Saturday, March 15, 2008


Billie Holiday: Strange Fruit


Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh!

Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

Read about it.


Friday, March 14, 2008


The Carter Family: John Hardy Was A Desperate Little Man


This song about a West Virginia coal miner comes from Harry Smith's legendary box set called Anthology of American Folk Music. Not only is the Anthology a treasure trove of early folk, blues, and string band music, but it served as an important influence on Bob Dylan and many artists to follow.

John Hardy was a desperate little man
He carried two guns every day
He shot down a man on the West Virginia line
You ought to seen old John Hardy getting away


Thursday, March 13, 2008


Leadbelly: It's Tight Like That


Plug this thing in, add some drums, and you've got rock and roll! As the title of the album suggests, this song comes from one of Leadbelly's last sessions, which were recorded in 1948.

Some folks say that a preacher won't steal. I caught two in my corn field. It's tight like that...


Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Louis Armstrong: St. James' Infirmary


Louis was simply one of the greats. This one was recorded in Chicago in 1928.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Jimmie Rodgers: Blue Yodel No. 9


Here's an amazing track featuring an early pioneer of country music, Jimmie Rodgers, singing the blues with early jazz great Louis Armstrong blowing behind him.

This song was recorded in 1930. Jimmie Rodgers died three years later, in 1933. Years later, Louie Armstrong told the story of the recording session during an appearance on the Johnny Cash show.


Monday, March 10, 2008


Robert Johnson: 32-20 Blues


This week's theme is "the old days," which we have arbitrarily defined as before 1950. Was there any good music made way back then? There had to be, right? Let's find out...

First up is Robert Johnson, the bluesman who sold his soul to Satan to learn how to play. This song was recorded 72 years ago in 1936.

If I send for my baby, and she don't come,
All the doctors in Hot Springs sure can't help her none...