The Psalms as Blues

What do the “Devil’s music” and the Word of God have in common?

Lament. Both Robert Johnson and King David knew what it was like to suffer, to be tormented, both internally and externally. Did they take different paths to relieve their suffering? Of course. But one strategy they both used was to express their trials in song. Let’s look at parts of “Stones in My Passway” by Johnson (recording) and Psalm 13, written by David (full text).

Stones In My Passway
My enemies have betrayed me
Have overtaken poor Bob at last
My enemies have betrayed me
Have overtaken poor Bob at last
An’ here’s one thing certainly
They have stones all in my pass

Psalm 13
How long will my enemies triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
The feeling we get from both of these texts is that of weakness in the face of enemies, and a sense of impending doom. They had different enemies of course, but they were similarly worn down by them, and they both acknowledged their inability to defeat their enemies. Let’s look at another section from each song:


Stones In My Passway…………………….Psalm 13
I got stones in my passway                             How long, oh Lord? Will you forget me forever?
And my road seems dark as night                 How long will you hide your face from me?
I have pains in my heart                                 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
They have taken my appetite                        and every day have sorrow in my heart?

The previous passages focused on external enemies, and these discuss the singers’ internal struggles. They each have sorrow/pain in their hearts, and they are both in darkness.

I think this comparison is interesting, especially considering the fact that blues music is seen as almost a polar opposite to what is referred to as sacred music.

Disclaimer: I know that there are many blues and many Psalms that are not like these. And I know that there are several more differences between these two songs than I described. I am simply pointing out the similarities.

About evblan

I am a music teacher. I also pretend to be an amateur chess player, tennis enthusiast, pop physics and pop philosophy consumer, etc.
This entry was posted in Blues Connections, Discussion Topic and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Psalms as Blues

  1. blackrevivalstudio says:

    Great Article! I agree with your theory. I am writing Christian novel about the topic of Crossroad. I let you know when it done! God bless and keep the faith
    Love your blog!

  2. Pingback: Blues at the Crossroads: Analysis and Final Reflection | musicmediaresearch

  3. Pingback: MUSIC FRIDAY: The Psalms as Blues | Feileadh Mor

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