Monday, August 14, 2006

Misuse of the Blues

Lord knows the blues have seen better times.

These days its easy to forget that the blues used to be deeply felt, marginal, electrifying and subversive all at once. If you hadn't noticed it was the rock on which rock was based, you've been under one for half a century.

Now we can turn on the television and see blues as a mainstream cure-all for boredom; a three-chord quick-fix for what ails-ya. In car commercials it screams that the little four cylinder econobox got game, yo. In floor cleaner commercials it shouts that the new age mom ain't gonna take that dirt no mo'. And if you're interested in a bank that's based on eight bar progressions, and that sounds like Robert Johnson is making loans in the back, you can take your pick.

I don't know what to say about fixing it. But I do think we ought to start penalizing ads for misuse of blues. If there's a guy staring out of a cubicle and suddenly its as if Muddy Waters is whanging away in the hallway, that's a fine. If the  NowhereMobile goes by and you hear Screamin' Jay Hawkins and you feel like Satan is waiting at the crossroads, that's a bigger fine. You see where I'm headed.

I sure hope Muddy and Screamin' Jay (or their estates) are getting paid for the music. I have no problem with that.

But its just sad to see the music that changed America become such a ready shill for the mundane. It makes me blue.

--Renaissance, August 15 2006

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