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October, 2012:

“Down In The Bottom” “Dust My Broom”

African American Blues, or Delta Blues Music is Amazing.  Blues is not another name for Jazz.  Jazz  is a improvisational composition technique meanwhile Blues can be thought of as a literary tradition complete with mythology, idioms, and an emphasis on contextual “truth.” A lot of the contents or lyrics can be taken tons of different ways with the use of symbolism and idioms. There are many common phrases reused and have multiple possible meaning.  Most the references in this time period are about slavery, freedom, Jim Crow laws, or the south and change in general. However, in these two examples, “Down In The Bottom” and “Dust My Broom”, the idioms and symbols can be interpreted differently in a few ways. They make references cheating, breaking up, running from trouble, and picking up to move on.


The lyrics in “Down in the Bottom” refer to a man making love to a woman but has to cut it short and run before her husband came home and he is caught. This is one of the most common themes and motifs in  Delta Blues.  “Down in the Bottom” is a classic 12-bar blues straight from the Mississippi Delta. Accompanied vocals with slide guitar, alternating slippery melodic lines with choppy rhythmic chords, giving the song its propulsive force. Backdoor Man  is the lover of a married woman who sneaks out the back door before the husband of the house gets home. The Imagery created in this Blues song is that of a man crawling out of a bedroom window and a woman throwing his shoes out behind him so he can get away in time. You can really form a strong mental picture when you listen to the lyrics behind “Down in the Bottom”.

Here is “Down in the Bottom”  preformed by Howlin’ Wolf on his 1961 album Chess.



In the second example, “Dust My Broom” the lyrics have a couple means. The literal translation of “Dust my broom” refers to cleaning a rented apartment before leaving. It can be broken down to sexual references. Not only has he lost his woman, he has lost the ability to ‘satisfy’ any more women in the future. Johnson frequently used sexual imagery in his lyrics.  However, the most popular motif refers to creative destruction. “Dusting Mr Broom” is an idiom for starting new by getting rid of the old. Quite literally, shaking off the dust and starting fresh. Moving on is still popular theme in music today and can be seen in modern artists like Taylor Swift and One Republic.

Here is “Dust My Broom” performed by Delta Blues guitar legend Robert Johnson.


A ZZ Top Cover of “Dust My Broom” (Just an awesome video I came across)


Taylor Swift’s new hit single “We are never ever getting back together.” Which is all about moving on and starting over after a break up even though the past seems to haunt her.


One Republic’s song ” Marchin On” from their 2009 album ” Waking Up.”  Which is all about putting the past behind you and accepting change by growing and moving forward.



In both, “Down in the Bottom,” and “Dust My Broom”  the major themes are different in many ways but some ways they are similar. They both refer to relationship  issues with women; in “Down in the Bottom” the act over avoiding getting caught and in “Dust My Broom” Moving on after a bad break up.  Both of these are also full of  idioms and emphasis on contextual truth. Both songs create believable situations and imagery which at this time is very popular.