Blues Lyric Formulas in Early Country Music, Rhythm and Blues, and Rock and Roll
This article briefly recounts recent work identifying the most common lyric formulas in early blues and then demonstrates the prevalence of these formulas in early country music, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll. The study shows how the preference for certain formulas in prewar country music—like the preference for the same formulas in prewar blues—reflects the social instability of the time, and how the de-emphasis of these same formulas in rhythm and blues and rock and roll reflects the relative affluence of the early postwar period. This shift in textual content is the lyrical counterpart to the electrification, urbanization, and growing formal complexity that mark the transformation of prewar blues and country music into postwar rhythm and blues and rock and roll.
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