Writings, Essays, Lyrics, Musings, Commentary . . .

Article #42: The Blues & Gaye

The other day, I ran across one of the program books from Saffire's final concert -- November 7, 2009. When we were putting it together, I was so deep into it, I didn't fully appreciate its goodness. I sat still and savored it and know It's a souvenir that I will keep forever. Aside from a detailed history of Saffire, each of us -- Andra, Ann and I -- had two pages each to share bios, thoughts, and photos. What follows is a portion of what I wrote. For me, it is a succinct and honest summary of my lifelong affair with the blues.


The BLUES was born in response to an oppressed people's need for freedom of expression. Gaye has known oppression as a black, as a woman, as a poor person, as a single parent, as a queer. The BLUES addresses real life problems and seeks to find real life solutions. Gospel music is about salvation later on; the BLUES is about salvation right now. Gaye tries to offer such solace.

The BLUES CONTENT is perhaps the only history written by and for working class black people in the early 1900s. Black blues women of this time addressed urgent social issues and represented intellectual independence. Gaye tries to embody this legacy as her song topics address ageism, sexism, domestic abuse, queer issues, civil rights, unemployment, education, health insurance, incest, prisons, etc. -- not to mention heartbreak and betrayal.

The BLUES FORM is perhaps the most significant musical development of western civilization. The BLUES gave birth to rhythm & blues, rock & roll, soul, jazz, rock, even rap. While there are many kinds of BLUES (Delta, Piedmont, Chicago, New Orleans, jump, etc.), there's also the classic blues of Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Alberta Hunter, Ida Cox and many others. Gaye tries to keep this particular branch of the blues alive.

Gaye's art, the BLUES, has captured her heart for decades. She has focused her life's work on sharing the goodness of its spirit. Someone once said that there are two kinds of people: religious ones and spiritual ones. Religious people fear going to hell. Spiritual ones have already been there. BLUES songs are spiritual songs and. . . Gaye is a spiritual person.

May we all find Peace through Music.