Asked Her Mother for Fifteen Cents

Fandango is going strong with his Dog Days of Summer, but today Paula gives us a song that your mother should know.  It is possible that your mother might know ‘Walking The Dog’, as that was a hit for Rufus Thomas in 1963, and it was covered by the Rolling Stones in 1964.  Thomas was a Mississippi soul singer who recorded several popular songs about dancing including ‘Funky Chicken’, ‘Do the Penguin’ and this one.  Rufus Thomas also recorded several other dog songs like, ‘Can Your Monkey Do The Dog’, ‘The Dog’, ‘Somebody Stole My Dog’, ‘Can’t Get Away From This Dog’ and ‘Stop Kicking My Dog Around’.  It is reasonable to think that the dog must be one of his favorite pets.

John Fogerty told a story about his band The Golliwogs (which would later become Creedence Clearwater Revival) opening for Sonny and Cher, when they got an encore, and started playing ‘Walking the Dog’, but the curtain suddenly dropped on them, as Sonny and Cher took the stage and started playing their opening number.  Many groups have played this song including the Troggs, the Kingsmen, Johnny Rivers, Mitch Ryder, and the Grateful Dead.

Baby’s back, all dressed in black
Silver buttons up and down her back
High, low, tipsy toe
She broke the needle now she can’t sew

Walking the dog
Just a-walking the dog
If you don’t know how to do it
I’ll show you how to walk the dog

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row


Asked her mother for fifteen cents
See the elephant, he jumped the fence
Jumped so high, he touched the sky
Never got back until the fourth of July


Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row


Baby’s back, all dressed in black
Silver buttons all down her back
High, low, tipsy toe
She broke the needle now she can’t sew


Baby’s back, all dressed in black
Silver buttons all down her back
High, low, tipsy toe
She broke the needle now she can’t sew


Just a-walking
Yeah, yeah, just a-walking
Yeah, just a-walking
Yeah, yeah, just a-walking
If you don’t know how to do it
I’ll show you how to walk the dog

Written for Fandango’s Dog Days of August FDDA #6 where the prompt is pets and for Paula’s Thursday Inspiration 68 where this week’s theme is Mother from the 1967 Beatles song ‘Your Mother Should Know’.

Made of Earth and Wood

Johnny B. Goode is a 1958 rock-and-roll song written and first recorded by Chuck Berry.  This song is based on Berry’s life.  It tells the tale of a boy with humble beginnings with an enormous talent for playing a guitar.  Some details were changed, as Berry was from St. Louis, not Louisiana, and he knew how to read and write very well.  He graduated from beauty school with a degree in hairdressing and cosmetology.  Berry got the name “Johnny” from Johnnie Clyde Johnson, a piano player who collaborated with Berry on many songs.  Johnson often wrote the songs on piano, and then Berry converted them to guitar and wrote lyrics.  Berry joined Johnson’s group, The Sir John Trio, in 1953, and quickly became the lead singer and centerpiece of the band.  Berry got the word “Goode” from the street in St. Louis where he grew up.

Chuck played this song on an electric Gibson ES-350T, which made it sound “just like a-ringin’ a bell.”  This may be the first song ever written about how much money a musician could make by playing the guitar and with this song Berry created the ultimate rock-and-roll folk hero.  It spent 15 weeks on the American charts, never rising higher than #8, but it did reach #2 on the Billboard Hot R&B Sides chart.  Johnny was able to toss his guitar into a “gunnysack” (which is an inexpensive bag) and this allowed him to practice anywhere, and he especially enjoyed being in the shade beneath the trees by the railroad.  When a train would pass by, all of the passengers were all impressed with Johnny’s soaring notes coming from his guitar.  Johnny’s mother had great faith in her son and she knew that he would make it to the top one day.

When Chuck Berry sang this song in 1958, he could have never imagined how far his rock and roll hit would really go.  In order to provide a more balanced view of the things that the American civilization is capable of ‘Johnny B. Goode’ was launched into space aboard the Voyager 1 space probe and it is now some 13 billion miles from Earth, traveling at 38,000 mph.  The guitar anthem shares space on a Golden Record alongside Mozart and Louis Armstrong, part of a cultural snapshot intended for any extraterrestrials who might someday find the spacecraft.  ‘Johnny B. Goode’ was included on the NASA golden record by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan.  Humanity’s farthest and longest-lived spacecraft is Voyager 1, and despite its vast distance, it continues to communicate with NASA daily, still probing the final frontier.

