Sunday, February 19, 2012

Spoken Word: Ridin’ on Down

Big Bill Broonzy: Ridin‘ on Down


Talking blues is a style that is often associated with political songs, and with Woody Guthrie. Guthrie did indeed work with the form, and was one of the first to use it for political songs. But Guthrie was adapting an older style that was part of the blues tradition. Pre-Guthrie, these songs related humorous stories, or a series of humorous anecdotes. Ridin’ on Down is a fine example. Each verse has a different story, and these may have been adapted from longer folktales that performers like Big Bill Broonzy would have expected his audiences to recognize. Broonzy was a fine blues artist in the way we usually think of the blues, and he probably used a song like this to provide comic relief from his more serious material.

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