Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Tommy McCoy, an international Blues recording artist and songwriter. He started his career at the early age of 8-years old. I met him at the Grand Opening Event of the Veterans Art Center of Tampa Bay. He was one of the performers donating his time and proceeds of his merchandise sale to the organization. I like listening to blues once in a while but I cannot honestly say that I am a hard-core fan. That day when McCoy was playing the guitar something clicked in my head. His maneuver of the guitar was sort of electrifying. The beat was contagious and emotions were emanating from the notes. He and his band captured my curiosity. I couldn’t help asking myself what I knew about this music genre. To my dismay, I did not know much. I knew its origins where in the South but that was pretty much it. Listening to the vibrations of the music and the beat calling my name, I purposed myself finding more about blues and Tommy McCoy.
In my research about blues I realized that there are people like me who may not know very well this beautiful music genre and the pride it carries in American History. This music form is the first one born in the USA in the 18th century. It was the voice of the African Americans who were in slavery, have gotten out of slavery or were the descendants of slaves. The lyrics talked about overcoming hard luck and were called spirituals. Fast forward to today, blues have influenced other American music forms like Jazz and there are many kinds of blues music like Jump blues, Cool blues, West coast blues and Chicago blues. Well, to make the story short, blues has expanded world-wide and united cultures, races and countries. This is what this American music genre has given us, the pride of calling it our own.
The history part was exciting. Now, I wanted to hear about the musician that sparked my curiosity about blues. I interviewed Tommy McCoy with two questions in mind: ‘Why are the blues important? Why should I care?’ I was intrigued about his opinion because his performance was electrifying. It was as if one minute he was one person and the second he got on stage, a new persona took over him and his guitar. The conversation that took place during the interview was nothing short of insightful. His career as a blues song-writer and performer has taken him all over the globe. His recent top ten hit on the international Blues chart is his tribute to BB King “The King is Gone.” Lately, he’s been traveling from coast to coast because he’s been recording his new album “Late in the Lonely Night” that will be released soon. The following reasons why we should embraced the blues were McCoy’s answers to my questions:
- 1. The blues genre was born in the South, It's the original American music form and the foundation of other music genres. The Spirts, as they were called by the slaves in the early days, were songs that were born out of the human suffering. They were the conduit how the stories of the African Americans were told. They originated in the cotton fields and Christian churches. They influenced Jazz. Jazz and Blues morphed into Rock & Roll. As blues evolved, they became a symbol of how we as human beings can express the strong feelings of the heart. This genre has also conquered nations becoming popular all over the globe. As part of our American history, and how blues have united cultures, races and nations, we should be proud of how our history and music have influenced the world with a language to convey the deepest feelings of the heart. 2. The Blues chords are easy and simple to learn Have you heard of the 12-Bar Blues? This refers to the number of musical bars used to play a typical blues song. What this means is that there are four beats in every bar and each quarter note is equal to one beat. Almost all blues music is played with this chord and very simple and easy to learn. You want to impress your music professor? Start playing some blues.3. Students that play and study music do much better at school Going back to my previous point, easy to learn and will make you smarter? And yes, all music is based on mathematical equations so you cannot go wrong with listening, playing and learning some blues.4. Music as an art form can bring healing Science has proven that Arts therapy, as in playing music like blues, can bring healing into a person’s life. Music will make you smarter and help you keep your emotional fitness? Did I mention the word ‘blues’? They are contagious, will make you smarter and take away the 'blues.'5. The blues is a universal language with an upbeat tempo that translates into a ‘good time’ entertainment Translation: ‘party time!’ or at least impressing the person that you want to date. The Blues is just amazing and you know it… Everyone knows it. St Pete is an area where blues performances are everywhere. Enrich your life and embrace the blues. They are good for you.For more information about Tommy McCoy and his new album release, please visit www.tommymccoyblues.com. To learn more about blues, please go to Blues Foundation, Keeping Blues Alive, Preserving the Blues.