A Break July 10, 2018

The Biden Border Blues

Where is Howlin’ Wolf When We Need Him?

When you think of the blues, you think about things gone wrong. Your dog dies. Your mama done up and left you. Somebody cross town done you wrong. You don’t think of the blues, that space is filled with tariffs, North Koreans, or children being yanked away from their parents.

The blues originated in the deep South, Attorney General Jeff Sessions country, among African-American slaves in the early 19th Century, but it was not popularized until the 20s and 30s, a little over 100 years ago.

No one invented the blues so more than any other music genre it is the people’s music. The American people’s music.

The best thing about the blues is it starts in the dark blue with troubles but it ends in sky- blue with hope, redemption and reunion.

White boys don’t sing the blues: they try, but a lot is missing. Some, like Eric Clapton can play what sounds like the blues, but he can’t sing the blues. I was mislabeled by Rolling Stone Magazine in a story they did about me many years ago: they tagged me John Hammond, an up and startin’ white blues singer. I caught up with John some years later and we had a good laugh about the mix up.

A fun part of the blues is their names. Howlin’ Wolf, pictured above, is one of my favorites. There are no Tom, Dick or Harrys in the blues. No Donalds. A roll-call of some of the greats would include Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lead Belly (pronounced like the metal), Ma Rainey, Muddy Waters, Blind Willie Johnson (using a president’s last name is part of the naming process, except you can’t include most of the recent ones, except Carter, as in Bo Carter and Clarence Carter).

Donald Trump is white and can’t sing the blues. He can cause others to sing ’em, but he can’t. Don’t know of anyone who sings the blues with the name Donald. Just a sec: I’ll check. As I assumed, the are none. There is a Donald Ray, but he is more of a band and back-up guy, more R&B. (Correct me, if I am wrong.)

Once you pick a name you like, you’ll no doubt find some songs they play that set you on stomp. For my guy Howlin’ Wolf, here is one of his tunes is “Evil” or as he sings, “Evil is going on.

Now you can write a blues line or two and post it in the comments below. Who knows, we might get a chain-post going and have a real song on. But you first need to change your name.

Editor’s Note: Here is a great tutorial for how to write the blues. It was written by an amateur for ordinary folks. It looks like a lot of fun. Surprise everyone at your next family reunion or traveling buddies this Summer.

What are some of your favorite names for blues singers, real or imagined?


  • June 24, 2018

    Katie and others. This just got easier. There is a website that does most of the work. It gives you word alternatives, phrases, synonyms, everything. Check it out https://www.rhymezone.com.

  • June 24, 2018

    Hello again, Katie. Thanks for visiting and commenting so frequently. It helps us stay on track . I’m not a blues song writer. I do know that the repeat of a line is important and attention to rhyming is key. So a list of subjects is a good place to start: Trump, immigration or family separation. Then make a list of words that rhyme. For example: start off with a sentence or idea, maybe about when you were a kid. Maybe something like when I was a wee babeee my mama left me in my crib, she left me in my crib, my mama did. Then when I could hold a hoe I left the field at the end of the day, at the end of the day when the sun went down I left the field, but now there are just borders I can’t cross and I don’t know where my mama is. The sun don’t go down no mo, no mo. Just tell me where my mama is and my sister too.

  • June 22, 2018

    Josh, Thank you. I read how to write a blues song and will definitely explore this. Right now the song is caught in my throat. Words not yet formed. It is just a grief stricken wailing. Anyone who has had any childhood trauma is becoming activated by the detaining and ripping away of asylum seekers from their children. So painful. We think as the days pass by, how could it get any worse? But, it does. What’s next?

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