I'd like to welcome Alliance members to the August book club discussion of Deep Blues. As a general structure I'll suggest we focus on Chapters 1 (Introduction) and 2 (The Genesis of the Blues) during this week, Chapters 3 and 4 during the 2nd week, Chapter 5 during the 3rd week, Chapter 6 during the 4th week, and Chapters 7 & 8 during the last week of the month. Naturally, this will be a loose guideline and everyone is free to ask questions and offer reflections that don't necessarily fit into the chapter structure outlined above.
The primary focus of the book is the interaction between psyche and the music of the blues. The music itself is about hearing and resonating with the pain, suffering, joy, or sadness in the voice of the blues singer. The understanding of the blues comes through the direct experience of the music rather than through the intellect.
The word “blues” is derived from the term “blue devils” which referred to contrary spirits that hung around and created sadness. I believe it is the capacity of the blues to speak at an archetypal level about universally felt experiences that give power to the blues for both the performer and the audience.
Understanding the blues is similar to a perspective about images offered by Carl Jung - "Image and meaning are identical . . . the pattern needs no interpretation: it portrays its own meaning." In light of this, my aim is to let the musicians speak for themselves as much as possible. To facilitate our experience and discussion I plan to include links to audiovisual excerpts of blues performances to highlight the material being discussed.
To kick off our discussion I'll offer a video, recorded in 1966, of Chicago blues great Howlin Wolf (aka Chester Burnett) who offers his definition of the blues followed by a performance of How Many More Years. Howlin Wolf was a large, intimidating character who stood 6'6" tall, weighed nearly 300 pounds, with a deep growling voice.
After viewing the Howlin Wolf video, I'd suggest we begin with our reactions to the Wolf's comments and offer some of our own personal experiences with blues music.
I appreciate your participation in this discussion group and look forward to hearing your comments about blues music and the book Deep Blues during the coming month.