vonnegut on the blues

 . . . Back to music. It makes practically everybody fonder of life than he or she would be without it. Even military bands, although I am a pacifist, always cheer me up. And I really like Strauss and Mozart and all that, but the priceless gift that African Americans gave the whole world when they were still in slavery was a gift so great that it is now almost the only reason many foreigners still like us at least a little bit. That specific remedy for the worldwide epidemic of depression is a gift called the blues. All pop music today - jazz, swing, be-bop, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Stones, rock-and-roll, hip-hop and on and on - is derived from the blues. 

A gift to the world? One of the best rhythm-and-blues combos I ever heard was three guys and a girl from Finland playing in a club in Krakow, Poland.

The wonderful writer Albert Murray, who is a jazz historian and a friend of mine among other things, told me that during the era of slavery in this country - an atrocity from which we can never fully recover - the suicide rate per capita among slave owners was much higher than the suicide rate among slaves. 

Murray says he thinks this was because slaves had a way of dealing with depression, which their white owners did not: They could shoo away Old Man Suicide by playing and singing the Blues. He says something else which also sounds right to me. He says the blues can't drive depression clear out of a house, but can drive it into the corners of any room where it's being played. So please remember that.
- Kurt Vonnegut, from A Man Without a Country


  1. I know that my reason for going out and seeking things was to help stave off the Old Man. I found places that I enjoyed and that I could appreciate, but it wasn't until I made it to Blues where I felt a resonance. It was an outlet for that terrible energy that nothing else could touch. It was people talking about lives being hard, or how flawed they were, but without whining. They were stating it and recognizing it without crying about it...

  2. Vonnegut is always brilliant.


Leaving comments is good karma.