Saturday, March 21, 2009

Indians in the blues

There are few blues songs that refer to Native Americans. I found some on the Saga Jazz compilation Cherokee Boogie : Indians and the Blues. Check out the title track by sax player and band leader Bullmoose Jackson :

Bullmoose Jackson - Cherokee Boogie (buy) (1951)

In prewar blues, Indians are often referred in verses about "Going To The Nation" and marrying an Indian squaw. "The Nation" or "the territo's" are Oklahoma, a state where the five "civilized tribes" (Cherokee, Cree, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole) were deported in the 19th century. I found an interesting article by Chris Smith in the Cambridge Journals on the subject. The Indian nations are seen as a refuge from hard life and segregation.
Take this Bo Carter song from 1931

Bo Carter - So Long, Baby, So Long (buy) (1931)

But the irony of it all was that this optimistic dream was a mirage : Oklahoma, once a place where former slaves gained civil and property rights, had passed Jim Crow laws since 1903. Jesse James, in " Lonesome Day Blues", has realized that the Nation "is no heaven on earth" :

Jesse James - Lonesome Day blues (buy) (1936)


rickygonzales said...

c'est drôle d'être sur la même longueur d'onde sans le savoir (a propos des indiens et le blues)
en tout cas je trouve ton blog également très intéressant
je l'ai mis dans mes liens

Nicolas L said...

Mon prochain post sera sur les musiciens indiens contemporains; je mettrai un lien vers tes 2 shows.