Using Levine''s idea as a jumping-off point, below I discuss the emergence of the musical form "the blues" as a response to the situation in which Blacks found themselves in the generations following emancipation.
The blues gradually emerged in African-American culture as a response to their daily life after emancipation. Freed slaves ran into a whole new set of struggles with emancipation. They learned that they were not free to enjoy life at all and had extreme hardships to overcome.
A natural progression from the work songs the slaves sang to help get through their strenuous workdays, the blues creatively expressed their intense individual strife in dealing with the harsh realities of “freedom” being farther than expected.
The blues were very similar to the work songs that the slaves sang. They were an allowable form of expression. They helped people connect with their peers, thus building their community. They helped them to realize they were not alone. They continued to sing about the injustice of the whites, such as cheating.
The blues also displayed a totally new response to their changed situation. These people were marginalized by their lack of options. They expressed changes in their social patterns such as men traveling for work and bearing the oppression of Jim Crow laws. They provided a realistic view of their daily reality. They told the real story, without it being romanticized. Kids could hear the truth. They brought in more individual consciousness than had been in the work songs and were more personalized. The singer responded to himself or his instrument in a back and forth action.
This form of musical expression served as a tool for surviving each day. Known as “Equipment for Living,” hey helped take peoples’ minds off their problems and guide them through them. The blues helped people help each other rise above their difficulties (as much as possible), stay sane, and dance along with their trials.
Religious leaders saw the blues as a threat. They provided some spiritual relief, at times causing the singer to be seen like a preacher. They successfully blended the sacred and the secular worlds, while explaining how life really was. They were the only allowable form of protest.
This is evidence of Levine’s concept because his case point was that they did retain some of their home culture and that their culture was ever changing. Each component of their lives was a blend of combined cultural practices. The blues reveal a culture “which kept large elements of its own autonomous standards alive.” It continued their rich internal life while interacting with the large external society that affected, but did not overwhelm it.
The blues were an amazing creative response to their continuously changing lives.