In this story by James Baldwin, the narrator's brother, Sonny, is a jazz pianist. He has also struggled with heroin addiction. His decision to devote himself to music was very different from the path of the narrator, who had enlisted in the military.
Although the brothers had their differences, family losses bring them back together. The older brother decides once more to help Sonny when he comes out of a stay in a drug rehabilitation hospital. This time, however, he takes a further step to really understand him, through the music that means so much to him. Perhaps because his own pain has recently been so acute—he has been grieving over his young daughter's death—he experiences a revelation. Sonny's playing shows him that the blues own Sonny, and he owns the blues. More importantly, this music is the suffering of everyone, and also the easing of that suffering. Both brothers find salvation in the music.