Johnnie Johnson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 and besides working with Chuck Berry, he was an apprentice to Muddy Waters and he played with Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, and John Lee Hooker.  Johnnie was in RatDog from 1996 – 1997, a group that began in 1995 as a side project for the Grateful Dead guitarist and singer Bob Weir, after Jerry Garcia died and the Dead disbanded.  Johnson died at the age of 80 from a kidney ailment and pneumonia in St. Louis on April 13, 2005.

Deep down in Louisiana, close to New Orleans
Way back up in the woods among the evergreens
There stood a log cabin made of earth and wood
Where lived a country boy named Johnny B. Goode
Who never learned to read or write so well
But he could play guitar just like a-ringin’ a bell

Go, go
Go Johnny, go, go
Go Johnny, go, go
Go Johnny, go, go
Go Johnny, go, go
Johnny B. Goode

He used to carry his guitar in a gunny sack
Go sit beneath the tree by the railroad track
Old engineers would see him sitting in the shade
Strumming with the rhythm that the drivers made
When people passed him by, they would stop and say
Oh my, but that little country boy could play


His mother told him someday you will be a man
And you will be the leader of a big ol’ band
Many people coming from miles around
Will hear you play your music when the sun goes down
Maybe one day your name will be in lights
Sayin’ Johnny B. Goode tonight

Written for Paula’s Thursday Inspiration 67 where this week’s theme is Earth from the 1987 Belinda Carlisle song ‘Heaven Is A Place on Earth’.

I Could Not Leave Her There

Robert Hunter wrote the music as well as his lyrics for this Grateful Dead song, ‘It Must Have Been The Roses’.  ‘It Must Have Been The Roses’ initially appeared in 1976 on the Grateful Dead album Steal Your Face and in the same year on Jerry Garcia’s third solo effort Reflections, however this recording was made by all the members of the Grateful Dead.  Robert Hunter said that he was probably inspired by William Faulkner’s short story A Rose for Miss Emily when he wrote this tune.  This song provides some of his finest romantic poetry, and it is one of only three songs that the Grateful Dead played where Robert Hunter composed the music as well as the lyrics.   The other two are ‘Easy Wind’ a song sung by Pigpen on Workingman’s Dead, and ‘What’ll You Raise’, a song sung by Jerry Garcia that was recorded in 1979 on the Go To Heaven album, but it was never played live.  Hunter included this song on his 1974 solo album Tales Of The Great Rum Runners.

Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley created the skull and roses design which is a well-known symbol for the Grateful Dead, that features a wreath roses growing out of the head of a skeleton and flowing ribbons tied to it.  The rose appears to be a symbol of remembrance, a token of sweeter times, an emblem of love and living spirit.  There is not much information available for this song, unlike many other Grateful Dead songs, but in 2007 Nicholas Meriwether wrote a book titled All Graceful Instruments: The Contexts of the Grateful Dead Phenomenon that devotes a whole chapter to this song comparing Robert Hunter and William Faulkner.  I would love to read this book, but it sells for $919 on Amazon.

I will try to analyze this song line by line to see what I can come up with, but basically this is a sad song about life, lost love, pain, getting old, grief and death.  “Annie laid her head down in the roses” probably means that Annie died, and this man is haunted with the vision of Annie laying in the roses, but how she died is a mystery.  The song is most likely being sung by Annie’s lover and he remembers that “She had ribbons, ribbons, ribbons in her long brown hair”.  The next line is “I don’t know, maybe it was the roses”, which is ambiguous, so I won’t try to interpret that, but I don’t think that the roses killed her.  The lover says next, “All I know, I could not leave her there”, which is sad because she is dead and he still loves her and he doesn’t want to let her go.

The lover was probably a sailor who left his girl to go work on a ship which is revealed in the next line, “Ten years the waves rolled the ships home from the sea”, so it looks like he came home after a ten-year trip.  “Thinking well how it may blow in all good company” probably means that he enjoyed his time on the sea and the comradery that he built up with his friends helped the time pass by quickly for him, while Annie was waiting for him to return.  “If I tell another what your own lips told to me” is very intriguing, making me think that the sailor made a vow to never tell a secret that they shared, or a bond that they made between them and if he did, “Let me lay ‘neath the roses and my eyes no longer see”.

