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About blues

Quite recently, by some influence of my friends, I’ve been introduced to the world of blues. We’ve been playing some too, even though some say you can’t play blues unless you’re black, fat, old and blind. This can’t be true because e.g. B.B. King, although black and fat and old, is not blind. And Johnny Lee Hooker was not fat nor blind. We are, however, non of those things. We are white, slim (well…), young (about 30 and less…) and we still see fine (I have glasses, though).

I have a funny story about B.B. King. A former colleague of mine, a physicist (I’m saying former, because I’m not working in that field anymore), was waiting for a visiting researcher with a friend of his, who is also a physicist, on Helsinki’s airport. A fat black man walked by and caught my colleague’s eye. He told his friend “hey, that man looked a lot like B.B. King”. Taking into consideration that it’s a bit odd to see B.B. King walking by in Finland, you may think that this is another white guy who thinks every fat black man is B.B. King. BUT a short while later, more fat black men walked by and they had a text “B.B. King” on their arms. So he WAS B.B. King.

Blues is flexible. Some are purists and just stick to the tradition (worst case of this when some bands just play the scale over and over again, basically creating songs which all sound similar). Some may be very good at it, but this doesn’t interest me, because of the lack of variation, except when done by Johnny Lee Hooker. Johnny Lee Hooker. He can say any shit he wants and it always sounds good. (I’m using present tense, although I know he’s dead. But he’s also alive, you know, through his music.) If I’d sing: “I heard my papa tell my mama, let that boy boogie woogie”, they’d laugh at me. But when Johnny Lee Hooker says it, the listener thinks: “YEAH! LET THAT BOY BOOGIE!” Boom Boom Boom. That’s street credibility at maximum.

The lyrics in blues songs are usually nothing special, but that’s their brilliance. It’s the beat and feeling that counts. If you listen to the lyrics with a critical ear, they sometimes sound even quite funny. In one song, by B.B. King and Johnny Lee Hooker playing together, they complained that this woman tore up their family by seducing them (they were singing as the man in this story). As if it was the woman’s fault :) But they were so serious about it that the listener feels sorry for them. In another song (I haven’t heard this one, but heard the story from my friend) B.B. King sang a duetto with a lady singer. B.B. King was married to the lady singer, his “wife”. The “wife” was complaining about something to the “husband”. The husband kept telling all the things he had done and sacrificed during their long marriage, but the wife kept knocking out his arguments, one by one. Finally, in the climax of the song, B.B. King howled in pain: “BUT I GAVE YOU SEVEN CHILDREN!” That was his final and strongest argument. HE gave HER the children :) A lot of this blues thing seems to be testosterone oozing dirty old men’s world. That’s fine by me. Although I consider myself a modern man, I still sometimes need that testosterone feeling.

Back to the flexibility. Blues has developed into a lot of things. The Yardbirds still sounded like a mixture of blues and psychedelic rock, but the yardbirds’ “chick”, Led Zeppelin, was considered the first heavy metal band. (Wonder if heavy metal got it’s name from “led”…)

Btw we thought that our band’s name should be “Led Light” (not sure if the other members of our band know about this). I and my wife gave us blues names, too. I am Papa Blues (guitar, vocals). My wife is Mrs. Hippy Mississippi (drums, vocals). The other members are Mojo Hand (guitar), Voodoo Daddy (metaphysical things, drums, guitar and vocals) and Sweet Lips Wookie Man (metaphysical things, harmonica; he has a beard, that’s why “wookie”).

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