Blues, Jews, and Money
Few forms of American music are considered to be as indigenous, authentic, and regional as blues, especially Mississippi Delta blues. Born on isolated plantations, refined and embellished on Chicago’s South and West Side ghettos, the influence of blues on popular music has been inestimable. Indeed, the quintessential rock ’n’ roll band, the Rolling Stones, took its name from an obscure single by Mississippi-born McKinley Morganfield—aka Muddy Waters—recorded for a small, family-owned business in Chicago called Chess Records.
A new documentary, Born in Chicago, stresses that the spread of blues was far from inevitable. It makes clear, as well, the key role American Jews played in preserving and promoting the blues, as well as using it as the basis for new musical innovations of their own.
About the Author
Howard Husock is vice president for policy research at the Manhattan Institute and a former documentary filmmaker whose work in public broadcasting won three Emmy Awards.