The last verse contains, “One pane of glass in the window”, which could refer to the mausoleum where Annie was placed in or maybe there was a small pane of glass in her casket, or coffin, which would mean that she just died recently.  “No one is complaining, though, come in and shut the door”, makes me think that the sailor created a chilling draft when he entered the crypt or mausoleum where Annie is laid out.  “Faded is the crimson from the ribbons that she wore”, must mean that the ribbons have aged, which is odd because I would think that a dead body would clearly be showing more signs of aging than some ribbons.  Maybe Annie has been dead for a while but she still looks beautiful, because she was waiting for her lover to return.   “And it’s strange how no one comes round any more”, seals it for me that Annie died a while ago while her fellow was out at sea.

Annie laid her head down in the roses
She had ribbons, ribbons, ribbons in her long brown hair
I don’t know, maybe it was the roses
All I know, I could not leave her there

I don’t know, it must have been the roses
The roses or the ribbons in her long brown hair
I don’t know, maybe it was the roses
All I know, I could not leave her there

Ten years the waves rolled the ships home from the sea
Thinking well how it may blow in all good company
If I tell another what your own lips told to me
Let me lay ‘neath the roses and my eyes no longer see


One pane of glass in the window
No one is complaining, though, come in and shut the door
Faded is the crimson from the ribbons that she wore
And it’s strange how no one comes round any more

Written for Paula’s Thursday Inspiration 66 where this week’s theme is Leave from the 1976 Chicago song ‘If You Leave Me Now’.

Is it Special Magic

Ron McKernan aka Pigpen composed the music and wrote the lyrics for this Grateful Dead gospel tune ‘The Stranger (Two Souls in Communion)’ and he also sang the lead vocals This song was sometimes just called ‘The Stranger’ and it was played on March 21, 1972, at the Academy of Music in New York City and then about a dozen times when the Grateful Dead were recording Europe ’72, but it did not make the album, however the April 26, 1972 performance in Frankfurt, West Germany of this song was released on the twelve-CD box set The Golden Road (1965-1972).  The final performance of this song took place on May 26, 1972 at the Strand Lyceum in London.  This was the next-to-last song ever sung by Pigpen in concert with the band.  He appeared in one more show, back in the USA at the Hollywood Bowl, but did not sing.  A number of live recordings of this song exist, but it was never recorded in a studio.

The Grateful Dead had a relatively small audience in the 1960s, so not that many people actually saw Pigpen in concert.  Those that were lucky enough to see him were often fairly young, and probably just figuring out the Dead at this time, but the Pig was impressive, the original leader of this band and he was revered as an icon.  Supposedly there were some Pigpen solo projects in the works that never made it to fruition, two or three, depending on how you want to count, from 1969, 1971 and 1973.

Pigpen was essential to the Warlocks and the early Grateful Dead, as a singer, an organ player and a personality and he was musically ahead of most band members at the beginning.  Garcia said that he “was the only guy in the band who had any talent when we were starting out.”  The Grateful Dead started playing some more difficult music by the beginning of 1968, and during this time Pigpen fell behind the others.  In mid-1968, Pigpen and Bob Weir were briefly kicked out of the Grateful Dead, but both of them managed to hang on.  Weir was still developing his guitar skills at the time and Pigpen was reluctant to rehearse, so other bandmembers viewed Pigpen and Weir as underachievers who weren’t pulling their weight.  Pigpen’s role was hugely diminished and this became the impetus for Tom Constanten joining the band, as the Dead started playing far fewer blues covers, which had been the bulk of Pig’s stage repertoire.

Pigpen pours out his heart in this song, singing about the longing for love that we all feel.  He wonders what the secret is that brings two people together, and why he is on the outside looking in.  Love can be a mystery and once it’s gone, it’s easy to begin to doubt that it is even real.  Pigpen wants love back in his life again, so he can “fly on those wings of love”, although he “just can’t seem to understand” how to accomplish this.

What are they seeing, when they look in each other’s eyes?
What are they feeling, when they see each other’s smile?
Is it a love I’ve never known – or an emotion that I’ve outgrown?

