There’s a song/saying that goes “The Blues had a baby and they named it Rock n Roll.” I think Muddy Waters recorded it. For me personally, I discovered blues music through my uncle and some bands I had in my collection like Led Zeppelin . Big blues influence on their first two albums. Same thing with The Rolling Stones. Before they started writing their own songs, they covered lots of great blues artists like Jimmy Reed and many more.
What’s interesting to me is hearing how different musicians can play THEIR OWN version of the blues. You know, the musical progression/chord changes are still the blues, but it comes out differently than say Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf. One of those songs is “It’s So Hard” by John Lennon. It was on the Imagine album.
It’s got a great bluesy feel to it, but it also has John Lennon’s stream of consciousness observations on life. My favorite line is, “You gotta be somebody, you gotta shove.” The lyrics aren’t anything fancy, but I think they’re fantastic. “When it’s good, it’s really good.” I take it as him saying life can be hard, but it can also be…well, really good. Plus, King Curtis plays a mean saxophone on it.
Another one of my favorite examples of a straight blues tune with the artist’s unique stamp on it is “Jean Genie” by David Bowie.
I crank the volume on this song every time I listen to it. It’s got a rowdy, raucous feel to it that makes you want to shout “Jean Genie” every time it comes up in the song. I’ve read things about the inspiration and meaning to this song, but it doesn’t really matter to me. It’s a sort of spoken word blues on the verses with the loud chorus of “Jean Genie” along with it. The glam rock get ups may look dated in the video, but the music is just as fresh as when it was recorded. “Jean Genie” is a standard 12 bar blues progression with a great bluesy harmonica sound on it, but it’s Bowie all the way.
Both of these songs have great intros that just rock from the get go. I’m assuming John Lennon played lead guitar on his track while the great Mick Ronson played on Bowie’s. I always loved the descending bass line on the intro of “Jean Genie.”
Bob Dylan has at least one song I could have included in this blog entry, but I’ll save it for another time.
Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!