If you want to know where your favorite musician came from, the answer is probably the blues. One of the most distinct and influential forms of American music and culture, specifically Black music and culture, the blues is the foundation on which rock, R&B and even hip-hop was built. But Jessica Parr, professor of the practice in history at Northeastern University, says the genre’s roots dig deeper than the history of American pop music. The blues is Black history itself.
At a time when Black history is under attack, Parr says there has never been a better time to sing the blues. The genre is a reminder that “Black culture is central to American life.” It’s why she is bringing The History of Blues in America, a trio of musicians and storytellers, to Northeastern for a concert on Sept. 21.
“We are in a moment right now where there is a lot of hostility to talking about Black history and talking about Black culture outside of Black communities, and I think that’s something that needs to change, to be blunt,” Parr says. “Emphasizing Black contributions to American history and American culture is more important than ever.”