Did I take a wrong turning on life’s winding road?
Won’t somebody help me find the right way to go?
My life need some correction, alteration in direction
Won’t somebody comfort me for a while – yes, I’m lost

What is the secret of this tie that binds?
Two souls in communion, both body and mind
Is it special magic, or just the nature of things?
Conceived of great spirit, not for beggars but kings

You who have found it, please help me along
I’m a man, I’m a man, – I’m not made out of stone
My needs they are simple, I don’t want many things,
But I truly want to fly on those wings of love one more time.

That’s all I need (fly up, fly home)
I want to fly on them wings (fly up, fly home)
I want to fly on them wings of love (fly up, fly home)
I’m a stranger here (fly up, fly home)
Won’t somebody help me now (fly up, fly home)
I wake up early in the morning (fly up, fly home)
you know I never saw you babe (fly up, fly home)
I just can’t seem to understand
Can’t seem to understand what’s wrong (fly up, fly home)
What I wanna do is take a little ride with you, on the wings of love
Woh-oh one more time, one more time.

Written for Paula’s Thursday Inspiration 65 where this week’s theme is magic.

Wait All Summer

‘Let Me Sing Your Blues Away’ is a Grateful Dead song that came out on their 1973 studio album Wake Of The Flood and it was also released as a Grateful Dead 7” single.  The lyrics were written by Robert Hunter and the music was composed by Keith Godchaux.  This was Keith’s only songwriting credit and lead vocal that he sang while he was in the band.  Wake Of The Flood was the first Dead studio album where Keith and Donna appeared on.  ‘Let Me Sing Your Blues Away’ was only played live six times by the Grateful Dead, all in September 1973, and on each of those performances, after the first one, the horn player Martin Fierro played on the song.

For a brief period during the fall of 1973, the Grateful Dead included a section of horn players for including saxophonist/flutist Martin Fierro and trumpeter Joe Ellis.  Fierro was also a part of the famed Legion of Mary band of 1974 to 1975, which featured Jerry Garcia, Merl Saunders, and others.  Keith gave the Dead a deeper dimension and the husband-and-wife team of Keith and Donna Godchaux joined the Grateful Dead as a package deal.  The couple’s timing was fortuitous, as founding member Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, who played organ as well as harmonica while singing the Dead’s blues numbers, was in poor health (he died in 1973) and he was unable to keep up with the band’s rigorous touring schedule.  Keith Godchaux was the keyboardist for the Grateful Dead from 1971-1979, he was born on July 19th, 1948 and died on July 23rd, 1980.

Donna Jean Thatcher was a studio singer working as a session singer in the Muscle Shoals area before she married Keith Godchaux in 1970.  Her first recording session was with Ray Stevens probably in early 1966.  She contributed background vocals to Percy Sledge’s 1966 ‘When a Man Loves a Woman’ and Elvis Presley’s 1969 single ‘Suspicious Minds’.  Her vocals were featured on other classic recordings, singing on the eponymous first Boz Scaggs album featuring Duane Allman which was released in 1969, and her picture appears in the front row on the cover of the 1969 Cher album 3614 Jackson Highway.  Donna sang on R.B. Greaves’ ‘Take A Letter, Maria’, which she also sang on occasion with the New Riders and it is thought that she sang on the Neil Diamond song ‘Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show’.  She also sang with Joe Tex, Benny King, Dionne Warwick, Etta James, the Boxtops and many others.

On September 17, 1971, Pigpen went into the hospital, seriously ill and near death.  The Dead were faced with a dilemma of who would be their next keyboard player.  Tom Constantine had played organ and piano with the Grateful Dead from 1968 to 1970 appearing on Anthem of the Sun, Aoxomoxoa, Live/Dead and live performances at The Fillmore East and Woodstock, but he left to start a solo career.  Ned Lagin played on the American Beauty album along with Howard Wales had also played on several songs on American Beauty.  Howard also collaborated with Jerry Garcia on the 1971 album Hooteroll.  Howard disappeared from the music world and Ned wasn’t considered as the replacement keyboardist, or he turned them down.  Merl Saunders was playing with Garcia all the time, but he didn’t really want to join the band.  Keith was a big fan of the Dead before he joined the group.

In 1973, the Grateful Dead were going through a lot of changes as their Warner Bros. contract was expiring and the band decided to start their own independent record company Grateful Dead Records, with their first album release being, Wake of the Flood, which incorporated horns and a violin.   This album sold more than 400,000 copies and the band earned approximately four times the money per album because they had their own independent label.  Grateful Dead Records used the image of a mediaeval court jester holding a mandolin whose face was a skull as their artwork symbol which was originally designed by Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley.  This may have been inspired by the character of Yorrick in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet.  Hamlet is speaking to the gravedigger when he finds the skull of Yorick, the royal jester.

