Blues

The worn hands and nubby fingernails of Bentonia, Mississippi, bluesman Jimmy "Duck" Holmes reflect his years of experience. Holmes is one of the last bluesmen who play a style known as Bentonia blues.

At an Old Juke Joint in Mississippi, the Blues Are Alive

Jimmy Holmes is the last in a line of music legends as he seeks to keep a singular American art form thriving

Here are 12 of the rarest doo-wop records ever made. “Can’t Help Loving That Girl of Mine” (1954) by Philadelphia’s 
Hide-A-Ways is, Shively says, the “holy grail of vocal group
collecting.”

A Peek Inside the World's Greatest Record Store

A lovable grouch, obsessed with the magic of American sidewalk harmony, runs the Philadelphia shop

One of the most versatile harmonica players in pop history is Stevie Wonder, shown here in Paris in 1963 at age 13.

A Brief History of the Harmonica

How the world’s handiest instrument took over American music

Featured in the museum's first temporary exhibition, the Fisk Jubilee Singers introduced spirituals to audiences around the world.

A New Museum in Nashville Chronicles 400 Years of Black Music

The culmination of two decades of planning, the National Museum of African American Music opened its doors last month

Ma Rainey poses with her band for a studio group shot c. 1924-25.

'The Great Gatsby,' Songs by Ma Rainey and Other Classic Works Are Now in the Public Domain

Canonical books, songs and films became free to use in 2021

Classic Blue is a deep shade “suggestive of the sky at dusk,” “solid and dependable,” and a “restful color,” according to Pantone.

Trending Today

Pantone's Color of the Year Is 'Solid and Dependable' Classic Blue

Some have decried the selection as dull, but Pantone prefers to frame it as "a timeless and enduring hue"

Thomas "Blind Tom" Wiggins (1849-1908), born blind and enslaved, was a musical prodigy who began performing as early as 6 years old.

Hitting the High Notes: A Smithsonian Year of Music

The Tragic Story of America’s First Black Music Star

Thomas Wiggins, an African-American musician marketed as ‘Blind Tom’, had a lucrative career—but saw none of the profits himself

At the National Portrait Gallery's inaugural American Portrait Gala, Franklin was honored in 2015 with a Portrait of the Nation Prize.

Museum Curators Reflect on the Legacy of the Queen of Soul

Aretha Franklin dies at 76; her memory lives on at the Smithsonian in artwork, photographs and other ephemera

Robert Johnson (Kamal Naiqui) records some of his tunes that would later change rock music as we know it.

'Timeless' Recapped

Somebody’s Got a Case of the Blues: Timeless Season 2, Episode 6, Recapped

The time team's humming a new tune after a run-in with one of the most influential men in American music history

Charles Brown (far right) with fellow Blazers (from left) Johnny Moore and Eddie Williams.

Who Really Wrote "Merry Christmas, Baby"

The co-author of a classic holiday song still can’t catch a break

Interior of Historic RCA Studio B today.

Play Paul Simon's Piano or Croon Into Elvis' Mic at These Seven Historic Recording Studios

Take a tour through Americana music history

Redd Velvet (born Crystal Tucker) started her career as a classically trained singer. In her early 40s she moved to Memphis and switched to the blues.

Keeping the Blues Alive

Is blues music a thing of the past? A festival in Memphis featuring musicians of all ages and nationalities shouts an upbeat answer

The legendary home base of blues pioneers.

Where the Blues Was Born

At Dockery Farms, the original bluesmen created a sound that would become legendary

History in the making: Sam Smith performs with Mary J. Blige, one of his main influences.

Why We Should Teach Music History Backwards

Rock fans do their own investigative work to understand their favorite groups’ influences. So why can’t the rest of us get with the program?

2014 Ingenuity Awards

Rosanne Cash on Discovering New Artistic Terrain

The singer-songwriter looked to her Southern ancestors to come up with a different kind of concept album

Itinerant African American musicians played to so many different audiences that they had to be as versatile as a jukebox.

Before There was the Blues Man, There Was the Songster

A new release from Smithsonian Folkways celebrates the diverse sounds of turn-of-the-century itinerant musicians

A throbbing two-block entertainment district is all that is left of old Beale Street, most of which was razed in urban renewal schemes.

The Soul of Memphis

Despite setbacks, the Mississippi River city has held onto its rollicking blues joints, smokin' barbecue and welcoming, can-do spirit

Famous for Motown hits like “My Girl” and “Get Ready,” the Temptations spin and glide through their polished choreography at the Apollo Theater.

Motown Turns 50

For years, the recording industry excluded black artists. Along came Motown, and suddenly everyone was singing its tunes

In his heyday, Dr. John would appear on stage in a puff of smoke, decorated in Mardi Gras plumes, bones and amulets, reciting voodoo chants while spreading glitter into the audience.

Dr. John's Prognosis

The blues and rock musician shares stories of his wild past and his concerns for the future.

Mariza is gaining a reputation as the new queen of fado.

Portugal's Soulful Sound

Often compared to American blues, fado is gaining global appeal