The Beatles, Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones all played the blues. How did blues music affect their careers and music? Read this side by side comparison of how blues music wove its way into their songs and sound.
At first glance Elvis Presley was a plain ol' country boy, soft
spoken and shy. Yet, Elvis had a special talent, he was a white
man that could sing like a black performer. He rose to stardom in
the early 1950's with songs like "That's All Right" and
"Hound Dog". In fact, many of Elvis Presley's early hits
were blues songs or based on the blues.
Yet within a few years, Elvis Presley was writing and singing
pop music, appearing in movie musicals and recording Christmas
albums. Did Elvis abandon the blues? Not really. Like many great
blues musicians of that era including B.B. King, Elvis viewed
himself as an entertainer. In his early movies, Elvis was
portrayed as a rock n' roll singer trying to make it in show
business. In later movies, Elvis played different roles as he
moved away from the blues and rock n' roll that launched
In the late 1950's, early 1960's the Beatles were just another
English skiffle band that played folk music, rock n roll and the
blues. These bands took a simple approach to music and played on
semi-professional and even home-made instruments. For example,
Ringo Starr's drum rolls, Paul McCartney's Hofner Bass and John
Lennon's harmonica and George Harrison's solos.
Like Elvis Presley, blues and rock n' roll helped launched the
Beatles' and they recorded rock n' roll songs like "Roll Over
Bethoven" by Chuck Berry and "Tutti Fruiti" by Little
Richard. They also recorded "Matchbox", a classic blues
song by Blind Lemon Jefferson.
In another Elvis Presley move, the Beatles began to make
movies. Faced with writing songs to match the mood and plot of "A
Hard Days Night" and "Help", John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote
songs in many new styles in the best tradition of Tin Pan
And then along came Mary... a few tabs of LSD and
suddenly the movies were playing the Beatles' heads. The result
was a kaleidoscope of pop, acid rock, country, swing - When
I'm 64 - and classical style - Eleanor Rigby..
While Elvis Presley and the Beatles were influenced by the blues,
the Rolling Stones were hell bent on "living the blues". Even
their name - the "Rolling Stones" - was a tribute to Muddy Waters
after his song by the same name.
The Stones later performed with Sonny Boy Williamson and
Howlin' Wolf and recorded many blues classics such as "Love in
Vain" and "Smokestack Lightning". Another milestone
was the "London Sessions" recorded by Eric Clapton and Bill Wyman
with their mentors Howling Wolf and Muddy Waters.
Meanwhile in the United States, the lack of exposure of blues
music among white youth reflected the segregation of the times.
Oddly enough, it was English musicians like the Rolling Stones,
Eric Clapton, John Mayall and Jimi Hendrix (via England) that
made white American youth aware of the blues.
Both Eric Clapton and Keith Richards said they felt it was
their mission to make people aware of the blues. In the process,
they brought joy to their fans and helped create awareness and
respect for black culture in America. By Johnny Mayer.
||Elvis Presley: Elvis Elvis Elvis - 100 Greatest Hits Performed by Elvis Presley. For voice, piano and guitar chords. Format: piano/vocal/chords songbook. With vocal melody, piano accompaniment, lyrics, chord names and guitar chord diagrams. Rock 'n' Roll and Rockabilly. 256 pages. 9x12 inches. Published by Hal Leonard. (HL.306610)
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||The Beatles: Beatles Best - 2nd Edition Performed by The Beatles. For voice, piano and guitar (chords only). Format: piano/vocal/chords songbook. With vocal melody, piano accompaniment, lyrics, chord names and guitar chord diagrams. 512 pages. 9x12 inches. Published by Hal Leonard.
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