This song contains a lot of car lyrics and it is also about a race.  It contains the starting jingle,One for the Money”, which is an English-language children’s rhyme which came out in the 1820s to count before starting a race or other activity.  This rhyme reads as, “One for the money, Two for the show, Three to make ready, And four to go”, which Hunter changed up a bit.  This rhyme also exists in the 1955 songs ‘Roll Hot Rod Roll’ by Oscar McLollie and ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ by Carl Perkins.

Well hop in the hack, turn on the key
Pop in the clutch let the wheel roll free
Not a cloud in the sky, such a sunny day
Push in the button let the top ten play
Come on honey, let me sing ‘em away
Come on honey, let me sing ‘em away
Oh, honey, let me sing your blues away

Give me a little of that old time love
‘Cause I ain’t never had near enough
Honey, walk that walk
With style and grace
This ain’t no knock-down, drag-out race

It doesn’t matter much, pick any gear
Grind you a pound and drop the rear
Baby, baby, what can I say
I’m here to drive those blues away

I sent a letter to a man I know
Said one for the money and two for the show
I wait all summer for his reply
Said three to get ready and four to fly

Only two things in this world I love
That’s rock and roll and my turtle dove

When I was a young man, I needed good luck
But I’m a little bit older now and I know my stuff

Come on honey let me sing ‘em away
Come on honey let me sing ‘em away
Oh honey let me sing your blues away

Written for Paula’s Thursday Inspiration 64 where this week’s theme is summer.

The Moon Went Down

Many of Chuck Berry’s songs seem to sound the same, having an awesome guitar riff, utilizing three chords and being about teenage culture including cars, girls and rock ‘n’ roll, but his music has endured, because he is a rock ‘n’ roll original.  ‘Around and Around’ which is also known as ‘Round and Round’ was recorded by Chuck Berry in 1968 and this song was released on 12 of his albums.  It was the B side to ‘Johnny B. Goode’ and the song tells the story of a reelin’-and-rockin’, all-night party Berry and his band played that ended up being broken up by the cops.  It’s got a swinging rhythm, with the stop-start pauses he was so fond of at the time and a funky, bluesy guitar solo that was born from jamming with his band before a memorable show.  One night his band jammed for nearly two hours, but the police didn’t knock when they came to bust up the party.  The Grateful Dead with Bob Weir singing lead vocals did several Chuck Berry tunes including ‘The Promised Land’, ‘Johnny B. Goode’ and ‘Around and Around’, which the Grateful Dead performed over 400 times in concert.

Chuck Berry is considered by many to be the “father of rock ‘n’ roll” and early in 1955, he met the legendary blues musician Muddy Waters, who suggested that Berry go meet with Chess Records.  A few weeks later, Berry wrote and recorded ‘Maybellene’, which reached #1 on the R&B charts and #5 on the pop charts.  Berry’s music career was derailed in 1961 when he was convicted under the Mann Act of illegally transporting a 14-year-old waitress across state lines for “immoral purposes” and he ended up spending 20 months in jail.  In 1985, he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.  A year later, in 1986, he became the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s first inductee.  In 1987, a documentary concert film was made called Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll that celebrated his 60th birthday.   Berry died on March 18, 2017, at the age of 90.

‘Around and Around’ was the first song Mick Jagger sang when he and Keith Richards sat in with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated in 1962.  It was also the first song that The Rolling Stones ever recorded, being cut in March of 1962, although this version was never released.  The Rolling Stones played this on the Ed Sullivan show.  I wanted to find a Chuck Berry video of him singing this song, but all I found were slide show with music and there were some videos with a very old Chuck in them, which did not cut it for me.  The video below is from the Grugahalle in Essen, Germany, a show that took place on March 28, 1981 with Pete Townshend who played with the Grateful Dead on their last four songs that night, including ‘Not Fade Away’, ‘Wharf Rat’, ‘Around and Around’ and the set closer ‘Good Lovin’.

