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“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.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Le6pc9IH1KU&feature=BFa&list=PL66144C0F645F7F53[/youtube]

 

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.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4ZW08zOkYU[/youtube]

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

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OC85KkexxTU[/youtube]

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.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcMn_Eu-XTE[/youtube]

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.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtdAo3ui3Ys[/youtube]

 

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.

5 Comments

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  2. Kjorness says:

    @Samantha It is truly disturbing when you 5yr old says “Whistle” is one of his favorite songs

  3. Samantha Monroe says:

    Corey, I really enjoy how you used modern day songs in your example, they help to get your point across. Today’s songs seem to be more straight foward while the blules song have more double meanings and a “code” that can be cracked. But, there are also some songs today that share some common themes with Delta Blues. For example, many rap songs have very sexual double meanings such as Trey Songz “Say Ah”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z__FHAG1Jk8

    This song is not about drinking alcohol, that’s for sure.

    There is also a song called “whistle” by Flo-rida that is ummmm….lets say not about blowing a whistle.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GAVRBX0uLo

    So in today’s music I would say that there is still evidence of Delta Blues style use of metaphores in songs. They may be a little more straight foward, but it still takes a little bit of de-coding.

  4. Byron says:

    The overall blog was good although there could be many improvements. First off you did a good job explaining the difference between the blues and jazz and how “Down in the Bottom” and “Dust My Broom” were blues songs through their lyrics, instrumentation, and musical composition and style. Another great aspect of this blog was how you took certain lines of the lyrics and “translated” them into what those lyrics meant. Honestly, I reread your post at least 3 different times trying to find what your argument was and what you had to say about it, but all I could see is that this blog seemed like a “book report” in which there seemed to be no opinion/argument in which you were just listing facts about delta blues music. One of the aspects of your blog that could have been improved was more explanation of the facts that you stated. When you said “‘Down in the Bottom’ is a classic 12-bar blues straight from the Mississippi Delta” you could have explained why it was a classic 12 bar blues melody. I was confused to why you added the ZZ Top song to this blog rather than sticking to the original because overall it did not add to the blog other than that song was a different style or rendition of the same song. With the Taylor Swift and the One Republic songs you could have done a better job integrating them into your blog. You could have explained more on how these two songs represented blues lyrics. Instead of using modern bands you could have gone to more of the roots of blues music by using songs from the King of Blues B.B. King and use one of his famous songs “The Thrill is Gone” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fk2prKnYnI&feature=related. With this you could have talked more about blues history and where blues came from and how it transformed into modern blues and if there was any change or if there was no change.

  5. Chris Kjorness says:

    Interesting point with the One Republic song. In the Rock class we talk about how Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” plays with the common blues simile, transforming it from a term expressing the rambling life of southern black men to a badge of honor for kids who chose walk away from privilege. http://open.spotify.com/track/35F8TRSHamjv86XEueHZ10

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