. And it can be with you in the darkest moments. But embracing the blues, and singing the blues…whatever that means to you…is how you release some of that darkness and keep on moving.

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