Date Thesis Awarded
Honors Thesis -- Open Access
Bachelors of Arts (BA)
While many scholars have aimed to address the devil as he appears in the lyrics of the blues, scholars have yet to directly address Satan as he appears in the blues. This paper aims to fill that gap in the existing literature, seeking answers to why "devil" appears so much more frequently than "Satan." In reviewing the singular pre-war blues song which does mention Satan by name, Robert Johnson's "Me and the Devil Blues," the ways in which "Satan" and "devil" are used in the lyrics of other forms of African American music like the spiritual, and the cultural contexts from which this music emerged, this paper aims to note the possible different intentions behind each word's use. The prominent divide in the sacred and secular use of "Satan" in the lyrics of pre-war African American music indicates that Johnson's use was likely pointed, with "Me and the Devil Blues" demonstrating the generational tension of the interwar era. In beginning to understand the differences in the use of "devil" and "Satan," this paper addresses a topic not yet prominently acknowledged in the field.
Mahoney, Kyle, "Searching for Satan in the Pre-War Devil Blues" (2023). Undergraduate Honors Theses. William & Mary. Paper 1965.