LIMA — Detroit Blues legend Robert B. Jones Sr. has an affection for his genre of music.
This week, he is spending time relating how the music has a connection to just about everyone, even if they didn’t realize it.
Jones has been at Liberty Arts Magnet School this week for Blues in the Schools week. Jones is a pastor, storyteller, multi-instrumentalist and an award-winning educator with a deep knowledge of the history of African-American folk music. Jones played live and gave a history of blues music as a part of Blues in the Schools Week at the Allen County Museum on Wednesday.
“It was a message of how far back it goes,” Jones said after the concert Wednesday. “The thing about the blues, it goes back with both black and white music. Both derive from the blues, the same three chords, the same five notes. Without it, American music would not be the same.”
Jones said the blues show that groups of different ethnicity have more in common than what they have to fight about.
“We all need to be proud of where we came from,” Jones said, “but not to the point where it divides us.”
Jones took about 60 listeners on a journey through the blues, from spirituals in the 1800s, the 1900s with the slaves, and the 20th century, where he said, “when anyone could sing about whatever they wanted to.” He connected the blues genre to country and bluegrass, 1940s rhythm and blues, 1950s rock ‘n’ roll, and the 1965 segregated South. He even was able to trace it to today’s rap-style music.
“In the ’60s, they had a rope dividing the blacks and the whites because they didn’t want them together,” Jones said. “But when you start slowing down those three chords and five notes, they tore down that rope.”
Jones then went into a rendition of “My Girl” by the Temptations.
The Blues in Schools week has gone in a different direction, going from the band and music classroom to the social studies and visual art classes with teachers Summer Douglass and Kim Williams-Terry.
Students are looking into the art of the Harlem Renaissance, specifically artists Aaron Douglas and Palmer Hayden, with art that tells a story. With the knowledge gathered in the brief time, students will write a short story, taking one moment from one scene in the story and making an illustration. The inspiration pieces are Douglas’ “The Creation” and “Ma Bad Luck Card,” and Hayden’s “Just Back From Washington,” “The Janitor Who Paints” and the John Henry series. On Friday, the school will be assembled in the large dance room for a performance by Jones beginning at 10 a.m.
Jerry Felter with the Blues Committee said it is good for the students to bring in blues performers for the special week, which has been held since 1992.
“Anytime you bring in a real artist, it gives the kids someone to admire,” Felter said. “Because of its history and the style, the blues can connect to any classroom.”
The monies raised through the blues performance goes to fund scholarships for music majors for Lima Senior High graduates and music residencies in the Lima schools.
Reach Lance Mihm at 567-242-0409 or on Twitter @LanceMihm.