Male blues lyrics 1920 to 1965: A corpus based analysis

Marcus Bridle*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


This study examines corpora comprised of 795 lyrics from 35 male blues singers, recorded between 1920 and 1965. The study uses the concept of literary foregrounding (Leech, 2008) and the computer program Wmatrix (Rayson, 2009) to identify key semantic domains and key words in the lyrics before engaging in a qualitative analysis of concordances to analyse patterns of language use. Lyrics recorded in the pre-World War Two period (1920 to 1941) are contrasted with those recorded in the post-war period (1945 to 1965). The results suggest that the male blues lyrics of the period under investigation, and in particular the way in which they differ between the pre- and post-World War Two eras, might reflect the demographic changes of the African-American community of the time and their relationship with aspects of the dominant ideology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-37
Number of pages17
JournalLanguage and Literature
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Feb 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Blues
  • Wmatrix
  • corpus
  • foregrounding
  • lyric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


Dive into the research topics of 'Male blues lyrics 1920 to 1965: A corpus based analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this