Sonny’s Blues

According to scientific research done in music psychology, music has been found to be a source of solace for many through the calming effects it has on people who are depressed or even in distress (Sloboda, John A 56).  “Sonny’s Blues” is set in Harlem and presents a grim picture of what it was like to be African-American at that particular period. Widespread racial discrimination, segregation and poverty amongst the black community is the norm in everyday life here. To escape all this, Sonny starts using heroin to brighten his dull and also as a way to seek solace but soon lands in jail for heroin possession. After being released from prison, he tries to seek purpose in his life and this is when he realizes that he his deep love for Jazz music. Music in this context thus serves to provide Sonny with solace when he gets bouts of depression as a young man growing in a racist society while being socio-economically deprived.

Music can be used as an alternative for people battling addiction and substance abuse as it acts as a substitute for these drugs making the possibility of relapsing minimal((Aldridge, David and Jörg Fachner 107). Sonny is always in danger of relapsing and going back to hi drug habit due to his lack of an emotional equilibrium and support stemming from his strained relationship with his elder brother who is an algebra tutor. His nascent passion for music comes in to replace his addiction to heroin as it now becomes his new passion and gives him a reason to live.”Her voice reminded me of what heroine feels like…it makes you feel…distant [and] sure…it makes you feel in control.” (Baldwin 24). This new adduction becomes an area where he channels all his energies and by doing so avoid relapsing back to using drugs.

Music has been proven time and again to be a form of bridge and connection for many people, even those who are strangers to each other in the society (Veblen, Kari K 83).  It is quite evident that Sonny feels like a stranger to his brother the narrator. This rift is further widened when Sonny decides that he wants to pursue music as a career in future. He lists jazz musicians of his epoch such as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie to his brother who seems to know very little about jazz and music in general. The narrator is of the opinion that this kind of music will only waste his life as  he sees this kind of music as just “people sitting around and fooling around’’ and end up using drugs again. He is of the opinion that he should find a new passion that will give him a real career like him who is an algebra tutor. At the culmination of this story, this same music that had created a rift between the two of them ended up bringing them together after attending a concert at Greenwich Village where Sonny was playing. The music moved him so much that memories of his late mother, brother and daughter flashed before him when he heard his brother play.

Music can be a source of motivation for many as it arouses states that individuals would want to be in both emotionally and physically (Crowe, Barbara J). Music performs this role perfectly in the life of Sonny who suffers from emotional pain and decides to dull his pain by turning to heroin use. His discovery of music and especially jazz music which had the eclectic ‘Bebop’ style which was free and open to improvisation led him find a source of motivation. This motivation that arose from music was responsible for leading Sonny to the path of music and him believing in himself even though he is from a socio-economically deprived community.

It is possible for individuals to forge a career out of a passion such as music and rake in the benefits of such a fulfilling career (Baskerville, David and Tim Baskerville). Sonny seeks to express to his brother how one can embrace a non-traditional way of earning a living, and still make a living. His brother the narrator in a sense represents African-Americans who are trying to fit in the society by embracing careers that considered proper by the racist society they live in. Sonny seeks to shatter this perception by being like non-traditional just like the genre of music he wanted to embrace. His eyes are set on music as a career and he holds in to this dream steadfastly. He sees prosperity in being a musician and no one, not even his brother,  can dissuade him.

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