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“ The Weary Blues ” (1925). Langston Hughes. Artie Matthews ’ “ Weary Blues ”. Published “ Weary Blues ” in 1915. Had become a huge hit by the time Langston Hughes wrote the poem alluding to it.

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artie matthews weary blues
Artie Matthews’“Weary Blues”
  • Published “Weary Blues” in 1915.
  • Had become a huge hit by the time Langston Hughes wrote the poem alluding to it.
  • Artie Matthews (1885-1958) was the first to publish a ragtime song: “Baby Seal’s Blues” in 1912.
slide3

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.
the weary blues lyrics 1915
“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.

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.

I am gonna bid my weary blues goodbye.

I am gonna bid my weary blues goodbye.

the blues
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

hughes the weary blues
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.
weary blues wins first prize
“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.
vachel linsdey 1879 1931
Vachel Linsdey (1879-1931)
  • 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.
hughes mingus feather collaboration
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.
down on lenox avenue
Down on Lenox Avenue
  • Lenox Avenue is main thoroughfare in Harlem, running from Central Park to 147th St.
slide11

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

slide12

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 (1920-1940) boomed.

lennox lounge
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.
irving berlin s original 1928 lyrics to puttin on the ritz referred to lenox avenue not park avenue
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

Puttin' on the ritz

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

Puttin' on the ritz

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

Puttin' on the ritz

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

slide15

LENOX AVENUE: MIDNIGHT

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,

Honey.

Midnight,

And the gods are laughing at us.