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Mojo Medicine: Humor, Healing and the Blues

I’ve often thought that if blues musicians would just sleep in they would be happier. So many blues songs begin with “I woke up this morning…” only to be followed by a litany of frustrating events. Of course, to be a blues musician one must have the blues and to have the blues I suppose one must get out of bed and face the world. Might as well get an early start. Unhappiness as a raison d’être may seem like an unhealthy exercise until considering the cathartic power of music. Perhaps blues musicians are on to something. 

Music, like humor, can be used to varying degrees for varying effects. Some music is strictly utilitarian, designed purely as a backdrop to dance, or even march. Similarly, humor at its most basic level can be mere entertainment and nothing more. This is a noble purpose in and of itself; however, humor and music each have a transformative element that when harnessed properly can heal. When the two are combined effectively this power can be immense. This is true for every genre and period of music – from the “Vesti la giubba” from Pagliacci to Charlie Chaplin’sSmile” to Cee Lo Green’sF**k You” – but is perhaps most effective in the blues and its logical extensions: country, R&B and rock ‘n’ roll.

This is because humor and the blues share similar expressive properties. Continue reading →