Paying the Blues Dues | Sojourners

Paying the Blues Dues

When I close my eyes and think of Michael Jackson (who, by the way, is my age), I prefer to remember the 6-year-old of the Jackson 5, singing "ABC" or "I Want You Back." And Stevie Wonder, who has grown into his musical ambassadorship nicely, was once not only "little," but also talented and sweet.

These child-musicians, and others like them, oozed innocence even as they sang about the emotions of adults.

That’s not the case any more. The music biz promotes the "worldliness" and adulthood of its teen-age prodigies. Gone are the sugar-sweet lyrics by "teen-agers in love," now replaced by adolescents whose recordings require a lyric warning. The refrains of rebellion, sexual expression, and angst in the face of self-discovery are anything but subtle.

Country music phenom LeAnn Rimes draws on all of her 14 years of life to inform us that her man "makes me feel like a natural woman/I know he’s the only one who can rock my world." Teen-age band Silverchair covers much the same ground in the rock music scene, and R & B has its own in Immature.

The blues offer a little something else. Three popular bluesmen spent the spring finishing up high school projects. They are paying their dues in the blues industry, filling in the space cleared by pioneers B.B. King, Albert Collins, Buddy Guy, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Highly hyped 19-year-old sensation Kenny Wayne Shepherd of Shreveport, Louisiana, kicked off this run with his accomplished release Ledbetter Heights (Giant Records, 1995). With a father who’s a major radio promotions personality, Kenny grew up in the recording world—sitting at the feet of greats Vaughan and King.

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 1997
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