As an old radio guy in my youth, we watched the Billboard charts weekly to try to track the taste of mainstream listeners and then give them back precisely what they want singing in their ears. Now, as a modern day Bluesman and a Jazz lover, I am dismayed that the Billboard charts barely celebrate those genres. In the past, Billboard would sort of pretend to honor Jazz and the Blues, but today, there’s no real push to reason why those musical genres are so important to modern music, and so we’re left with middling chart coverage that feels stale and out-of-date.
Here’s the Billboard chart for Jazz songs. Why don’t we all know Paul Taylor and Dave Koz and David Beniot better? When did our taste in music change so that we not only forsake, but ignore, the very meat of what gave birth of our method of modern musical madness?
Jazz Albums don’t fare much better on the new Billboard charts. “Various Artists” as the #1 album doesn’t say much good about the future of the genre. Michael Buble? Pat Metheny? Where is the new blood? Where are the new and exciting young faces? Too many of these “charted” songs don’t even have album images!
The Blues fares even worse. There’s no “Blues Songs” chart. Billboard only convenes a “Blues Album” chart, as you can see below, and while it is filled with recognizable talents like Derek Trucks and Gregg Allman, you still get the feeling that the entire genre is taking its last breath with all the missing album art that Billboard is too lazy to upload and serve.
I wonder what the cutoff point will be for the elimination of Blues and Jazz from the Billboard charts altogether? Will it be the lack of new records from fresh talent, or will it be the death of the old timers who are currently keeping these charts alive with infrequent releases? The next decade will tell all.
If we hope to have a memeingful music history in America we need to find a way to make Jazz and the Blues important to young people again. We need to teach them in the streets and train them in the classroom. You can’t appreciate something if you have no connection to, or basic awareness of — the greatness of its core — and right now we’re in the downward curve of losing the soul of Blues and Jazz forever.