Popular blues songs that have gained a high level of recognition among the audience can be called blues standards. Widely performed and recorded, these songs are considered to be the best of blues classics and have been often interpreted by various musicians. Blues standards vary in style, originating from Delta and country blues, ragtime-vaudeville, as well as Chicago and the West Coast urban styles. They also reflect various music trends, such as rhythm and rock apart from blues.
Below is a list of the songs that topped major music singles charts and have been classified by numerous music writers as a blues standard.
"Cross Road Blues" by Robert Johnson (1936)
Better known as "Crossroads", this blues song written and recorded by Robert Johnson was performed as a solo piece accompanied by acoustic slide guitar in the Delta blues-style. The name of the song implies the place where Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul to the Devil to get his musical talent. In the late 1960s this song got very popular due to the new blues rock interpretation of English guitarist Eric Clapton who performed this song together with Cream. This version inspired many artists to release their cover versions and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame named "Crossroads" as one of the "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll".
"Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" by Bessie Smith (1929)
This blues standard written by Jimmy Cox in 1923 in a vaudeville style was popularized by Bessie Smith, the renowned female blues vocalist of the 1920s and 1930s. After she recorded the song in 1929, it has been interpreted by many musicians and performed in various styles.
"Got My Mojo Working" by Muddy Waters (1956)
This blues song originally written by Preston "Red" Foster was first recorded by Ann Cole in 1956, but it became extremely popular when Muddy Waters performed it in 1957. It has become one of the greatest hits he performed throughout his career. This song was included in a list of "Songs of the Century" and received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in 1999.
"Ain't Nobody's Business" by Anna Meyers (1922)
First recorded in 1922 by Anna Meyers with the Original Memphis Five "Ain't Nobody's Business" became one of the first blues standards. It is distinguished by a vaudeville jazz-style musical arrangement and tells about the freedom of choice.
"Baby What You Want Me to Do" by Jimmy Reed (1960)
Sometimes called "You Got Me Running", this blues song was written and recorded by Jimmy Reed in 1959. It quickly became his record chart hit and was later recorded by a number of musicians.
"Hide Away" by Freddie King (1961)
A popular blues guitar instrumental, "Hide Away" or "Hideaway" is considered a standard for numerous contemporary blues and rock musicians. Freddie King first recorded it in 1960 and it soon topped R&B and pop charts. This hit continues to live in countless interpretations recorded by a variety of musicians and has been acknowledged by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Grammy Hall of Fame.
"Boom Boom" by John Lee Hooker (1962)
Despite the fact that it was written by American blues singer and guitarist John Lee Hooker "Boom Boom" is also considered by music critics as the greatest pop songs as well. A popular hit of both an American R&B and pop charts the song has become one of Hooker's most identifiable pieces of music. It was so popular that many music artists recorded it, one of the most popular versions of it was a 1965 hit by the Animals.
"Five Long Years" by Eddie Boyd (1952)
Written and recorded by blues vocalist and pianist Eddie Boyd in 1952, the song "Five Long Years" became one of the few postwar blues standards that gained universal popularity. It was number one on the Billboard R&B chart and a lot of blues artists have recorded interpretations of the hit.
"Killing Floor" by Howlin' Wolf (1964)
"Killing Floor" is considered timeless classics of Chicago electric blues. It has been recognized by the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.
"The Sky Is Crying" by Elmore James (1960)
Another postwar blues standard, it was a R&B record chart hit and has been interpreted and recorded by various musicians.