Blues/Devil's Music. Where did this myth derive?

Lea A. Gilmore
Thu May 13 06:24:27 EDT 1999

In a message dated 5/13/99 4:28:15 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
djcritiqe@AOL.COM writes:

> BB King,Pop Staple and many others recall being admonished in their youth
>  to play The Devil's Music . What is the origin of this myth ?

That is not a myth at all.  I know from first hand experience.  Growing up in
a culture (which I am so proud of) that is "church based," you are taught
early about the "evils" of certain kinds of music.  Thomas Dorsey, who spent
the beginning of his career as "Georgia Tom" playing with 'Ma' Rainey, Tampa
Red and many more, was not allowed in many "sanctified" churches, after he
devoted his life to the Lord,  because he merged elements of the blues to
create rousing, religious music.  Ironically, the music he pioneered is now
viewed as "traditional gospel" and no longer holds the tag of being 'the
devils music.'  It is when the popular music of the day is used as a
foundation for gospel music that the flares go up.   Definitely not everyone
is accepting.  Aretha Franklin experienced this animosity and today Kirk
Franklin, who uses 'hip-hop' as the base for his gospel, is often taken to
task also.

I love both blues and gospel.  I like to perform and listen to both.  But
there are times (I am married to a Baptist Minister, something interesting
about that little  factoid alone ;-) and have been confronted on several
occasions about my devotion to the blues.  Not by my husband (haha, he knows
better), but by the good church folk who embrace the music of Clara Ward,
Roberta Martin, Mahalia Jackson (who freely admitted to the influence of
Bessie Smith on her singing style), and yet refusing to admit (maybe
"acknowledge" is a better term)  where that music came from.

In the aggregate, the music all comes from the same place.  Deep down.  Way
down.  I always say, if you don't believe it, don't sing it, because we won't
believe it either.    Can I get an "Amen "  Sydney?

Didn't mean to go on and on about this here thang, but it evokes a certain
amount of passion.

Peace at y'all,
Lea GIlmore
"It's A Girl Thang!" - A Tribute to Women in the Blues

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