I figured that I would start off with a quote from a song, from the first album I'd ever purchased. I was twelve. I just heard again recently. I was trying to think of a way to start off this article and this song said it all. However, Dan Aykroyd probably was not expecting disco to drop off as fast as it did. But, he does not seem too far off the mark in regard to blues music.
So, what will happen to the blues genre when the heavy hitter B.B. King retires? Or will he? Although there are other blues legends currently touring, Buddy Guy, Pinetop Perkins, Etta James, Honeyboy Edwards, Bo Diddley, and many more: can these artists draw a crowd? Can these artists still keep up with the rigors of life on the road?
What about the younger generation of blues? Did God play a cruel joke on the music industry by taking Stevie Ray Vaughan (May he Rest in Peace) at such an early age? Or did this tragic accident occur to allow the younger, up and coming blues legends-in-the-making recognition? Who knows? Where would SRV be now if there was no accident? Would he still be playing in small clubs or headlining arenas? I don’t think there is a day that goes by that I have not heard one of his tunes played on the air. Did I hear his music daily before? No, I didn’t. But, then again that was years ago.
Everything happens for a reason. I guess we tend to over analyze the hows and the whys of events. God has a plan for everyone, and I have recently been subjected to his sense of humor, too. Like he has a big magnifying glass and I am a wee little ant.
Jimi, Jimi, Jimi. Where would music, the universal language, be today if it weren’t for Hendrix? Just like SRV, where would music be now, if there were no tragedy? Being so ahead of his time, especially in that era. I recall being told that Jimi’s music was ‘Acid Rock’, and a no-no for me to listen to. That was, perhaps, thirty years ago. Today, it is a daily staple that just happens to fall into blues genre on more occasions than not. Was it Jimi’s unorthodox style that got other (potentially) great axe-men to think outside the box? How did he get that tone? After Woodstock (I was only a few months old at the time), did you notice how much music as a whole changed? More and more serious guitar riffs were being performed live, making live shows the “thing to do.”
The up and coming blues greats pay awesome tribute to Jimi by playing a cover or two. Joe Bonamassa has covered a rockin’ medley of “If 6 Were 9/Spanish Castle Magic” and a JB style “Are you Experienced?”. Anthony Gomes usually does not perform covers, but I very recently saw him perform trippy versions of both “Hey Joe” and “Wind Cries Mary” that left me with goose bumps. Albert Cummings usually performs a 20-minute cover of “Voodoo Chile” that will have you running for the lighter fluid! May the sacrifice of your Fender commence!
It appears the younger generation blues artists need to perform what is now called blues-rock to capture the rock/metal audience, wowing the fans with their techniques. Then, they will slip in a song or two that is more of a Delta style blues to grasp the attention of the true blues fan, perhaps even adding a bit of harp. I would gather that this would be a different form of “crossover artist”. As we all know, the term is usually reserved for the pop genre. Then we have a few artists that did cross over. John Mayer and Kenny Wayne Shepherd come to mind. However, did they both take that path or did they happen to be blessed with a bit of good timing? What really got these artists known? Was it crossing over or was it a late night talk show appearance?
Well, it is obvious to me that the performers will not inspire the youths of this nation anytime soon, other than a handful of artists that are determined to draw in the youngsters in this country via their BITS (Blues in the Schools) clinics. My 16-year old gets regular exposure to my music library, mainly because I want her to. She will know that there is more to music than Eminem and 50 Cent, or whatever their names happen to be today.
I am also well aware that I have not written about so many talented artists that perform the blues. Tab Benoit, Shemekia Copeland, or even Jeff Healey, who happened to give blues a bit of a jolt when he was spotlighted in the movie Road House. Nor have I brought up artists from yesteryear, those who paved the way for many who have followed in their footsteps. Artists like John Lee Hooker, Wilson Pickett, Junior Wells, or Howlin’ Wolf gave us plenty of music to inspire the masses. I am aware that I am only skimming the surface and that there is much more to this topic. But there are more questions than answers and I think it's time to hear what other blues fans have to say.