The blues, says author Peter Guralnick, is "the straight talk of all music."
Amen to that. So in the spirit of straight talk, let's imagine that the music genre could write its own blues song, circa 2003. With apologies to Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, and everyone who loves the blues, the lyrics might go something like this:
Well, I woke up this morning, been worryin' my brain,
Lord, I see so many people who don't even know my name.
They buy country, rock, and hip-hop, you know it's such a shame,
To leave me back in hist'ry and run off with Shania Twain!
'Cause I'm lonely, people, lemme give you the news;
I got the done-been-forgotten, way-back-in-the-Delta blues.
The blues was, is, and probably always will be at least one bold color on America's musical palette. But it's hard to argue that blues music, however defined, dominates the soundtrack of America these days. Given a big slug of truth serum, we might admit that our national hard drive doesn't hold many bytes about the blues. Let's see, there's, uh, B.B. King, who does all those commercials and has that place in Times Square, and, uh well, there really hasn't been anyone since Stevie Ray Vaughan died, has there?
But the blues are about the indomitable human spirit, about getting knocked down and coming back, so brace yourself. This fall, an unusual coalition of blues-loving Hollywood directors, musicians, cultural preservationists, authors, academics, and even members of Congress will mount a well-publicized effort to reintroduce the blues to America. They'll remind the legions of Smashmouth supporters, Britney backers, Metallica mavens, and 50 Cent fanatics that the blues lives and breathes, laughs and moans. And matters.