John Lennon once called the blues “a chair,” since all popular music sits upon it: jazz, rock and roll, funk, all the way to rap. And much of the lingo that the early blues musicians created to describe their music — as well as their instruments — derive from words dating back to the 19th century and even earlier.
Knowing a little bit about this language and its history, it seemed obvious that really uncovering these terms and their derivations requires a fair amount of musicology and research. Which is why I was intrigued when a book titled The Language of the Blues was sent to me in galley form late last year. Released in January, with a foreword by New Orleans’ legendary Dr. John, Debra DeSalvo’s new book is a glossary of blues terms and their background, ranging from “alcorub” to “zuzu.”
She discusses how she came to write it, and the role that Dr. John played in shaping the book, in our podcast today. You can click here to listen to it, or visit our Apple iTunes site. (In either case, no iPod necessary to listen to it; virtually any PC’s media player will play this MP3 file.)
Debra is a journalist who’s written for publications ranging from the Village Voice to Yoga Journal to a variety of music magazines. She’s also a musician herself, and it’s her music you hear at beginning and end of today’s podcast. You can hear MP3s of several of her songs — as well as find out more details about her new book, by visiting her website.