Segments in this Video

Blues Beginning (02:42)


Experts discuss the origin of the blues and how it was received in American culture. Leo "Bud" Welch recalls his dad scolding him for playing the guitar instead of working.

Blues and Segregation (02:32)

The mechanical cotton picker resulted in a loss of jobs for many. People migrated from the delta to find jobs and less segregation. David Dee recalls moving to St. Louis.

Migration from the South (02:37)

Many people traveled to Chicago, St. Louis, and Detroit looking for work. Experts discuss segregation and the lack of appreciation for the blues in America; many musicians went to Europe. Mayor Bill Luckett credits the blues for the unification of Clarksdale.

Black Art History (02:35)

Gil Cook believes that we are often incapable of valuing black art as it is. The blues is ingrained in American history but little of it is taught in schools.

Root Music (02:38)

The blues does not have a journal of studies despite its importance in American history and culture; it is the foundation of modern music.

Holy Music (04:24)

Hear Bud Welch sing the blues. Experts discuss the interrelationship of the blues, religion, and slavery.

Jazz and Blues (04:02)

Jazz and the blues are interconnected; Dean Alger believes the blues "was born" in New Orleans in the 1890s. Louis Armstrong appealed to many listeners, increasing exposure to the blues. Albert Murray wrote about blues using a jazz framework.

Blues and Country Music (02:00)

Many of Jimmie Rodgers' songs have a blues structure. Bluegrass and country stems from the blues; the banjo is from Africa.

Rhythm and Blues (02:21)

Rhythm and blues progression includes blues, R&B, soul, and Motown. Musical styles melded delta with swing band; Alan Freed coined the term rock and roll.

Blues and Rock and Roll (03:46)

Piano was the dominant instrument in the blues until the electric guitar; Lonnie Johnson created the guitar solo. Blues became universal through rock and roll; rock musicians often reinterpret the blues.

Blues Rock (02:13)

Jimi Mayes recalls looking for a replacement guitar player; he found Jimi Hendrix. Mayes performed on Hendrix's first production.

Blues and Hip Hop (03:26)

The elements of blues and hip hop are similar. Drumma Boy discusses bringing energy into the blues and re-inspiring the younger generation.

Blues and Art (02:24)

The blues appears across popular world culture; it is a raw expression of how people feel. Artists discuss the expression of music in their artwork.

Blues and Language (03:00)

The blues enriched American English and influenced several prominent writers. Patricia Schroeder discusses writing about Robert Johnson.

Devil at the Crossroads (04:33)

Tom Graves and Schroeder discuss the myth surrounding Robert Johnson and his musical talents. Hear a portion of "Me and the Devil Blues." "Living Blues" is the first American blues magazine.

African American Writers' Take on Johnson (02:29)

Schroeder discusses how African American writers wrote about Robert Johnson in various artistic genres. Robert Earl Price portrays the price of success in his play "Come on in My Kitchen."

Blues in Film (05:37)

Music helps viewers develop feelings about a particular circumstance in film. Film composers discuss the use of jazz and blues in their films; music becomes a character. See clips from various films including "Blues Brothers."

Blues and Cartoons (01:21)

Bugs Bunny spoke like a jazz jive musician; he was like the trickster in African folklore. Hannah-Barbera cartoons, like "Peanuts" used jazz music in their format.

Blues and Sex (04:48)

Blues and jazz appear in several commercials. Early jazz and blues was "the soundtrack" of high-end brothels; taverns hosted cutting contests. Experts discuss blues and the sexual revolution.

Blues Style (03:20)

Experts discuss fashion styles of "clean and dirty" blues. See clothing styles of John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry, and more. Hal Lansky recalls Elvis Presley shopping for clothes at Lansky's.

Blues and Tourism (04:10)

Theo Dasbach compares Beale Street in the 1970s to now. Clarksdale, Mississippi and Memphis, TN are popular tourist destinations. Bill Luckett and Morgan Freeman opened Ground Zero Blues Club in 2001.

Power of the Blues (02:30)

Blues music tells a journey of a culture; the delivery is about honesty. The blues developed from a passionate and powerful need for expression.

Blues Popularity (04:10)

The blues accounts for a small part of the American music market; it remains popular in Europe. Jimbo Mathus believes modern music is made of formulas to create money. Experts consider the future of the blues.

Blues Tells a Story (03:07)

Blues is a vocal tradition that became a guitar oriented genre. Preservation and evolution are a part of the blues. Hear the Heritage Blues Trio perform "Get Right Church."

Credits: America's Blues (06:19)

Credits: America's Blues

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America's Blues

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This program explores the impact the blues has had American society, culture, and the entertainment industry. Despite influencing nearly every form of American music, literature, television, film, and other art forms, its contributions often go unrecognized. Historians, performers, and artists discuss the origin of the blues and how it has evolved. Blues today only accounts for a small part of the music market, but it developed its own tourism industry and remains strong in pockets of the U.S. and Europe.

Length: 85 minutes

Item#: BVL111622

ISBN: 978-1-68272-636-5

Copyright date: ©2014

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

Nominated for Best Diaspora Documentary at the 2016 African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA).

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Not available to Home Video customers.