Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Deglamorizing the Soulful Nature of the Blues

            There has been countless times in which music plays a major role in the lives of entertainers.  People ranging from Barbra Streisand to Michael Jackson have contributed to the world of music with their passion and devotion to that craft.  However, the general public might not be fully aware about how music affects the private lives of such artists.  In fact, sometimes music might act as a curse upon such people rather than a blessing.  In David Crittendon’s “Reckless Blues / A Story About Bessie Smith,” Crittendon’s use of music reveals the pressure associated with being a music star because of the stress related to the entertainment industry.
            Bessie is a character who craves for more because of her desire to achieve stardom.  For example, Bessie mentions that she, “Got tired of being the best thing on stage but never singing lead” (78).  It is interesting to note that she reveals how she was “the best thing on stage” (78) because that implies that she is already a starlet.  However, she immediately follows that description with “never singing lead” (78).  In a way, she essentially strives for more because she enjoys the glory associated with being on stage.  Such a mentality presents an issue, though, because the pursuit of fame can ultimately result in her personal demise.
            Bessie also undergoes a character shift as she transitions from being a star to a person consumed within her own craft.  For example, she mentions that, “I stopped singing and only used my mouth for pleasure, forget about turning expressions into songs, was through hooking trumpets to memories, telling no-counts I loved them” (79).  The idea of using her “mouth for pleasure” (79) implies that her desire to be a music star involves her craving for satisfaction.  Additionally, singing allows her to express herself, and the simple act of using her mouth offers her the opportunity to enjoy what she does.  However, her want of “pleasure” (79) also contributes to her own downfall because she stops “turning expressions into songs” (79).  Therefore, she uses music as an excuse for a sense of satisfaction rather than as an act of passion.
            Bessie’s downward spiral also creates problems within her personal life.  Specifically, she reveals, “I finally woke up singing and his people warned him about me” (79).  Bessie essentially becomes a danger to both herself and her husband because other people regard her at a threat at this point in her descent.  Symbolically, Bessie also remarks, “‘Songs die like we do’” (79).  Her comment foreshadows her end of her relationship with her husband, named Earl.  Furthermore, Earl also asks her, ““‘Why you say ‘yes’ when I offered you a quiet life?’” (80). Realizing that the both of them had changed, Bessie acknowledges that she “leaned into the blues” (80), meaning that she devoted herself entirely to her music and nothing else.  Unfortunately, her passion for music led to devastation as “A country juke brought [their] marriage down” (81).  Ultimately, music might have been Bessie’s passion, but it also transformed into a disastrous obsession as her professional life damages her personal life as well.
            Finally, David Crittendon’s short story serves as a warning about the destructive power of music.  Some people believe that music artists might have it all, but that portrayal of the glamour associated with stardom is not a complete portrait of such talented musicians.  In fact, sometimes the general public forgets that artists are fundamentally human and prone to error.  Additionally, music might enchant audiences, but there is also a dark side to music that reveals the bleakness associated with entertainment.  Therefore, David Crittendon appropriately titled the first part of his story “Reckless Blues” because the blues ultimately did make Bessie a reckless individual.

Works Cited

Crittendon, David.  “Reckless Blues / A Story About Bessie Smith.”  Statement Magazine
            2015.  Los Angeles: California State University—Los Angeles, 2015. 78-81. Print.

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