Music can inspire us, and even evoke feelings that we might have misplaced or forgotten. Langston Hughes was one of the first poets to make a connection between music and poetry. He was inspired by the blues music he heard. The blues rhythms can be traced back to Africa. Most field hollers (call and response), work songs, and spirituals have a similar form which can still be detected in much of the popular music of today. The intention of the lyrics is to express an emotion. Langston Hughes, throughout his life wrote poetry which was inspired by the blues, jazz and some rap music. The rhythms were catchy and familiar, but also gave the impression that the emotion was happiness, when in the words there was an under current of something much more complicated than that. Jazz or blues music often was in the performed during a reading of the poetry.
Langston Hughes, reciting his poem, "The Weary Blues," (written in 1923) on TV in 1958. Do you notice anything about the orchestra?
This next powerful video was published in 2007 by Four Seasons Productions as a part of the Moving Poetry Series. Reciting the poem is author and Harvard Professor, Dr. Allen Dwight Callahan.
To read an analysis of the poem, "The Weary Blues" click here!