Damn Right, I've Got the Blues
Updated: Jun 16, 2020
By Buddy Guy
This is probably one of the top 50 best blues songs ever written. Powerful and seemingly direct with it's moaning & screaming about being alienated from society and so having the real deep blues. The song, released in 1991 on the album by the same name, by Buddy Guy (1936), the album won for best contemporary blues that year. For me the song works on multiple levels, one is the visceral and immediate with the explosive grief heard in Guy's voice and playing "you're damn right I got the blues!".
Second, the direct honesty of the song, the emphatic "Damn Right, I've Got the Blues!", says its okay, even necessary to admit to troubles. White Euro Christian America seems obsessed with everything seeming to be alright, to cover things we don't like up, be it personal issues or historical difficulties or atrocities. But there is a time and place that life just hurts or has been harmed and it's important to accept and express this. Someone is sick, a loved one dies, the police crush the neck of a Black man on live TV, you lost your job, you don't know how those bills will get paid, the one you love does not love you, your best friend - your dog died, you are threatened with illness or violence, you see the way you are followed and examined because of your skin or gender, you know you let someone you care about down, you discover the horrors of our colonialist and racist histories; damn right I've got the blues!". Yes, of course one does not want to live only in a state of blues, that's why the music has such strength and rhythm, to help bring us back up and out of the blues, but in life there are few genuine ups that have not come with genuine downs which we have to admit, accept in order to work at changing. So say it! It's okay! It can be the start to honesty and clarity in your life.
But at even a deeper intellectual, spiritual and cultural level this song may speak of the alienation of being black, particularly being black and male in America. The lyrics "I stopped by my daughter's house, you know I just want to use the phone. My little grand-baby came to the door and said granddaddy, you know ain't no one at home" could just be a tragic personal story. But I hear much more. I hear that the world is cold and hard and there is really no one to trust, sometimes even those who are suppose to love, care for and protect us. And I think this might tell something of what it feels like to be black in America. That no one can be fully trusted. That even basic decency may be absent from how one will often be treated. That innocent children, white and black continue to be taught to think in these same old destructive ways. "You're damn right I've got the Blues, from my head down to my shoes!".