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Blues doesn't bring in big money, says legendary Buddy Guy

On a recent visit to India, legendary blues singer-guitarist Buddy Guy spoke about his love for the genre and its current state in terms of popularity.

music Updated: Feb 21, 2015 17:16 IST
Ruchika Kher
Ruchika Kher
Hindustan Times
Buddy Guy,Muddy Waters,blues

Dressed in an understated beige shirt (which was in stark contrast to the polka dots ones that he usually wears to concerts), trousers and a matching flat cap to go with it, Buddy Guy entered the al fresco section of a five-star hotel in the Bandra Kurla Complex. With the same energy in his approach, which he is known for, the 78-year-old said, “You know, I love India and the smiling faces here.”

In the city for the fourth time to participate in a recently concluded music festival, Guy, who was recently honoured at the Grammys with the lifetime achievement award, explains that wherever his music takes him, he approaches every concert with one philosophy. “Everyone has problems, but when I play the guitar and I see people smiling, I feel I’ve made them forget their problems. That’s what I like,” he said.

Guy, who broke into the music scene in the ’60s, made a mark for himself in the field of blues with a number of tracks, including Sit and Cry, This is The End, Stone Crazy and My Time After While, among others.

With his innovative approach to the genre, he was often credited for being the link between blues and rock ‘n’ roll. “For the longest time, I didn’t even know that I was actually doing it,” says Guy. The artiste reveals that it was not before several artistes told him that his music has strong influences of rock ‘n’ roll that he realised this pattern. “I was just playing and having fun. I remember, when I met Eric Clapton for the first time, he told me that he didn’t know that a Stratocaster (guitar) can play blues until he saw me,” he recalled.

Now, even though he has been playing for over five decades, he is still raring to go and has no plans to hang up his boots. “I’ve dedicated my life to blues, and I’m trying to keep this music alive because, around the world, blues isn’t played much anymore,” he said ruing the fact that nowadays people are into hip hop and other genres more. “But I still love the blues and have nothing else to do but to play it,” he added.

Even though blues is usually categorised as a genre soaked in melancholy, Guy begs to differ. He says his brand of blues is interestingly, upbeat and ‘happy’. “Whenever I meet someone who says that blues is sad, I invite them to my concerts, and the next morning I get excited calls from them saying, ‘You didn’t play one sad song’,” said the artiste. He feels that blues is essentially about everyday life and should not be pigeonholed into a ‘sad’ genre.

But, has the generalisation led to the decline in its popularity? Guy, who has been a fan of blues legends like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter, feels so. “When I was a teenager, the radio stations used to play everything — gospel, blues and jazz. Now, you don’t get that. The radio stations mainly play records by the superstars all day, and you never hear a blues artiste. People feel that blues is slow, and that’s why they don’t play it, but all blues is not slow. It’s just that blues doesn’t bring in big money, and everything is ruled by money nowadays,” he said.

First Published: Feb 21, 2015 14:16 IST