They say the joint was rockin’
Goin’ round and round
Yeah reelin’ and a-rockin’
What a crazy sound
And they never stopped rockin’
Till the moon went down

Oh it sounds so sweet
I gotta take me a chance
Rose out of my seat
Just had to dance
Started movin’ my feet
Well a-clappin’ my hands

Well the joint started rockin’
[etc with chorus]

Twelve o’clock
Well the place was packed
Front doors was locked
Well the place was packed
When the police knocked
Those doors flew back


Written for Paula’s Thursday Inspiration 63 where this week’s theme is moon.

No Time for a Gentle Rain

The Canadian rock band The Guess Who had a #5 hit with their song ‘No Time’, which originally included on Canned Wheat, but was re-recorded for their 1970 album American Woman.  It was composed by guitarist Randy Bachman and lead singer Burton Cummings.  The Guess Who were the most successful Canadian rock group of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and Canada’s first rock superstars.  In the late 1950s, The Guess Who emerged from a series of Winnipeg bands fronted by lead singer Chad Allan.  In the late 1965, ‘Shakin’ All Over’ reached #1 in Canada and # 22 in the US and the band became known as The Guess Who.  Burton Cummings became the keyboard player in 1966 and Allan left a few months later.  Their international success came with the classic lineup of Bachman, Cummings, bassist Jim Kale and drummer Garry Peterson.

This song about moving on and finding your true calling and is basically a reverse Dear John letter stating, “No time left for you”.  The killin’ floor is part of a slaughterhouse where animals are killed and initial processing is carried out and in 1964 this was a Howlin’ Wolf song.  Bachman said that this was in reference to the jungle and battlefields of the Vietnam War.  To be down on the killing floor means feeling very depressed and when you are moving on with your life, there is no time for these feelings.  “Distant roads are callin’ me” probably means that he is pursuing a different path and he is going to make his own choices, so his lover won’t wonder why he lost interest in her.

The song was inspired by two tracks on the Buffalo Springfield Again album, ‘Rock & Roll Woman’ and ‘Hung Upside Down’ after Neil Young of Buffalo Springfield (a fellow Canadian) played an acetate of the album for Cummings and Bachman when he was in Winnipeg.  They heard it, they loved the country-rock sound and set out to write something like it, trying to be like Neil and Stephen Stills.

On my way to better things
(No time left for you) I found myself some wings
(No time left for you) Distant roads are callin’ me
(No time left for you)

Time, time, time, time, time

No time for a gentle rain
No time for my watch and chain
No time for revolving doors
No time for the killin’ floor
No time for the killin’ floor
There’s no time left for you
No time left for you

On my way to better things
(No time left for you) I found myself some wings
(No time left for you) Distant roads are callin’ me
(No time left for you)

No time for a summer friend
No time for the love you send
Seasons change and so did I
You need not wonder why
You need not wonder why
There’s no time left for you
No time left for you

On my way to better things
(No time left for you) I found myself some wings
(No time left for you) Distant roads are callin’ me
(No time left for you)

No time for a summer friend
No time for the love you send
Seasons change and so did I
You need not wonder why
You need not wonder why
There’s no time left for you
No time left for you

No time, no time, no time, no time
No no no time, no no time, no time, no time
I got, got, got, got no time
I got, got, got, got no time for you, woman
I got no time for you, woman
I got no time for your stupid games anymore
No, no
I got no time for you, woman, no
I got no time for hangin’ around
For getting’ stepped on
For getting’ pushed around, woman
I got no time for hangin’ around them kind of things

Written for Paula’s Thursday Inspiration 62 where this week’s theme is time.

Bird of Paradise

Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter said that the lyrics to the song ‘Blues for Allah’ were, “a requiem for King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, a progressive and democratically inclined ruler (and, incidentally, a fan of the Grateful Dead) whose assassination in 1975 shocked us personally.”  Even though the Grateful Dead usually avoided politics, Hunter knew that a lot of blood was being spilt in the Middle East between the Jews and the Muslims and nothing would ever grow from that.  He acknowledged the conflict and figured it could be solved if they could take a different path saying, “Let’s meet as friends / The flower of Islam / The fruit of Abraham.”

Each side felt that they were justified in their hatred for the other, but Hunter thought, “And know the truth must still / Lie somewhere in between”, and this was his way of telling them that they had to compromise to make peace.  This song was only played three times in concert by the Grateful Dead and I found two performances on Youtube, one from Winterland Arena in San Francisco which is 23 minutes long and another from Kezar Stadium in San Francisco that is 32 minutes long, so I am going with the studio version from the album with the same name.

