What is the blues?

As I learn guitar, I am becoming more and more of a fan of the blues, especially blues guitar. Yesterday I ran across a snippet by Howlin' Wolf, a blues master of the 1950s-1970s. Here is Howlin' Wolf's response to a foundational question - What is the blues?...

“A lot of people is wonderin’, what is the blues? Well, I’m going to tell you what the blues is. When you aint got no money, you got the blues. When you aint got no money to pay your house rent, you still got the blues. A lot of people holler about ‘I don’t like no blues,’ but when you aint got no money and can’t pay your house rent and can’t buy you no food, you d*** sure got the blues.”

At its best, blues music expresses emotion, and it isn't afraid to go into darker regions of the heart. It is honest. That's one reason to like the blues.


  1. When my wife was struggling with depression, she was listening to a lot of Blues. Apparently it was very cathartic for her.

  2. That is a good point, Kenny. A lot of people would say that if blues is about depressing things, then maybe we shouldn't sing the blues. But when you are struggling, you want to hear the blues just to know that someone else has been in the ditch too. It's like a form of empathy.


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