Sunday, December 26, 2010


Day 10 - A song that makes you fall asleep

I understand that not to mean a boring one, but one that you really feel save with. For me it is an easy task, since I can fall and have actually fallen asleep to almost any music in the world, be it in the Chelsea-Club in Vienna in the olden times, other pubs, concerts or at home. In most cases, I only wake up when someone turns off the music. Be that as it may, a slow waltz is the best music to fall asleep. At this point, Huddie Ledbetter comes in. "His name was Ledbetter but they called him Lead Belly" Michelle Shocked said during a concert before giving her version of "Midnight Special" which she credited to him. The man led a life of hardships (spent a certain amount of time in prison, in the chain gang a.s.o., convicted for armed robbery, murder and the like): a man from the fringes of US-American society, who could play a load of instruments and called himself the "king of the twelve-string-guitar", he gave the USA (at least an imoportant portion of) her songbook. Many of the songs he is either thought to be author of or he has at least collected and brought to public consciousness (via people like Woody Guthrie or Pete Seeger) are standard repertoire of American Folk Music: Be it "Midnight Special", "Cotton Fields", "Black Betty", "Pick a Bale of Cotton," "House of the Rising Sun" or "Goodnight Irene" (often rendered as "Irene, Goodnight"). More people have done versions of that song (and of some of the others - e.g. CCR, Johnny Cash or Nick Cave) than can be mentioned here, among them Michelle Shocked, Maureen Tucker and performers I do not like that much as the former ones, Willy Nelson or Robin Gibb (didn't even try to listen to the latter's cover).
Here you find a collection of renderings of the song I do like, to be found on UTUBE, starting with a performance of the white man's black musician himself:

The band that American folk-legend Pete Seeger co-founded and left in 1958 (to be replaced by Erik Darling) pays due hommage to Lead Belly during this performance:

The Weavers were active from 1948-52 and from 55-64, the 3 years break caused by blacklisting of most of their members during the McCarthy-era (at least Seeger and Hays). After 1964, they sporadically reunited for public performances. If I understand it rightly, the next one is from one of their last concerts, which they have closed with "Goodnight Irene" - Lee Hays in a wheel chair, shortly before his death. According to Wikipedia, Hays died on August 26, 1981 and, in accordance with his wishes, his ashes were mixed with his compost pile - great man! This is the one performance of the many here that made me weep (w/t Ronnie Gilbert still singing with that wonderfully clear voice of hers) :

A rather long version of "Goodnight Irene" is to be found on the concert-movie of Ry Cooder and the Moula Banda Rhythm Aces, featuring (amongst others) Flaco Jiménez, the king of the accordion (at least to me)...

The song has been waiting for version by Tom Waits until 2006, but then he finally recorded it in his typical way:

I close this post with two versions that change the time signature, first Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia with his bluegrass friend John Kahn (may both of them rest in peace!) of "Old and in the Way" -fame

Finally this rather lengthy post features the talented, the wonderful, the inspiring "Dr. House" Hugh Laurie, with the TV-Band:


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