Arabian wind
The Needle’s Eye is thin
The Ships of State sail on mirage
And drown in sand
Out in no man’s land
Where Allah does command

What good is spilling blood?
It will not grow a thing
“Taste Eternity”, the swords sing
Blues for Allah, Insh’Allah

They lie where they fall
There’s nothing more to say
The desert stars are bright tonight
Let’s meet as friends
The flower of Islam
The fruit of Abraham

The thousand stories
Have come round to one again
Arabian Night
Our gods pursue their fight
What fatal flowers of darkness
Bloom from seeds of light

Bird of Paradise
Fly in the white sky
Blues for Allah, Insh’Allah

Let’s see with our heart
These things our eyes have seen
And know the truth must still
Lie somewhere in between

Written for Paula’s Thursday Inspiration 61 where this week’s theme is paradise.

He Ripped That Beast

‘Samson and Delilah’ is a traditional song based on the Biblical tale of Samson who was betrayed by Delilah.  Its best-known version is by the Grateful Dead, who started performing this song live in 1976 and the tune was included on their 1977 album Terrapin Station.  The earliest version of a Samson and Delilah song dates back to 1923 with the Paramount Jubilee Singers song ‘My Soul Is A Witness For My Lord’.  Some other early known recordings of the biblical tale were by preachers like Rev. T.E. Weems, Rev. T.T. Rose and Rev. J.M. Gates, who all cut the tune in 1927.  Blind Willie Johnson’s version recorded under the title ‘If I Had My Way, I Would Tear This Building Down’ was probably the best known of this era, but it was the most famous done by country-blues-picking man of God, Rev. Gary Davis, who brought it to the attention of the Grateful Dead, as they had already covered his song ‘Death Don’t Have No Mercy’, which they were performing as early as 1966.

This Negro religious song was recorded by Sylvester “Deacon” Johnson and the duo of Dock Reed and Jesse Allison and collected in 1939 by John and Ruby Lomax where both songs were preserved in the Library of Congress.  Lomax took liberties to combine them, and published his version in 1941.  Rev. Gary Davis’s recording can be heard on the compilation album The Music Never Stopped: Roots of the Grateful Dead.  A wide variety of artists ranging from Bob Dylan, Ike and Tina Turner, Peter, Paul and Mary, and Bruce Springsteen have since performed this song.

Davis was a minister from the Raleigh-Durham area, home of the Piedmont blues style of picking the guitar and he performed on the streets of Harlem in Manhattan from the late 1940s until his death in 1972.  Gary Davis was blind and he never realized how complex what he was doing with the guitar was, the way he picked and strumed complicated rhythms and counter-melodies.  Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen was a student at Antioch College in Ohio, studying Sociology when he was introduced to the elaborate fingerstyle fretwork music of legendary bluesman, the Rev. Gary Davis by his friend Ian Buchanan.  In the early ‘70s, Kaukonen let Weir know that the laconic South Carolina bluesman was living in Queens, N.Y.  Weir looked Davis up and he managed to snag three or four sessions of guitar lessons from him whenever the Dead were in the area, as the Reverend and his wife Annie opened up their home to anyone who was willing to learn in acts of kindness that transcended the racial tensions of the time.

Weir said that Davis was his main guitar influence, describing his style as “stride piano playing adapted to guitar.”  Davis’ style undoubtedly affected Weir’s own unconventional approach to the instrument, which he tends to attack more like a jazz piano than something with six strings and a fretboard.  A documentary Harlem Street Singer was made in 2014 about Reverend Gary Davis, who some people consider to be the greatest blues, ragtime and gospel musician of the 20th century.  It traces his journey from the tobacco warehouses of the rural South to the streets of Harlem, showcasing his unique style and remarkable skills on guitar that made him an icon of the 1960s New York folk scene inspiring a lot of musicians.

