Blues, as other forms of music during this time, was associated with modernity and women. Believed to have originated in Memphis, Blues was becoming more popular in recruiting women as both music consumers and performers. At first however, African Americans were not allowed to record music due to the thought that white consumers wouldn’t want black musicians’ music and blacks were too poor to to consume their own music. This assumption however, was struck down when “Crazy blues” by Perry Bradford sold over a million copies in less than a year. There was no question afterwards of whether there was a demand for African American music. Another factor that helped African Americans begin recording was that the price of creating records fell significantly after WWI. This recording of black artists was called “race records”.
The first Lady Blues artist, Bessie Smith, was discovered in 1923. Bessie Smith’s first song sold about 2 million copies in a year. This was a significant amount in this time period. Smith went on to record 159 more songs during the 1920s selling just over 7 million copies. A reoccurring theme of sexual relationships dominated women’s blues music. One example of an especially sexual song is “Organ Grinder Blues” by Victoria Spivey.
With lyrics like “Grind it north and grind it east and west, but when you grind it slow I like it the best…” and “You’re the grinder I’ve been waiting for…” it becomes apparent that women were branching out into this idea of modernity and emphasizing the change in social and moral standards. Songs like this were very prominent in the blues era, showing women in a different light with their newly expressed sexual appetites (Granda 35). The expressions of these women and others during this time eventually led into women becoming flappers, which were basically women of modernity, and branching out and throwing the social and moral standards of the past away. Blues music, for its sexual nature caused much controversy and in-turn, publicity. This publicity led to more widespread change in social standards for women.
Granda, Victoria C. “The Politics of Black Sexuality in Classic Blues.” Nota Bene: Canadian Undergraduate Journal of Musicology. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2015.
“The Rise of Consumer Culture.” The Rise of Consumer Culture. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.
“Victoria Spivey- Organ Grinder Blues (Take C).” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2015.