Where Did the Blues Go?

“Nobody can sing the blues like blind Willie McTell.”—Bob Dylan

The Blues is a style of music whose origin is in the African American culture of the South.  Typically it is based on a twelve bar chord progression and contains sad or melancholy lyrics.  It was born out of a people who experienced generations of slavery, oppression, and racism.  When you read through the book of Psalms you will discover that David and its other writers were familiar with the blues.  Many psalms feature laments of pain and suffering expressed within the rhyme structure of Hebrew poetry.

It is vitally important that we as Christians should be able to sing the blues.  Blues recognizes that this world is not as it should be.  God created the world as good but sin has marred it, the effects of which we feel every day. It is my observation that some Christians feel uncomfortable with the blues because they think it ignores all the good God has done.  A few questions will help reveal this.  How many worship songs are laments?  How hard is it for us to talk about troubles at church?  When we do it is the response to immediately minimize the trial?  Singing the blues is not ignoring God’s glory, it is recognizing the fallen state of people and the pain that has come through sin.  If we are unable to sing the Blues then we are blind to the world’s condition.  We should be able to weep with those who weep and sing the blues with those who are blue.

For redemption to take place there must be something to be redeemed from.  If all in the world is fine and as it should be then there is no need for God to save us.  Douglas K. Blount says in the essay Rattle and Film: U2, Nietzsche, and Salvation in the Blues that for Bono “all roads to the Gospel lead first through the blues… gospel without blues leads to self-deception.” Without the bad news there is no such thing as good news.  Only in response to the pain and despair that the blues proclaim does praise really become praise.

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