Thursday, October 11, 2012

Blues Roots: Leadbelly

There was one time I saw someone on the usually very liberal political website Daily Kos arguing that once a person kills another person they have given up the right to be treated like a human and so should face the death penalty. The person arguing this was NOT a rabid Republican. Nor is support of the death penalty only a radical Republican position (I do not oppose it per se, merely the horrible and unfair way it is applied). But the statement was horrible and I responded by asking if THIS person had given up the right to be treated like a human:


 Leadbelly (Huddie William Ledbetter) was a founding force for a great deal of modern music. For those who have no room in their heart for people serving prison terms, Leadbelly was sentenced to at least two prison terms. The first was for illegal gun possession (he escaped from that prison term), and the second for killing a relative, ostensibly over a woman. He was pardoned from his murder sentence partly because of his musical talent. Is it right that he only served seven years for killing a man? Perhaps not, but his pardon allowed him to set the foundations for modern music from blues to R and B to Rock and Roll. I believe American music would have been far less than it was without this one man's voice.


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Blues Highlights: James Booker

This guy is a new find for me, thanks to Pandora Radio. James Booker was born in 1939 in New Orleans and was part of the long and ongoing tradition of kick ass music in that town. He died in 1983. He died waiting in an emergency room from renal failure, something that could probably have been headed off if we had us some decent healthcare in America. Booker's most famous student is Harry Connick Jr. I only learned about him today, proving there is always more great music to find. His piano work is excellent. His singing is okay but it is his piano work that stands out. James Booker doing St. James Infirmary, a song that goes WAY back, and which I mostly associate with Cab Caolloway, though Louis Armstrong made it popular:


 James Booker in action, singing "True":

 And playing "Sunny Side of the Street": (shows off his piano skills particularly well on this one)


 And finally "Good Night Irene," another OLD song (though nowhere near as old as the roots of St. James Infirmary) originally made popular by Leadbelly. This version is different from the standard
Leadbelly/Pete Seeger etc. version:


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Blues Highlights: Koko Taylor

One of my favorite blues singers is Koko Taylor. She has one of the greatest voices in American music and she seemed to genuinely enjoy performing. For those who don't know her, I'd like to introduce you to Koko Taylor.

I think the best place to start is with the classic Koko Taylor's kick ass Wang Dang Doodle. First is the version I know best. Second shows Koko in action.


<blockquote>Tell automatic Slim
Tell razor totin' Jim
Tell butcher knife
Toting Nanny
Tell fast talking fanny
We're gonna pitch a ball
Down to the union hall

We're gonna romp
And trump till midnight
We're gonna fuss
And fight till daylight
We're gonna get your
Wang dang doodle
All night long (5x)

Tell cooda-crawling Ray
To tell abyssinia Ned
To tell old pistol Pete
To tell everybody he meets
Tonight we need no rest
We're gonna really
Throw a mess
We're gonna knock down
All the windows
We're gonna kick down
All the doors
We're gonna get your
Wang dang doodle
All night long (5x)

Tell fats
And washbone Sam
Everybody gonna jam
Tell shaking boxcar Joe
We got
Sawdust on the floor
Now tell Peggy
And Colin Die
We're gonna have
A heck of a time
Now when the fish
Scent fill the air
There'll be
Snuff juice everywhere
We're gonna get your
Wang dang doodle
All night long (8x)</blockquote>

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