Friday, June 6, 2008

St. James Infirmary Blues

Last night I heard a local band play the "St. James Infirmary Blues."

It got me to thinking about this song.

Now, I'm a big White Stripes fan, and they do a respectable version of it, but the Cab Calloway / Betty Boop version is definitely the most famous.

The band I saw last night, did a traditional version, and it smoked!

Of course, the song is practically ancient - it evolved from an English folk song called "The Unfortunate Rake" (also known as "Unfortunate Lad" or "The Young Man Cut Down in His Prime").

"The Unfortunate Rake" is about a young sailor who spent all his money on whores and dies of a venereal disease. When the song moved to America - gambling and drinking became the cause of death.

I got home and did a search on YouTube, and there are plenty versions on to listen to.

This one is my favorite.

I've embedded this next version for two reasons. One is that this guy is a "nobody" (sorry, dude)- and I like "nobodys" (I'm one, too).

The other reason being that he does a fine instruction (in case any one is interested in learning how to play this gem).

I've included this final version below (by the Gutter Twins), because it's more contemporary than the previous two.

It's similar in style to the White Stripes version except ... WAY BETTER.

I went down to old Joe's bar room, on the corner by the square
Well, the drinks were bein' served as usual, and this motley crowd was there

Well, on my left stood Joe McKennedy, and his eyes were bloodshot red
When he told me that sad story, these were the words he said:

I went down to the St. James infirmary, I saw my baby there
She was stretched out on a long white table, so cold, and fine, and fair.

Let her go, let her go, God bless her, wherever she may be
She can search this world over, never find another man like me

When I die Oh lord please bury me in my high top Stetson hat
Put gold coins over my eyelids, so the boys will know I died standing pat

Get six crapshooting pallbearers, six chorus girls to sing me a song,
Put a jazz band behind my hearse wagon, to raise hell as we roll along.

Get sixteen coal black horses, to pull that rubber tired hack.
There's thirteen men going to the graveyard, only twelve men are coming back

Well, now you've heard my story, well, have another round of booze,
And if anyone should ever, ever ask you, I've got the St. James infirmary blues!


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