February 5, 2018
Ever since the early 30’s blues music has attracted attention because of the personal lyrics, the raw emotion and the compelling chord progressions. For those that study music, in particular the history of music you can certainly recognize the influence of blues music on the music of today. Vocalists today and the growls and moans that permeate their music wouldn’t exist if not for the blues singers of days past. Let’s have a look at how blues has influenced modern rock and roll.
Screaming vocals have personified rock n’ roll since the early 60’s with singers like Robert Plant and Roger Daltrey. Fans of rock love the raw anger, and the frustrated screams as singers pour out their emotion in song. These types of vocals cross a range of music from metal, punk and mainstream rock all of it is used to convey emotion.
But would the screams of Chester Bennington even be possible without the scratchy voice of BB King paving the way first. If there wasn’t Screamin Jay Hawkins would the entire grunge movement even have come to pass? If you look at the progression of modern music you can see how the blues laid the foundation for what would become rock. music.
Bending notes is done on guitar all the time in modern rock music, but vocalists are also using the same technique. They start out on a low note and “bend” it to the highest point in order to fill the room with energy. It was blues vocalists who originally developed this tactic. Today “bending” notes can be found in a whole bunch of musical styles including soul, fuck and modern rock.
Modern rock singers jump around on stage and give intense and sometimes dramatic live performances. No, not the theatricality of a Marilyn Manson show but the drama associated with the live heavily emotional performances of blues singers from the past.
The ability to convey emotion and make the crowd feel is the whole objective of many vocalists in rock music. Early blues were said to be possessed by demons when they were on stage. Scratchy voices reminiscent of too much whiskey and too many cigarettes telling their audience about the world they lived in. This had been unseen by audiences before.
Modern rock has taken this same raw emotion and supercharged it. Rock is filled with high energy and bold emotion. The performers convey more than just sadness, rock also conveys rage, anxiety, fear and happiness. All of these emotions can be palpable during a live performance. The blazing guitars and steady beat of the drums fill in the background. The influence of the blues is evident every time a rock singer grabs a microphone and starts singing.