Monday, May 25, 2009

Decoration Day - Memorial Day

Again I find myself thinking about Memorial Day and where it comes from, and its connection to the blues. I have heard songs by several of the prewar bluesmen like Sonny Boy Williamson I, that mention Decoration Day. So I thought I would do a little research on the topic.

Here is just a bit of what I found;

Some sites mistakenly credit Howlin Wolf as the writer of this song and say that Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller) covered his version. But I remembered hearing a version of the song titled Decoration Blues done by Sonny Boy Williamson I (John Lee Williamson) which made me think that the song had an eairlier orgin.

Decoration Blues
Sonny Boy Williamson I (John Lee)
(John Lee Williamson)
Sonny Boy Williamson I - vocals & harmonica
Yank Rachell - mandolin & guitar
Joe Williams - guitar
Recorded March 13, 1938 Aurora, Illinois, Leland Hotel
Album: Bluebird Recordings 1937-1938


Lord, I had a woman
She was nice lovin' in ev'ry way
Lord, I had a woman
She was nice lovin' in ev'ry way
Lord, but she died an left me
I have the blues on ev'ry *Decoration Day

Lord, I hated to see her leave me
Because these are the last words
My baby had to say
Lord, I hate to see her leave me
Because these are the last words
My baby had to say
She told me to bring her some flowers
On ev'ry Decoration Day

People, you havin' a good time, now?
Just like the flowers that comes in May
Peoples, you havin' a good time, now?
Just like the flowers that comes in May
Now, but Sonny Boy thinks about his baby
On ev'ry Decoration Day

(harmonica & mandolin & guitar)

Fare you well, mm
Baby, I ain't got no mo' to say
Fare you well, mm
Baby, I ain't got no mo' to say
Lord, but I'll always remember
I won't never forget, 'Decoration Day'.


*Declaration Day
~



Decoration Day
Recorded in Memphis, April 17, 1952. It's the same song as done by Sonny Boy Williamson, of course.

Decoration Day (Chester Burnett)

Lord I got a woman, she nice lovin' in every way
Lord I got a woman, she nice lovin' in every way
You know she done died and left me, I have the blues on every Decoration Day

So sorry see you to leave me [sic], I hate to see my baby get away
So sorry to see you leave me, I hate to see my baby get away
I want you to bring me some flowers, about every Decoration Day

Lord I was walkin' round her bedside, these were the last words my baby had to say
Lord walkin' round her bedside, these were the last words my baby had to say
She said bring me some flowers - be sure honey - on every Decoration Day

------------------------------------
Wikipedia says;

According to Professor David Blight of the Yale University History Department, the first memorial day was observed in 1865 by liberated slaves at the historic race track in Charleston. The site was a former Confederate prison camp as well as a mass grave for Union soldiers who had died while captive. The freed slaves reinterred the dead Union soldiers from the mass grave to individual graves, fenced in the graveyard & built an entry arch declaring it a Union graveyard; a very daring thing to do in the South shortly after North's victory. On May 30 1868 the freed slaves returned to the graveyard with flowers they'd picked from the countryside & decorated the individual gravesites, thereby creating the 1st Decoration Day. A parade with thousands of freed blacks and Union soldiers was followed by patriotic singing and a picnic.


mp3s @Amazon.com

Decoration Day Blues by Sonny Boy Williamson I

Decoration Day by Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller)

Decoration Day Blues by Howlin' Wolf

Decoration Day by Sunnyland Slim Blues Band

Decoration Day by John Lee Hooker

Decoration Day mp3 by various other musicians

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