DH: Perhaps I could begin in the present and ask you how you see the status of the blues today in the black community in the US.
PO: There are a number of black writers who are interested in the arts, but I don't think blues has any significance for the black community as a whole, as gospel still has. Gospel is held together by the religious side, it's a different kind of structure. Rap seems to have taken over, at least as far as the younger generations are concerned.
DH: Do you sense any connection between rap and hip hop and the blues?
PO: There are connections, certainly, but I don't know how significant they are. There are superficial connections – for example the ‘Stackolee’ theme runs through several rap songs – but I'm not sure that is of any depth of significance. But rap songs do provide opportunities for people to express themselves as individuals; otherwise, there isn't a music that does that. As much as anything it's a functional connection, therefore, rather than a stylistic one.
DH: Rap lyrics are more outspoken in many ways than blues lyrics.