From Robert Johnson to Aretha Franklin, Mahalia Jackson to John Lee Hooker, blues and gospel artists figure heavily in the mythology of twentieth-century culture. The styles in which they sang have proved hugely influential to generations of popular singers, from the wholesale adoptions of singers like Robert Cray or James Brown, to the subtler vocal appropriations of Mariah Carey. Their own music, and how it operates, is not, however, always seen as valid in its own right. This book provides an overview of both these genres, which worked together to provide an expression of twentieth-century black US experience. Their histories are unfolded and questioned; representative songs and lyrical imagery are analysed; perspectives are offered from the standpoint of the voice, the guitar, the piano, and also that of the working musician. The book concludes with a discussion of the impact the genres have had on mainstream musical culture.