Blues Mass: March 13, 2011
By Father Hardman
I grew up in the Mississippi Delta. I do not mean that section of Louisiana where the Mississippi River flows into the Gulf of Mexico. I mean that section along the river from Vicksburg, Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee where the soil is rich and the people are poor. It is known for cotton, barbecue, slavery, segregation, Jim Crow laws, the Ku Klux Klan, and a type of music called the blues.
The blues developed in the 19th century as African-American slaves, ex-slaves, and descendants of slaves toiled in the cotton and vegetable fields of the south. The music evolved from African spirituals, African chants, work songs, and field hollers. The main instruments used were the acoustic guitar and the harmonica. Unlike jazz that spread all over the country at the turn of the century, the blues remained in the south until the 1930's and 40's when it began to spread to the Midwest. When artists from the Delta brought the blues to Chicago their instruments were electrified. This gave a more urban sound that became known as the Chicago style. Rhythm and blues, rock ‘n roll, and the British Invasion all had their roots in the blues.
Since I grew up in the Delta, the blues permeated my life from the very beginning. It was not until after the British Invasion, however, that I began to appreciate it. The Rolling Stones first album was filled with old blues and rhythm and blues songs that they had reinterpreted. As I began to listen to them, I began to appreciate the emotional and cathartic nature of the blues. One unknown blues artist described it this way:
"Blues is what the blues doctor prescribes for people who have the blues."
I have found that to be true. And we all get the blues, don't we? Our lives may not be as difficult and trying as those who wrote the music, but everyone can certainly identify with their experience on some level. We all live in a world filled with injustice; a world where everyone is trying to dominate and control everyone else. We all experience loss-lost meaning, lost opportunity, and lost love. Thus, we are all apt to get the blues.
Well, on March 13th, at 9:30 am (note the time change), with the help of the Jimmy Burns Blues Band, we are going to sing the blues together. Since it is the first Sunday in Lent, we are going to confess our sins, and then let Jesus "truck our blues away". I do hope you will join us.