Spirituality in the Blues

Here’s the thing with me and the religious thing. This is the flat-out truth: I find the religiosity and philosophy in the music. I don’t find it anywhere else. Songs like ‘Let Me Rest on a Peaceful Mountain’ or ‘I Saw the Light’-that’s my religion. I don’t adhere to rabbis, preachers, evangelists, all of that. I’ve learned more from the songs than I’ve learned from any of this kind of entity. The songs are my lexicon. I believe the songs.

The spirituality of folk music, and blues music in particular, is very moving. Blues has its antecedent in spirituals which evolved as African slaves were exposed to Christianity. The slaves saw parallels to their struggle in biblical stories. As expression was severely restricted, the people expressed their pain, hopes, and dreams via song and dance during brief respites of labor, often hidden from the slaveholders. This music would later permeate other elements of their lives, giving way to the secular expressions of this music.

Despite the relationship between blues and spirituals, Blues were generally focused on individual performance of spiritual or secular material.