GIVING AMERICA BACK THE BLUES
How did the early Rolling Stones help popularize the Blues?
The Rolling Stones ultimately made their mark as the nonconformist outlaws of Rock and Roll. But before they were bad boys, the Stones were missionaries of the Blues. The young Rolling Stones — Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, and Bill Wyman — were white kids who hailed from working- and middle-class Britain and set out to play American music, primarily that of African Americans with roots in the South. In so doing, they helped bring this music to a new, largely white audience, both in Britain and the United States.
The young men who formed the Rolling Stones emerged from the club scene fostered by British Blues pioneers Cyril Davies and Alexis Korner. These two men and their band, Blues Incorporated, helped popularize the American Blues, whose raw intensity resonated with a generation of Britons who had grown up in the shadow of war, death, the Blitz, postwar rationing, and the hardening of the Cold War standoff. Much of the Stones’ early work consisted of faithful covers of American Blues artists that Davies, Korner, and the Stones venerated: Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Slim Harpo, Jimmy Reed.
The early Stones in particular helped make the Blues wildly popular among young Britons. As the Stones’ fame grew and they became part of the mid-1960s British “invasion” of America, they also reintroduced the Blues to American listeners, most notably young, white audiences with limited exposure to the music.
But almost from day one, the Stones were more than a Blues cover band. If at first their Blues covers were somewhat imitative, in time they put an increasingly original spin on their Blues recordings. Additionally, they soon enough ventured beyond the Blues to other American genres, covering songs by R&B and Country artists. In this lesson, students will investigate the Stones’ early musical development and their burgeoning relationship with American Blues.
Video pages: Rolling Stones - Around and Around (1965) | Rolling Stones - I Just Want to Make Love to You (1964) | Rolling Stones - Little Red Rooster (1965) | Cyril Davies and Long John Baldry - Night Time is the Right Time (1963) | Muddy Waters - Rollin' Stone (1960) | Chuck Berry - Around & Around (1958) | Cyril Davies - Got My Mojo Working (1963) | Muddy Waters - I Just Want to Make Love to You (1954) | Slim Harpo and The Rolling Stones - I'm a King Bee | Rolling Stones - Not Fade Away (1964) | Pete Townshend - Post-War England | Larry Williams and The Rolling Stones - She Said Yeah | Bono - The Rolling Stones
Upon completion of the lesson, students will
“When we play it’s all about the feel; that’s the all-important ingredient. The music we play comes out of the blues and you can’t play the blues without feeling. As we developed into the pop side of things and then into rock, the blues were ever present, giving us those right feelings.”
Videos for Postcard 1
Videos for Postcard 2
Videos for Postcard 3
Videos for Postcard 4
Have students to present their postcards to the class, and discuss the themes they chose to emphasize.
Why were the Rolling Stones and their audiences attracted to the Blues, and how did the Stones help reinterpret this music that was originally created by disenfranchised African Americans?
College and Career Readiness Reading Anchor Standards for Grades 6-12 for Literature and Informational Text
Reading 6: Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
Reading 8: Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
College and Career Readiness Writing Anchor Standards for Grades 6-12 in English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects
College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening for Grades 6-12
Core Music Standard: Responding
Select: Choose music appropriate for a specific purpose or context.
Analyze: Analyze how the structure and context of varied musical works inform the response.
Interpret: Support interpretations of musical works that reflect creators' and/or performers' expressive intent.
Evaluate: Support evaluations of musical works and performances based on analysis, interpretation, and established criteria.
Core Music Standard: Connecting
Connecting 11: Relate musical ideas and works to varied contexts and daily life to deepen understanding.