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The Blues: The Revolution of Music 
by Jennifer Nicole August 15, 2005

Jazz or Blues: Which Came First?

It's tough to say whether jazz influenced the blues or if it's the other way around, but what is undeniable is the influence that blues has had over almost all the modern styles of music we hear today. Lonnie Brooks says, "Rock 'n' Roll is nothing but the blues speeded up." Gospel gave a lot of it's vocalizing techniques to the blues and visa versa. Boogie Woogie is otherwise known as Rhythm & Blues and it's basically just jump blues with big voiced vocalists influenced by gospel singers. Even country music has its roots in blues with its traditional blues lyrics and musical structures. Both genres are very emotional and very honest displays of art. Cub Koda notes, "As country music gains a larger mainstream audience and the median age of country music buyers drops, modern country is beginning to sound more like rock 'n' roll, which makes its connection to the blues even stronger".

Bessie Smith

There are two controversial blues artists who, in my opinion, really defined what this music was all about. Bessie Smith was dubbed "The Empress of the Blues" and expressed her great vocal talent during the classic female blues period in the 1920's and 1930's. Her depth of emotion and sense of rhythm became the standard by which many female blues and jazz singers were measured. During her era, Bessie sold more records and made more money then any other blues artists, male or female. Her influences can be heard in the singing of Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin and Me'Shell Ndege'Ocello. Bessie Smith was considered a cultural hero because of her no-nonsense assertiveness and very liberated lifestyle that seemed highly taboo at the time. She was an emancipated woman who had little patience for anyone who tried to exploit her. There's a famous story involving white robed Ku Klux Klan members who were trying to destroy the tent that she was performing in. She sent some of the prop boys out to discourage them, but they were intimated by the Klansman. Bessie ran within ten feet of the them, put one hand on her hip and made a fist out of the other and screamed (along with obscenities), "I"ll get the whole damn tent out of here if I have to. You just pick up them sheets and run!" Some more abuse finally drove them away, at which time she went back to the prop boys and said, "And as for you, you ain't nothin' but a bunch of sissies." It was this spitfire drive, determination and courage that influenced so many female musicians after her. Janis Joplin was so revered by Bessie Smith that she was the one who finally paid for a gravestone that marks her burial spot.

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