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"Worry Blues" (sung by Jesse Lockett)
"Two White Horses Standin' in Line"   (sung by Smith Cason)

Scholars In Action presents case studies that demonstrate how scholars interpret different kinds of historical evidence. "Two White Horses Standin' in Line" (sung by Smith Cason) and "Worry Blues" (sung by Jesse Lockett), both recorded in 1939 by folklorist Alan Lomax, are known as "blues" songs. The blues emerged as a musical form among African Americans in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and gained the attention of folklorists and record companies. Historians have studied blues and other African-American musical forms to gain insight into the experiences and perspectives of poor and working-class African Americans who left few written records about their lives.

Before you move to the next page listen to the two blues songs yourself. What do you notice about how the music sounds? What musical elements (chords, melody, instrumentation, vocal qualities) contribute to that sound? What do the lyrics convey? Is there more than one way to understand the lyrics?

Published online July 2002. Cite as: Lawrence Levine, "Analyzing Blues Songs," History Matters: The U.S. Survey Course on the Web, http://historymatters.gmu.edu/mse/sia/blues.htm, July 2002.

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