Learning the Blues

This lesson introduces students to the blues, one of the most distinctive and influential elements of African-American musical tradition. Students take a virtual field trip to Memphis, Tennessee, one of the prominent centers of blues activities, and explore the history of the blues in the work of W. C. Handy and a variety of country blues singers whose music preserves the folk origins of this unique American art form.

Guiding Questions

How has blues music served as a mirror and a window for African American history and culture? 

To what extent is blues music at the root of all other forms of music?

Learning Objectives

Analyze the history and evolution of the blues in relationship to African American history and contemporary issues.

Analyze the structure and language of blues lyrics as part of a comparative analysis with other musical genres.

Create an original composition that draws upon characteristics common to blues music while addressing contemporary attitudes and concerns.