The Blues

On 10 September Martin Johnson wrote: Would you help me and post the following requests: Interested in articles, comments, papers, directions, on various Jungian archetypes revealed through blues lyrics!

On 10 September Martin Johnson wrote:

Would you help me and post the following requests:
Interested in articles, comments, papers, directions, on various Jungian archetypes revealed through blues lyrics! Trying to justify a proposal on this really! Thank you so much. My e-mail address is: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Martin Johnson

On 22 September Dave Cohen of Boulder, Colorado, responded:

I'm Dave Cohen. Don Williams passed your message this on to me since I'm a blues guitar player and interested in Jung.

First off, I would concentrate on the early blues forms, particularly Delta blues and other early local regional forms (Peidmont, Memphis, Arkansas/Texas). Later forms, developed in Chicago, Detroit, et. al. when the blues musicians moved North (e.g. Muddy Waters) are mostly derivative in their music/lyrics of the earlier forms. Any archetypal themes will show up in their most pristine forms in the early part of the tradition.

You can find in-depth discussion by white musicologists of blues lyrics in the following books:
Big Road Blues, Tradition & Creativity in the Folk Blues by David Evans, Da Capo Press 1982 (originally published at UC-Berkeley).
< b>Deep Blues, A Musical and Cultural History of the Mississippi Delta by Robert Palmer, Penguin Books 1981.
The Land Where the Blues Began by Alan Lomax Pantheon Books, 1993
King of the Delta Blues, The Life and Music of Charlie Patton by Stephen Calt and Gayle Wardlow, Rock Chapel Press 1988

Charlie Patton is generally considered the founder of the Delta Blues. Son House, Willie Brown, Rube Lacey, the early Muddy, Robert Johnson, and all the other Delta artists took their cues from him. There are other regional Mississippi forms, too, two of which are exemplified in the music of Tommy Johnson and Skip James.

Now, in my own humble opinion, the blues form is the secular side of the church spirituals tradition which itself grew out of the slavery days and the still oppressive world of the reconstructed south after the Civil War. It is also important to remember that early blues served two separate purposes. There is the obvious cathartic nature of the music, to make suffering more bearable by singing about it. But, blues music was also dance music played at local dives for entertainment. That's why they used those national steel guitars and played them LOUD. You often don't get that sense of it from the extant race record recordings, since these were made in studios away from the natural milieu for the music.

The Christian basis for the blues is found in the telling to redeem victimization & oppression, violence, everyday troubles (girl friend, big boss man, drinking) in an unfair world. As far as archetypal themes go, Evans references a few articles, including:
Carlos C. Drake, "Jungian Psychology and Its Uses in Folklore", Journal of American Folklore, 82 (1969), 122 - 131.
Weston La Barre, "Folklore and Psychology", Journal of American Folklore 61 (1948) 382-390.

I myself always take blues lyrics literally and let the emotions flow, not symbolically. And as I told Don,

Some people say them Green River Blues ain't bad
Some people say them Green River Blues ain't bad
Some people say them Green River Blues ain't bad
Must not've been those Green River Blues they had

Charlie Patton, Green River Blues 1931

Hope I've helped. Good luck.
Dave

PS: After sending the mail, I thought about it a bit, and realized that the secular side is the SHADOW side of the church spiritual side. In fact, a lot of these artists (Rube Lacey, Blind Willie Johnson, Fred McDowell, Robert Wilkins, Skip James come to mind) routinely flipped from one to other in the expected way. Rube Lacey, after making some secular recordings in the 20's, gave up the secular blues and became a preacher. Fred, Skip and Wilkens recorded both types of music. Blind Willie did mostly spirituals, but his "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground", a "secular" tune, will send chills up your spine in it's spirituality. It was a common ground.

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