Main content

I guess that's why they call it the Blues

Tom Service is joined by jazz pianist Julian Joseph to discover its earliest African-American origins right up to current day Blues music and its influence on classical musicians.

We all think we know what 'The Blues' means - whether it's feeling down in the dumps or a musical genre that links Muddy Waters through to the Rolling Stones.

But what is it really? What makes The Blues the Blues? And where did it come from? Tom Service is joined by jazz pianist Julian Joseph to discover its earliest African-American origins right up to current day Blues music and its influence on classical musicians.

Whether we're talking Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, classical composers using 'Blue' notes or that feeling of melancholy - the Blues has often found its way onto the concert stage too. Tom looks back across classical music history to find that actually music has had a bad case of the blues for many centuries.

Available now

29 minutes

Music Played

  • B.B. King

    3 O’Clock Blues

    Performer: B.B. King.
    • Hallmark Records.
  • Claudio Monteverdi

    Lamento della ninfa

    Performer: Nuria Rial, soprano. Performer: L’Arpeggiata. Performer: Christina Pluhar, director.
    • Erato.
  • Robert Johnson

    Crossroad Blues

    Performer: Robert Johnson.
    • Shadows Music.
  • IGOR STRAVINKSY

    Ebony Concerto

    Performer: Benny Goodman, clarinet. Performer: Columbia Jazz Ensemble. Performer: Igor Stravinsky, conductor.
    • Sony.
  • Elvis Presley

    Heartbreak Hotel

    Performer: Elvis Presley.
    • RCA.
  • Anthony Holborne

    Countess of Pembrook's paradise - pavan for consort

    Performer: Dowland Consort. Performer: Jakob Lundberg, director.
    • BIS.
  • WOLGANG AMADEUS MOZART

    Lacrimosa from Requiem

    Performer: Dunedin Consort. Performer: John Butt, conductor.
    • LINN.
  • John Dowland

    Flow my Tears

    Performer: Andreas Scholl, countertenor. Performer: Andreas Martin, lute.
    • Harmonia Mundi.
  • Henry Purcell

    When I am Laid in Earth (Dido and Aeneas)

    Performer: Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano. Performer: Il Pomo d’Oro. Performer: Maxim Emelyanychov, conductor.
    • Erato.
  • Johann Sebastian Bach

    Air from Suite for orchestra no. 3 in D major (BWV.1068)

    Performer: Akadamie fur Alte Musik.
    • Harmonia Mundi.
  • GYORGY LIGETI

    Horn Trio – ‘Lamento’

    Performer: Danish Horn Trio.
    • CHANDOS.
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

    Symphony No 6 in B minor, Op 74 ‘Pathetique’ (Adagio lamentoso)

    Performer: Czech Philharmonic. Performer: Semyon Bychkov, conductor.
    • Decca.
  • Alfred Schnittke

    Hymn no.2 for cello and double bass

    Performer: Torleif Thedéen, cello,. Performer: Entcho Radoukanov, double bass.
    • Rhino.
  • John Dowland

    Semper Dowland semper dolens - pavan for lute

    Performer: Paul O’Dette.
    • Harmonia Mundi.
  • John Dowland

    If My Complaints could passions move

    Performer: Mark Padmore, tenor. Performer: Elizabeth Kenny, lute.
    • Hyperion.
  • Benjamin Britten

    Lachrymae

    Performer: Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Performer: William Conway, conductor.
    • Warner.
  • John Dowland

    In Darkness let me dwell

    Performer: Iestyn Davies, counter-tenor. Performer: Thomas Dunford, lute.
    • Wigmore Hall Live.
  • Thomas Adès

    Darknesse Visible

    Performer: Inon Barnatan (piano).
    • Avie.
  • Robert Johnson

    Kind Hearted Woman Blues

    Performer: Robert Johnson.
    • Shadows Music.
  • William Christopher Handy

    St Louis Blues

    Performer: Bessie Smith, vocals. Performer: Louis Armstrong, trumpet.
    • Columbia.
  • Ma Rainey

    Blame it on the Blues

    Performer: Ma Rainey.
    • JSP Records.
  • Bessie Smith

    A good man is hard to find

    Performer: Bessie Smith.
    • Music Rough Guides.
  • Charley Patton

    Revenue Man Blues

    Performer: Charley Patton.
    • Orbis.
  • Muddy Waters

    Smokestack Lightning

    Performer: Muddy Waters.
    • Not Now Music.
  • Robert Johnson

    Kind Hearted Woman Blues

    Performer: Robert Johnson.
    • Shadows Music.
  • George Gershwin

    Rhapsody in Blue

    Performer: Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano. Performer: Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Performer: Marin Alsop, conductor.
    • Decca.
  • George Gershwin

    Summertime

    Performer: Ella Fitzgerald, vocals. Performer: Louis Armstrong, vocals and trumpet.
    • Verve.
  • Maurice Ravel

    Violin Sonata- 2nd movement "Blues’

    Performer: Janine Jansen, violin. Performer: Itmar Golan, piano.
    • Decca.
  • Derek and the Dominos

    Bell Bottom Blues

    Performer: Derek and the Dominos.
    • Polydor.
  • B.B. King

    Don’t Look Now But I’ve Got The Blues

    Performer: B.B. King.
    • Not Now Music.

Broadcasts

Six mind-expanding music podcasts to download in 2019

Six mind-expanding music podcasts to download in 2019

Love music? Looking for new ear-fodder for your commute? We've got you covered.

Why do we call it 'classical' music?

Why do we call it 'classical' music?

Tom Service poses a very simple question (with a not-so-simple answer).

Six of the world's most extreme voices

Six of the world's most extreme voices

From babies to Mongolian throat singers: whose voice is the most extreme of all?

How did the number 12 revolutionise music?

How did the number 12 revolutionise music?

How Schoenberg opened a new cosmos for composers and listeners to explore.

Why are we all addicted to bass?

Why are we all addicted to bass?

Bass is everywhere, but why do we enjoy it? Join Tom Service on a journey of discovery.

Watch the animations

Watch the animations

Join Tom Service on a musical journey through beginnings, repetition and bass lines.

When does noise become music?

When does noise become music?

We like to think we can separate “noise” from “music”, but is it that simple?

Podcast