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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Blues For Beginners - by Judith Podell

In early 1997, Judith Podell published an essay on "How to Sing the Blues" in Wordrights Magazine.  
Without her permission, it was transcribed and distributed around the world via email and various websites. In most cases, the text was modified, added to, some parts were completely changed, and in almost all cases the original author credit was missing.

By way of trying to right the wrong, I present the original text that was published in Judith Podell's book "Blues For Beginners and Other Obsessions" (Argonne House Press, 2001)

You can read a few more essays by Judith in my recent entries here
"Blues For Advanced Beginners"
"Animal Behavior"
"Death of the Blues"

*****
Blues For Beginners
by Judith Podell


woke up this morning
cat threw a hairball on the bed.
said, i woke up this morning
cat puke all over the bed.
went to the kitchen
mr. coffee was dead.

"Post-Graduate Blues,"
(attrib. to Memphis Earline Gray)


1. Most blues begin "woke up this morning."

2. "I got a good woman" is a bad way to begin the Blues, unless you stick something nasty in the next line.

i got a good woman-
with the meanest dog in town.


3. The Blues are simple. After you have the first line right, repeat it. Then find something that rhymes.

got a good woman-
with the meanest dog in town.
he got teeth like Margaret Thatcher
and he weighs 500 pound.

4. The Blues are not about limitless choice.

5. Blues cars are Chevies and Cadillacs. Other acceptable blues transportation is Greyhound bus or a southbound train. Walkin' plays a major part in the Blues lifestyle. So does fixin' to die.

6. Teenagers cant' sing the blues. Adults sing the Blues. Blues adulthood means being old enough to get the electric chair if you shoot a man in Memphis.

7. You can have the blues in New York City, but not in Brooklyn or Queens. Hard times in Vermont or North Dakota are just depression. Chicago, St Louis and Kasas City are still the best places to have the Blues.

8. The following colors do not belong in the blues:
a. orange
b. beige

9. You can't have the blues in an office or a honky-tonk. The lighting is wrong.

10. Good places for the Blues:
a. the highway
b. the jailhouse
c. the empty bed

11. No one will believe it's the Blues if you wear a suit, unless you happen to be an old black man.

12. Do you have the right to sing the Blues? Yes, if:
a. your first name is a southern state.
b. you're blind.
c. you shot a man in Memphis
d. you can't be satisfied.
No if:
a. you once were blind but now can see.
b. you're deaf.

13. Neither Frank Sinatra nor Meryl Streep can sing the blues.

14. If you ask for water and baby give you gasoline, it's the blues. Other blues beverages are:
a. wine
b. Irish whisky
c. muddy water

15. If it occurs in a cheap motel or a shotgun shack, it's blues death. Stabbed in the back by a jealous lover is a blues way to die. So is the electric chair, substance abuse, or being denied treatment in an emergency room.

16. Some blues names for women:
a. Sadie
b. Big Mama

17. Some blues names for men:
a. Willie
b. Joe,
c. Little Willie
d. Lightning

Persons with names like Sierra, Sequoia will not be permitted sing the blues no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.

*****
Copyright - 1997 by Judith Podell and 2001 by The Argonne House Press
used by kind permission from the author.

1 comment:

Tamar said...

Eli, I've been asking you for years for a Blues 101 lesson. How come you never told me before about this post?