Blues Ballads: Overview

Blues Ballad
Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter

Blues ballads are loosely-organized narrative folk songs. They are often about murders, disasters, or criminals, but they don't follow an exact sequence of events as do other types of ballads. Blues ballads tend to focus on the responses and thoughts of the participants and those affected rather than a chronological storyline. The style likely evolved with African American singers in the last decades of the 19th century as an adaptation of Anglo-American ballad traditions. Other blues ballads include "John Henry," "John Hardy," "Frankie and Johnny," "Casey Jones," and "Stackolee."

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