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Getting the Blues: What Blues Music Teaches Us about Suffering and Salvation Paperback – September 1, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Brazos Press; Assumed First Edition edition (September 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587432129
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587432125
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #760,225 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

It's difficult to associate the loneliness and downright mournfulness of the blues with the joyful teachings on salvation that often characterize the Christian religion. Yet in this splendid little book, theologian Nichols engagingly reminds us that the musical genre of the blues helps us to understand what theologians call redemption. Drawing on a wide range of blues singers and their lyrics, he blends the strains of the blues into the harmonies of theology and scripture in order to compose a new song about the powerful manner in which the blues prepare us for understanding the mercy and love of God. In songs such as Mississippi John Hurt's Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child, for example, the blues record the loneliness and the desolation the singer feels, and Nichols compares this to the desolation that Christ felt when God forsook him on the cross. Finally, in his mournful songs, Blind Lemon Jefferson juxtaposes the despair of failure with the hope that such failures can be overcome. Nichols's elegant study offers fresh insights into the blues and their meaning for religion. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From the Back Cover

From the Promised Land to the Mississippi Delta

David expresses his dark side in the Psalms.

The prophets cry out in anguish and condemn social injustices.

And Paul bemoans his frailty as a man.

In Getting the Blues, Stephen Nichols examines this dissonance in the Bible--what he calls "theology in a minor key"--and leads readers in a vivid exploration of how blues music offers powerful insight into the biblical narrative and the life of Jesus.

Subtly weaving Bible stories together with intriguing details of the lives of blues musicians such as Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, Nichols reveals what blues music teaches about sin, suffering, alienation, and worship. He delves into how the blues can intensify our understanding of bondage to sin and redemption and how the blues encourage us to strive for justice and righteousness. In the end, readers will emerge with a deeper understanding of the value of a theology that lingers on the dark side and embraces Good Friday as well as Easter, suffering as well as joy.

"In the current cultural climate, surrounded by so much sentimentality, we need blues music and its Christian resonances as perhaps never before. Nichols's book should go a long way to putting this art form back on the theological agenda."--Jeremy Begbie, Duke University

"Too often the Blues is put in opposition to Spirituals. But when the church's songs stray too far from the cries of a broken humanity, they lose their truth, depth, and power. In Getting the Blues, Stephen Nichols compellingly shows how the minor key of the Blues resonates with the minor keys in scripture and theology. By attending closely to these 'blue notes' Nichols writes truthfully and wisely about God's ways with wayward children--not only famous ones like Muddy Waters and Ma Rainey, but also the likes of you and me."--Christian Scharen, Yale Center for Faith & Culture; author of One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God

More About the Author

Stephen J. Nichols is president of Reformation Bible College and chief academic officer and teaching fellow for Ligonier Ministries. He earned a PhD from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and is author of numerous books, including For Us and for Our Salvation and Jesus Made in America.

Customer Reviews

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If you love music or history you should read this book.
Amazon Customer
Getting the Blues: What Blues Music Teaches Us About Suffering and Salvation by Stephen J. Nichols was definitely a great find.
Scandalous Sanity
Well written, historically informative, and theologically insightful.
michael hirtzel

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Scandalous Sanity VINE VOICE on November 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
Getting the Blues: What Blues Music Teaches Us About Suffering and Salvation by Stephen J. Nichols was definitely a great find. As one who knew practically nothing of the blues, this book opened my eyes to the soul behind the most soul-filled music ever created. Nichols also did an extremely well job of sticking to the thesis of this book and incorporating the very visible theological themes within this passionate genre of music.

The book doesn't stray far from the Delta River Blues and Blues musicians. As one of the oft-mentioned artist said, "Blues is the roots, the rest is the fruits." Nichols compares this area with that of Eden, a place where something more extrordinary began, but also a place where much torment and separation are always before your eyes and the back of your mind.

Nichols turns the Blues, which are generally thought of as extremely secular, into lessons on Christ, Suffering, Salvation, and Eternal Life in an extremely intricate way. You could definitely find some comfort in this book if you connect with the disheartened, and bedraggled of the world.

The only thing that really hindered my reading was the amount of lyrics inserted between Nichols own words to make his point. I can understand that attempting to make a point about a bunch of songs is difficult, especially when attempting to write for an audience that isn't familiar with these songs, but this made it seem like a college research paper. The points could have been made without so many. But, I would still recommend this book, it just may take a while to work through.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Brandon Cozart on July 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
"The blues is a congregation that sings on Saturday night in expectation of Sunday" (171). The blues forces us to deal with the realities of life. The woman who "done me wrong," the death of friends, the strong allure of drink, smoke, and other vices. Yet at the same time, while in the fray of dealing with so much trouble, the blues points us to the hope of things to come. That glorious Sunday morning when all will be made right and salvation will surely come.

In his book, Getting the Blues: What Blues Music Teaches Us About Suffering and Salvation, Stephen J. Nichols takes us on a musical journey through the early 20th century Mississippi Delta in search of a theology in the minor key. Too many American evangelicals, he states, live life as though it is always "spring and summer without winter or fall. Or always Easter and never Good Friday" (14). This attitude, for the author, is simplistic and naïve at best, borderline blasphemous at worst. This is because it is a rejection of the experience and intent of Jesus Christ, who, though fully God, left the spring and summer of heaven to take on flesh and dwell in the winter and fall of earthly life.

Half history book, half theology book, Getting the Blues delves into how the blues can give us insight for living in this constant tension between reality and the hope to come. Comprised of six chapters, this book begins with an orientation to the world of the blues--its musical characteristics, origins, key players--as well as an introduction to the theological themes of the blues in a chapter entitled, "What Hath Mississippi to Do with Jerusalem." The second chapter, "I Be's Troubled," explores the relationship between what both the blues and the Bible have to say about the human condition.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
Being a blues musician I have always felt the blues is a biblical music. If you read the Psalms its easy to see that David had the blues. I believe David was a blues guitar player. Nichols calls the blues "theology in a minor key" and shows how this music relates to biblical themes of salvation and suffering. If you love music or history you should read this book. The author also includes some lyrics he has written. If you read the bible thinking about the blues you will see that every major character had the blues at one time or another and you will also see how God moves in their lives to save and deliever them. As a blues guitar playing Pastor of a local Church I recomend this book to you. Visit my blog [...]
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jason Chamberlain VINE VOICE on January 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
While I am not going to argue with Paul's words in Philippians, reality is also found in James 1:2 where we are told to rejoice "when trials come upon you," not "if." The blues deal with real life and Nichols does a great job of tying blues music to the gospel.

If you ever find yourself tiring of the happy-clappy joy-joy treacle found on Christian radio you should read this book. Not too many artists in the CCM scene have a name that starts with "Blind," like so many of the blues artists'. There are times when life is painful and the blues deal with that.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Throughly enjoyable. Well written, historically informative, and theologically insightful. Didn't want to put it down! If your interested in the history of the blues in America, you will be glad you picked up this book. I loved the part, "I went out full, and I came back empty." Check it out.
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