Curt and Rod Presents – Blues Monday   Leave a comment

The Beatles

Yer Blues

“Yer Blues” is a song by the Beatles from the album The Beatles, also known as The White Album. Though credited to Lennon–McCartney, it was written and composed by John Lennon  while in Rishikesh, India.

Lennon said that, while “trying to reach God and feeling suicidal” in India, he wanted to write a blues song, but was unsure if he could imitate the likes of Sleepy John Estes and other original blues artists he had listened to in school. In “Yer Blues,” he alludes to this insecurity with a reference to the character Mr. Jones from Bob Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man,” and with the third verse, which draws on Robert Johnson’s “Hellhound on My Trail.” Instead, Lennon wrote and composed “Yer Blues” as a parody of British imitators of the blues, featuring tongue-in-cheek guitar solos and rock and roll-inspired swing blues passages.

The half-satirical, half-earnest song mockingly acknowledges the British blues boom of 1968 and the debate among the music press at the time of whether white men could sing the blues.  According to Walter Everett, the song’s “ponderous earnestness … belies the composer’s satirical tone.” In the chorus, Lennon sings, “If I ain’t dead already, girl you know the reason why.” The writer Jonathan Gould interprets this to be a “joke [in] that nobody knows the reason why — or, for that matter, what any of these bluesy poetics are really supposed to mean.” Gould called “Yer Blues” an example of the “cultural realism” that distinguished the Beatles from their musical contemporaries in Britain: “[T]heir acceptance of the idea that, except as a subject of self-parody, certain expressive modes of African-American music lay outside the realm of their experience and hence beyond their emotional range as singers.”

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