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“The Weary Blues” (1925) Langston Hughes.

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1 “The Weary Blues” (1925) Langston Hughes

2 Artie Matthews’ “Weary Blues”
Artie Matthews ( ) was the first to publish a ragtime song: “Baby Seal’s Blues” in 1912. Published “Weary Blues” in 1915. Had become a huge hit by the time Langston Hughes wrote the poem alluding to it.

3 Matthews’ “Weary Blues” was played & recorded by some of the best musicians in the business:
Louis "Sachmo" Armstrong Sidney Bechet King Oliver Erskine Hawkins Jelly Roll Morton The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra Even by Lawrence Welk and the McGuire Sisters. Most popular recording is the Louis Armstrong instrumental rendition recorded in Chicago on May 11, 1927.

4 “The Weary Blues” Lyrics (1915)
Well, I know that things won’t be the same, And I know that you’re the one to blame, When you broke my heart and made me cry; I am gonna bid my weary blues goodbye. Weary blues have made me cry. Well, these weary blues I’m gonna bid goodbye. I know, I won’t forget you but I’ll try. You know I am gonna bid my weary blues goodbye.

5 The Blues Musical form originated in African-American communities, primarily in Deep South at the end of the 19th century. Grew from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads. Basic twelve-bar lyric framework of a blues composition is reflected by a standard harmonic progression of twelve bars in a 4/4 time signature. Blues chords in a twelve-bar blues are typically a set of three different chords played over a twelve-bar scheme. “Lonesome Blues,” recorded by Louis Armstrong in 1927

6 Hughes’ “The Weary Blues”
Busboy Langston Hughes placed a copy of his poem “Weary Blues” with “Jazzonia,” and “Negro Dancers” near the plate of performance poet Vachel Lindsay in the opulent dining room of the Wardman Park Hotel in 1925.

7 “Weary Blues” wins First Prize
Opportunity: Journal Of Negro Life published 1923 to 1949. Editor Charles S. Johnson aimed to give voice to black culture, hitherto neglected by mainstream American publishing. To encourage young writers to submit their work, Johnson sponsored three literary contests. 1925, Hughes wins first prize for his poem “The Weary Blues”. 1925 winners also included Zora Neale Hurston & Countee Cullen.

8 Vachel Linsdey ( ) Performance poet considered the father of modern singing poetry. Intended to revive the musical qualities in poetry as had been practiced by the ancient Greeks. Although the son of a wealthy doctor, at 26 moved to NYC where he attempted to barter his poems for food on the streets. Considered himself an advocate of African-Americans, his poetry presents uneven portraits of African-American culture, drawing praise & censure. His 1915 poem “The Congo” was his most famous—and most controversial—work. 1924 he moved to Spokane, Washington, where he lived in room 1129 of the Davenport Hotel until 1929. Crushed by financial worry and in failing health from his six-month road trip, Lindsay sank into depression, and on December 5, 1931, Lindsay committed suicide by drinking a bottle of Lysol.[6] His last words were, "They tried to get me - I got them first!"

9 Hughes/Mingus/Feather collaboration
1958, Langston Hughes teamed up with jazz legends Charles Mingus & Leonard Feather to create a work in which Hughes would recite his poetry to jazz & gospel.

10 Down on Lenox Avenue Lenox Avenue is main thoroughfare in Harlem, running from Central Park to 147th St.

11 Lenox Avenue eventually became dotted with hundreds of bars & nightclubs where musicians played ragtime, blues, & popular dance music.

12 As Lenox Avenue clubs grew in popularity, nightclubs such as the Savoy Ballroom (late 20’s-1958), the Lennox Lounge (1939-present), & the whites-only Cotton Club ( ) boomed.

13 Lennox Lounge Lenox Lounge featured jazz greats such as Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, & John Coltrane. Langton Hughes frequented the Lenox Lounge, as did James Baldwin & Malcolm X. Middle-class African-Americans & affluent whites flocked to Harlem. Most affluent whites stopped going to Harlem after 1943 Harlem riots.

14 Irving Berlin’s original 1928 lyrics to “Puttin’ on the Ritz” referred to Lenox Avenue, not Park Avenue. Original 1928 lyrics Have you seen the well-to-do up on Lenox Avenue On that famous thoroughfare with their noses in the air High hats and colored collars, white spats and fifteen dollars Spending every dime for a wonderful time If you're blue and you don't know where to go to Why don't you go where Harlem sits Puttin' on the ritz Spangled gowns upon a bevy of high browns From down the levee, all misfits That's where each and every lulubelle goes Ev'ry Thursday evening with her swell beaus Rubbing elbows Come with me and we'll attend their jubilee And see them spend their last two bits Lyrics revised for 1946 film Blue Skies starring Fred Astaire Have you seen the well-to-do up and down Park Avenue On that famous thoroughfare with their noses in the air High hats and Arrow collars, white spats and lots of dollars Spending every dime for a wonderful time If you're blue and you don't know where to go to Why don't you go where fashion sits Puttin' on the ritz Diff'rent types who wear a day coat, pants with stripes And cutaway coat, perfect fits Dressed up like a million dollar trouper Trying hard to look like Gary Cooper Super duper Come let's mix where Rockefellers walk with sticks Or "um-ber-ellas" in their mitts Puttin’ on the ritz

Langston Hughes The rhythm of life Is a jazz rhythm, Honey. The gods are laughing at us. The broken heart of love, The weary, weary heart of pain,— Overtones, Undertones, To the rumble of street cars, To the swish of rain. Lenox Avenue, Midnight, And the gods are laughing at us.


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