Chicago Could Lose the Blues

An editorial in Crain's suggests that by not taking full advantage of its history with the Blues, Chicago is wasting a precious cultural resource and missing an opportunity for tourism dollars.
January 26, 2017, 7am PST | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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Tristan Bowersox

Blues songs have told Chicago's story for generations, but a recent piece in Crain's Chicago Business argues the city has been unwilling to return the favor. Besides being home to some of the greatest blues musicians, it's also the site of a living musical culture that could be a boon to the city.  "[T]o think of Chicago blues as merely a historic legacy is to overlook its worldwide following in the here and now—and to miss out on a tourism and economic development opportunity that's pumping hundreds of millions​ of dollars into other cities," Crain’s argues.

Compared to cities like Memphis, St. Louis, and New Orleans, which have built museums and tourism campaigns around their musical heritages, Chicago is lagging behind—both generally and with the blues specifically. "[W]hen tourists land in Chicago seeking a place to learn about the blues, they're pretty much on their own," Crain's writes. While Chicago is host to a major weekend Blues Festival every year, Crain's sees this as not nearly enough. "You'll find no museums here. No statues, no official tours, no markers of the vital clubs where the music gestated on the South and West sides," Crain's writes. These clubs are largely unknown even to local Chicagoans, but they have a powerful story to tell and great music inside.

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Published on Saturday, January 21, 2017 in Crain's Chicago Business
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