Recent publications by Robert Springer and Michael Taft have brought renewed attention to the subject of the formula in blues lyrics. This article critiques these works. Drawing insights from the author's fieldwork in the blues tradition, it agrees with Springer that a blues formula can be a half-line, whole line, or couplet unit and suggests that the blues formula should be understood, as Parry and Lord understood the oral epic formula, to be a lexical rather than semantic unit. The author offers a method of structural analysis of highly formulaic blues texts and discusses the relationships of folk blues to commercially recorded blues.
Journal of American Folklore – American Folklore Society
Published: Oct 18, 2007