If I had my way
If I had my way
If I had my way
I would tear this whole building down
Delilah was a woman, she was fine and fair
She had good looks – God knows – and coal black hair
Delilah she gained old Samson’s mind
When first he saw this woman, she looked so fine
Delilah she climbed up on Samson’s knee
Said tell me where your strength lies, if you please
Then she spoke so kind, she talked so fair
That Samson said, Delilah you cut off my hair
You can shave my head, cleanse my hand
My strength comes as natural as any other man
You read about Samson, all from his birth
He was the strongest man ever had lived on earth
One day while Samson was walking along
Looked down on the ground he saw an old jaw bone
Then he stretched out his arm and his chains broke like threads
And when he got to move, ten thousand were dead
Now Samson and the lion, they got in attack
And Samson he walked up on the lion’s back
You read about this lion, he killed a man with his paw
Samson got hands up round the lion’s jaw
He ripped that beast, killed it dead
And the bees made honey in the lion’s head

In my second book Ancient Book of Eli, I wrote a song called ‘Samson and Delilah’.  It does not have any music to go with it, but I hope that you enjoy my lyrics.  Since there is no music, I should probably call it a poem instead of a song, but I wrote it with the intention that it would become a song.

Samson traveled to Gaza, and he met a prostitute.
Samson laid with her and then they had a dispute.
She wanted more money than Samson was willing to pay.
But when she saw Samson’s muscles, she said let’s hit the hay.
The people of Gaza knew Samson was there!
They tried to surround him but to their despair,
Samson broke loose and crashed through the city gate.
Samson was too strong, they citizens only made him irate.
Delilah was a woman from the Valley of Sorek.
Samson was a judge and he did not eat pork.
Samson fell madly in love with the beautiful Delilah.
He loved her so much, he said ‘I would like to buy ya.’
The Philistines knew that Samson possessed great strength.
Samson never trusted them, so he maintained an arm’s length.
The Philistines approached Delilah to become their spy.
They offered her shekels of silver piled up to the sky.
Delilah was paid to seduce Samson and make him tell.
Samson played with Delilah because he liked her smell.
Delilah said, if you love me, show me what makes you so strong, let me know.
Samson knew that if he told his secret, he may no longer be able to beat his foe.
Delilah nagged and prodded him day after day, until he could take no more.
Samson told her no razor has ever touched his head, then he called her a whore.
Delilah seduced and deceived Samson, because she wanted to collect the money.
She cunningly crafted her plan to cut off all of his hair and did he look funny.
Samson became weak, he was captured and taken to prison.
Samson prayed to God and hoped that He would listen.
The Philistines gouged out his eyes and kept him in jail.
Samson was devastated and he became very pale.
Samson’s hair grew back, which the Philistines ignored.
He gained his strength again as he prayed to the Lord.
They chained Samson up to the pillars on the temple foundation.
Samson could not break the chains, but he felt a holy sensation.
Samson was the strongest man that ever lived on this earth.
He pushed with all his might, he pulled for all he was worth.
Samson gritted his teeth and started to tear the building down.
The two support pillars shattered and ended up on the ground.
Everyone in the building died that day and Delilah was sad.
She knew that Samson was the best lover that she ever had.

Written for Paula’s Thursday Inspiration 60 where this week’s theme is beast.

Your Hair a-Hanging Down

The Grateful Dead song ‘Candyman’ was released in November of 1970 on their sixth album American Beauty.  Jerry Garcia composed the music and Robert Hunter wrote the lyrics for this song.  It mentions a Mr. Benson who could be the Texas sheriff referenced in the Leadbelly song ‘Midnight Special’.  The Candyman is ready to kill the sheriff, holding some unknown resentment for law enforcement.  The Candyman is a shady character, a gambler, a drinker, a musician, a ladies’ man, and possibly a drug dealer.

Come all you pretty women with your hair a-hanging down
Open up your windows, ‘cause the Candyman’s in town
Come on boys and gamble
Roll those laughing bones
Seven come eleven, boys, I’ll take your money home

Look out, look out, the Candyman
Here he comes and he’s gone again
Pretty lady ain’t got no friend
Till the Candyman comes around again

I come in from Memphis where I leant to talk the jive
When I get back to Memphis, be one less man alive
Good morning, Mister Benson
I see you’re doing well
If I had me a shotgun, I’d blow you straight to hell

Come on boys and wager, if you have got the mind
If you’ve got a dollar, boys, lay it on the line
Hand me my old guitar
Pass the whiskey round
Won’t you tell everybody you meet that the Candyman’s in town

Look out, look out, the Candyman
Here he come and he’s gone again

Written for Paula’s Thursday Inspiration 59 where this week’s theme is hair.