Thinking about the Blues (Theme of Struggle and Toil)
"I've been in the Storm" sang by the Fisk Jubilee Singers
"Backwater Blues" by Bessie Smith
“Ain’t nothin goin on but the Rent” by Gwen Guthrie.
“Thank You” by Dido
The song, "I've been in the Storm" sang by the Fisk Jubilee Singers, bases its content by recounting on the hardships, challenges and hopes of the American people. It highlights on the daily encounters of American citizens like not having enough money, relationship problems because of work patterns, and the solace that many seek from their troubles in work (Carroll, 2005). There is also a background of cultural identity and respectability struggles in the song. The language used in the song talks about the hopes and aspirations of different people, a factor of performance that distinguishes it from spirituals. The legacy of struggle as an important aspect of achievement is therefore given a strong emphasis in the song to mainly pass the message that, storms in life serve to only make people stronger and better equipped.
When listening to a song like "Backwater Blues" by Bessie Smith, there is a typical theme of sadness that the lyrics portray throughout the song. This mimicry of sadness is because of toil and struggle endured by many in America. “Backwater Blues” is sung colloquially in dialect to draw attention to the theme of struggle. This is in contrast to spirituals. Although the song is inspirational, it is more of an earthward musical form in focus (Garret, 2008). The music is very personal focusing on the human expression of coping with circumstances that are difficult amid second-class citizenship.
The theme of struggle goes on even to the boundaries of love and relationships in the song “Ain’t Nothin goin on but the Rent” by Gwen Guthrie. Although ladies in America are becoming independent and capable of taking care of their own financial needs, they still expect the same from men. The line ‘no romance with some finance’ is concurrent and echoed throughout the song to create an emphasis that bills, rent, loans, credit cards, insurance and all the monetary living expenses are all significant factors to consider when choosing love. This illuminates on the struggles most Americans have to endure to make sure their life is all rounded, financially, socially and even spiritually. Hard work, persistence, responsibility, commitment and dedication are hence the crucibles and backbones of most American as they endure in the fast paced life full of so much competition (Amiri, 1999).
Dido’s song, “Thank You” is another song depicting the encounters of most Americans in their daily lives. Dido in the song has been having a terrible couple of days, she gets late for work after missing the bus from too much drinking probably from all her depression. She has so many bills pending and what makes her situation worse is that she is given an eviction notice for her house in the downtown is due to be demolished to allow for modern construction of office buildings like the ones neighboring. In all the blues she dearly thanks and prides in her unmentioned friend who cushions all her troubles. The challenges a typical working citizen as evidenced are also portrayed in the song (Garrett, 2008)
Eli Yamin of the Blues Band acknowledges the significance of blues in our lives from his experiences of the tragedies and struggles of the world. He reports that blues help people to work together, understand and support each other in hard times. Blues were created during the darkest hour of human turmoil and should be embraced for it soothes the soul and brings to realization the unity of humanity (Robert & John, 1970).
Amiri, B. (1999). Blues People: The Negro Experience in White America and the Music That
Developed From It. New Jersey: HarperCollins Publishers.
Carroll, J. (2005). When your way gets dark:A rhetoric of the blues. West Lafayette, Ind: Parlor
Francis, D. (1995). The History of Blues: The Roots, the Music, the People. Cambridge MA: De
Garrett, C. H. (2008). Struggling to define a nation: American music and the twentieth century.
Berkeley: University of California Press.
Robert, M. W & John, G. (1970). Recording the Blues. London: Studio Vista.