Jan 14

The Blues and human dignity

Dignity and respect. Self-esteem, “worthy” of being treated well, honoured for contributing fully. How can we convey those things? How can we teach them? Is there an opportunity here for a picture that’s worth a thousand words?

I’ll attempt to walk the class through a visual encounter with dignity, the role of the Blues before and after emancipation, the Robert Johnson “Crossroads” legend … and write some Blues. Musically, we’ll reinforce our counting, continue driving home the 12-bar form, figure out I-IV-V in additional keys. We’ll master some new chords—and write some Blues around the 2+1 structure of a traditional Blues lyric.
Photo, Dana Gluckstein. Indigenous DignityPhoto, Dana Gluckstein.Photo, Dana Gluckstein. Indigenous Dignity

I’ll ask what they already know about dignity, and whether the people in photos have it … how do they know?


Dignity
: Being treated with respect, regardless of the situation, and having a sense of self-esteem e.g., having a sense of self-worth; being accepted as one is, regardless of age, health status, etc.; being appreciated for life accomplishments; being respected for continuing role and contributions to family, friends, community and society; being treated as a worthy human being and a full member of society.
OHRC


The last image I’ll show is Robert Johnson. What’s he wearing, how’s he sitting, what’s he got to be so proud of? What if the suit, hat, guitar and a few more clothes—enough to fill one suitcase—are all he owns, and he carries it by bus and hitchhiking from town to town along dirt roads? 

We’ll stand and do some “dignity awareness studies.” We’ve already beat our chests with the swing video; this will be introduced in similar fashion. These can be posturing and funny at the start (it’s likely somewhat related to rock star posing) but I need to bring back seriousness and wrap it up … ultimately the point is to try to feel increased confidence and self worth associated with feeling dignity and recognizing that of others. 

But wait, there’s one more association to make. I’ll promise to tell them the Legend of the Crossroads after a movie clip. We’ll watch the first 3:20 of Does it Swing? An Introduction to Swing Jazz for Young People (Part 1), to where it talks about slavery and the blues. (I’ll stop it before Basin Street Blues which will watch if there’s time at the end, and learn next visit.) We’ll reflect on that briefly and then take out the ukuleles to learn some Robert Johnson tunes. 

Robert Johnson and the Crossroads Blues

The learners will…

  • Hear Cross Road Blues [or this one] and the Robert Johnson legend. [Here’s a movie trailer.]
    • Lyrics
    • Who’s Willie Brown?
      [Trigger alert: Willie was lynched by a white mob in the Omaha Race Riots of 1919.]
  • Learn the chords F Bb & C and joining Blues lick (these are the chords for Sweet Home Chicago and Ramblin’ On My Mind) and Eb (for Crossroad Blues and Come On in My Kitchen). 
    1. Come On in My Kitchen (Compare with Stones’ You Got To Move)
    2. Sweet Home Chicago
    3. Ramblin’ On My Mind
  • Identify the 2 + 1 pattern of Blues lyric.
  • Perform call and response style imitation and improvisation

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Tux Guitar files/chord diagrams, lesson sundries. Bb Blues for ukulele

  • How to set up TuxGuitar as TuxUkulele
    360p Video  or   720p Video
  • Full chart [TuxGuitar] [PDF]
  • Just standard notation [PDF]
  • Just tab [PDF]

For more links and resources please see this concept map

Unit Concept Map

Ontario Curriculum connections, content, rationale, resources
Please see this concept map

Photos

DIGNITY for the Seventh Generation Coming

Dana Gluckstein, Photographer & Activist [Museum Collection]
See also: Archbishop Desmond Tutu on “Dignity”

Complete Recordings

Robert Johnson – The King of Delta Blues

  1. Kind Hearted Woman Blues
  2. I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom
  3. Sweet Home Chicago
  4. Ramblin’ On My Mind
  5. When You Got a Good Friend
  6. Come On in My Kitchen Compare: Stones’ You Gotta Move
  7. Terraplane Blues
  8. Phonograph Blues
  9. 32-20 Blues
  10. They’re Red Hot
  11. Dead Shrimp Blues
  12. Cross Road Blues
  13. Walkin’ Blues
  14. Last Fair Deal Gone Down
  15. Preachin’ Blues
  16. If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day
  17. Stones in My Passway
  18. I’m a Steady Rollin’ Man
  19. From Four Till Late
  20. Hellhound on My Trail
  21. Little Queen of Spades
  22. Malted Milk
  23. Drunken Hearted Man
  24. Me and the Devil Blues
  25. Stop Breakin’ Down Blues
  26. Traveling Riverside Blues
  27. Honeymoon Blues
  28. Love In Vain Blues
  29. Kind Hearted Woman Blues
  30. I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom
  31. Sweet Home Chicago
  32. Ramblin’ On My Mind
  33. When You Got a Good Friend
  34. Come On in My Kitchen Compare: Stones’ You Gotta Move
  35. Terraplane Blues
  36. Phonograph Blues
  37. 32-20 Blues
  38. They’re Red Hot
  39. Dead Shrimp Blues
  40. Cross Road Blues
  41. Walkin’ Blues
  42. Last Fair Deal Gone Down
  43. Preachin’ Blues
  44. If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day
  45. Stones in My Passway
  46. I’m a Steady Rollin’ Man
  47. From Four Till Late
  48. Hellhound on My Trail
  49. Little Queen of Spades
  50. Malted Milk
  51. Drunken Hearted Man
  52. Me and the Devil Blues
  53. Stop Breakin’ Down Blues
  54. Traveling Riverside Blues
  55. Honeymoon Blues
  56. Love In Vain Blues
  57. Milkcow’s Calf Blues