By Jonah Peterson
The Monday blues. It’s inevitable. The weekend comes to an end every Sunday night like a cruel slap in the face, and Monday morning comes much too fast.
Jan. 20, Blue Monday, is said to be the saddest day of the year. The date is calculated using various factors like weather conditions, time since Christmas, time since failing our New Year’s resolutions and low motivation levels.
What better way to deal with your “blues” than by listening to some of the best blues music ever made? This playlist features classic blues hits to sing-along with, lesser-known deep cuts you’re sure to love – even some new artists keeping the blues alive today.
Muddy Waters – “Manish Boy”
First recorded in 1955, this blues standard would not start receiving widespread love until the mid to late ‘80s. Muddy Waters is often referred to as the “Father of modern Chicago blues” and for a good reason. Chicago is where you will find some of the greatest blues artists ever to pick up a microphone and this classic cut is a testament to that.
Charles Bradley – “The World (Is Going up in Flames)”
Charles Bradley grew up in troubled times in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Living in Brooklyn, he and his mother struggled with poverty and racism. Sleeping in subway cars and working odd jobs to make ends meet, Bradley would soon find a love for performing and music, gaining most of his inspiration from James Brown. It wouldn’t be until 1996 when he moved back to Brooklyn from California to be with his mother that he would finally catch his break. After recording for years, he finally released his first album, No Time for Dreaming in 2011. The lead track of the album, “The World (Is going up in flames),” is a story of struggle and not wanting the pity of people who haven’t had the same experiences.
Jimmy Reed – “I Ain’t Got You”
Even when you have everything – money, women, respect – none of it means anything when you can’t have the one that got away. Jimmy Reed expresses this sorrow in his song, “I Ain’t Got You”, released in 1960. Reed uses a style called electric blues, a genre popular with both blues and non-blues audiences. The style is slightly different from the traditional acoustic blues, which allowed Reed to reach a wider audience and experience success.
The Robert Cray Band – “Smoking Gun”
A chart-topping success about infidelity, Robert Cray was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award for “Smoking Gun”. Released in 1986, the song reached number two on the Billboard Rock chart and 22 on the Billboard Hot 100. Robert Cray’s band features over 20 musicians, playing a variety of instruments, including the saxophone, the drums and even the harp.
Chuck Berry – “Johnny B. Goode”
This list features legends in blues and rock & roll, and it would not be complete without Chuck Berry. A pioneer of rock music, Berry put out “Johnny B. Goode” in 1958, and it was a smash hit. The song is about an illiterate “country boy” who plays the guitar and one day hopes to have his “name in lights.” Rolling Stone magazine named this track the seventh greatest of all time. It peaked at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100.
Buddy Guy – “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues”
“Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues” was a comeback album for Buddy Guy after limited recording for the previous 10 years. This title track features heavy guitar-driven riffs and is a classic example of a traditional Chicago Blues song. Buddy has been named as an influence by guitar legends such as Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards and newer acts like John Mayer.
Gary Clark Jr. – “Shake”
Speaking of people influenced by Buddy Guy, Gary Clark Jr. has been bringing a much-needed revamping to modern blues by mixing elements of blues, rock and soul music with hip hop. In Shake, Clark goes back to his Austin, Texas roots with a rhythm that’s sure to get you up and moving. A perfect example that blues music doesn’t always have to be sad.
Howlin’ Wolf – “Smokestack Lightnin’”
Ask anybody in Chicago about real blues music, and they are sure to tell you about a man they call Howlin’ Wolf. Born and raised in Mississippi, Chester Arthur Burnett moved to Chicago in his adulthood. It wouldn’t take long for him to get noticed, and in the ‘50s and ‘60s he started to become the face of Blues music in America. “Smokestack Lightnin’” was one of his better-known songs, released in 1959. With an unmistakable, booming voice, Howlin’ Wolf put his heart and soul into all of his music; this cut is no exception.
The Teskey Brothers – “Hold Me”
The land down under is no slouch when it comes to blues music, and one of the very best groups from the continent is no doubt the Teskey Brothers. Josh and Sam Teskey formed the group in Melbourne in 2008. They released their debut album in 2017 and their second one in 2019 entitled Run Home Slow. This features the song “Hold Me”, a classic foot-stomper that will have you singing out loud. The band said they recorded the stomps and claps heard in the song by hanging microphones on trees outside and stomping and clapping out on a porch.
Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble – “Pride and Joy”
Stevie Ray Vaughan is largely responsible for the revival of blues in the 1980s, along with his band Double Trouble. Double Trouble was formed in 1978 after many less than successful attempts to form a group with other musicians. Vaughan had found a group he really connected with and started to make his best music to date including “Pride & Joy” off the groups debut album, Texas Flood. Some argued this album strayed too far away from mainstream rock, while others praised his songwriting and deep blues sound. Many times in music people don’t realize the talent in front of them until they are gone, and Stevie Ray Vaughan is an example of just that.