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I Have the Blues

By Christina Stein
Opinion | February 21, 2010

GREAT BEND, Kan. - I love having the blues, blues records that is. Growing up, especially in my high school years I knew I was uncool. My CD case never had Brittany Spears or N*SYNC in it. I tried to like that music, I just never "got it."

I always felt the lyrics were missing something, they were devoid of feeling. The kids singing were too young to understand pain and failure.

Blues music, now that is something I understand. The lyrics are full of pain, torment, passionate love, and a hope for change. The singer sings from the heart, you can feel the song through your entire body, from the tapping of your toes to the nodding of your head. It seems real. I have listened to Sam Cooke's, "A Change is Gonna Come", a million times. I can still feel his emotion in the song; the turmoil of that time period. The fight for civil rights, and breaking from oppression, the passion and devastation he felt. He gets it across.

Louis Armstrong would have never joined a band with four other men, choreographing dance moves. His songs could stand up on their own. He never needed smoke and mirrors or fake body parts to entice people to listen.

Blues, classic country, jazz music is an art. Time is put into each song to get the feeling across with trumpets, saxophones and guitars. Real instruments are used, not computer synthesized productions of today.

Many older songs instill historical elements into them. Woody Guthrie often sang of the dust bowl blues, Willie Nelson sang about Pancho Villa. I understand better what those times were like hearing the admiration, love, and pain in their voices. A history text book could never elicit that emotion, and understanding of the time to its audience. We are loosing that in pop music, the human element, the connection with history and our world.

In my younger years I wrapped myself up in old music. Lena Horne, Billie Holiday, Patsy Cline, Hank Williams Senior. I always wished to travel back to the time period when "real" music was hopping. As I have gotten older I have realized great music is still pumping through our country, we just have to search for it.

My first trip to Kansas City, I insisted on visiting 18th and Vine. I am so glad I did. I saw several fantastic performances. It was at this point I realized my generation has it better than any other. Even if pop music is the most mainstream music, we have so many genres to choose from, blues, country, rock and folk. We have the best of the last one hundred years at our fingertips. I can play a vinyl record from Don McLean, and then turn on my computer to listen to Langhorne Slim. There are so many great artists today the musical possibilities are endless. We won't hear them on the radio, but that's okay, less people fill these artists' concert seats.

New Orleans and Kansas City are two of my favorite places to visit. New Orleans has jazz pouring through the streets. The artists are amazing. They play new jazz tunes, and some of their own jazz/blues creations. My last trip to New Orleans I listened to one of the best bands I have ever heard. They sold vinyl records, I was in heaven. I believe everything sounds better on vinyl.

There is always something significant about connecting with someone who listens to the same music. When you meet it is almost as if you understand each other. I have honestly never met a Dylan fan I didn't like. You can tell a lot about a person from the type of music they listen to.

Like anything society changes and bends. Pop music is around today, but the scene is changing. Artists like Keb Mo, The Black Keys, Terra Naomi, Ani Difranco, and Jack Johnson have broken out. Their concerts are filled. Even Bonnie Raitt, one of my favorite blues singers, sang at the music festival Bonnarro, which is geared toward the youth. Although I am glad to share these great artists with others, it is sad to see them become well known. They were a secret little gem in my computer memory, and I felt as if no one else in the world had ever heard their songs but me.

There will always be good music flowing through America. Unfortunately there will always be pointless dribble. Music the "artist" throws together for some fast cash. I feel lucky to live in a time when I have a hundred years of great music to choose from, and a hundred different ways to listen to it!


3 Comments

We have this in common Christina! The blues are sustenance for me - food and oxygen. Always make me smile and move. Always! Everything from Taj Mahal to Sonny to Louie. Keb and Kermit and Van too! We'll have to make CDs and swap them.


Christina... you have restored my faith in the youth of America. Your love of the blues reveals that you are, indeed, a Kansas girl with soul! I, too, love the blues. In fact, I used to insinuate myself and my saxophone onto the stage of the Smartts' Palace, a virtually all-black night club located at 9th & Washington St. here in Wichita. The Smartt Brothers' band played at their family-owned club and each person in the band thought that somebody else invited the white kid to sit in. John Smartt and the rest of the guys were so polite, I was never asked to leave. They never could figure out quite why I was there, but eventually, John Smartt started to let me take a crack at a riff or two. Man! I DO love playing the blues. It not only cleanses the soul to listen to good blues; but, playing it for me is better than any other type of therapy.

I play at a "supper club" relatively regularly and, though I love "Girl From Ipanema," "Moon over Vermont," and other classics like them, my favorite type of music to listen to and to play will always be the blues.

God Bless The Child Who Has His (or Her) Own ...love of the blues! Though I'm as old as the hills and twice as crusty, I can tell you this: whatever young man is fortunate enough to be - - or to become - - your soul mate, will be, indeed, one lucky guy. Blues loving Kansas women are as deep as the ocean. There's not one "puddle-deep, socially limited clone" to be found among the lot of you blues-lovin' Kansas women. Long live the blues. And, thanks to young people like yourself, the blues will never die.


Pam that sounds great! I am always looking to share and find new, or new to me, music.

C. Williams- It is always great to find another that enjoys the blues, but it is even better to find someone that can play it! I can play a few on the piano. I played for a few years, but it has been a long while! I miss playing often!


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