St. James Infirmary iPhone Blues

I first heard “St. James Infirmary Blues” covered by Eric Burdon and the Animals, and the song really moved me, the horror of it, having to encounter the corpse of your lover “stretched out on a long white table/ So cold, so stiff/ She was dead.” Throughout the years, the song really stuck with me.[1]

The other night, Caroline and I were at the Lowfife Bar on Folly, and somehow the topic of public domain tunes came up. I mentioned that Dylan had borrowed the melody of “St. James Infirmary Blues” for his masterpiece “Blind Willie McTell.” In fact, I sang two verses of the Burdon cover right there at the bar.

Well, the very next day, an ad showed up on my Facebook feed for this book, which I’m eager to read.

Anyway, we can probably chalk up the ad’s appearance to coincidence, but, man, could it be some bot was listening to us via our phone?

Then last night at the Soapbox open mic at Chico a banjo player covered the song. WTF?

So, this morning, during one of my undelightful stints of insomnia, I composed this piece of doggerel in my head, which I consider a more productive use of my time in the wee hours than contemplating politics, my health, the past, or the future.

(BTW, occasionally, a reader accuses me of cultural appropriation one of these paeans to Black culture, but my conscience is clear on that score.)

St James Infirmary iPhone Blues

Tapping a cane,
Mr. Andre Beaujolais,
with some hoodoo magic
in his front pants pocket
bopped down St. Charles
on his way to see
Miss Hattie Dupree,
the one-time lover
of McKinley Morganfield,
better known as Muddy Waters,
King of the Chicago Blues.

Those who got bad mojo
go see Miss Hattie Dupree
for the inside dope
in the hope of counteracting
shenanigans ¬– hexes,
curses, wet nurses,
vexations, permutations,
marital relations.
genetic mutations,
Haitian sensations,
and genital truncations.

Mr. Andre Beaujolais
was on his way
to deliver a batch
of John the Conkeroo juice
to help some dude
whose private
conversations had
been swiped by
advertisers, enterprisers,
franchisers, monopolizers,
and merchandizers.

He’d been telling his gal
about Blind Willie McTell,
how the Dylan song
by the same name
was sung to the same tune
as St James Infirmary Blues.
Their moment of intimacy
the next day mysteriously
appeared in an ad
for a book being peddled
on the dude’s Facebook page.

“I Went Down to the
St, James Infirmary:
Investigations in the shadowy
world of early jazz-blues
in the company
of Bling Willie McTell, Louie Armstrong . . .
where did this dang song
come from anyway?
“That title don’t trip off the tongue,”
Mr. Beaujolais said when
he heard the dude explain.

“Hand me your phone,” Andre say,
then took off its cover,
whupped out the Conkeroo juice,
poured it over the device,
mumbled some discrete mumbo jumbo.
“Ta da! problem solved!”
“Wait a minute, “the dude hollered.
My phone’s quit working!”
“No shit,” Mr. Andre replied.
“That’ll be fifty dollars.
I’ll accept ten fives.”


[1] In fact, I asked Gary Erwin to play it at Judy Birdsong’s memorial service, which he graciously. BTW, Gary is an underappreciated Charleston treasure.

4 thoughts on “St. James Infirmary iPhone Blues

  1. Pingback: Bo Diddley Revisited | You Do Hoodoo

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