Samuel Johnston in 1755-ish published the first ever dictionary in English. He accomplished this Herculean feat single-handedly.
Imagine, idle reader, the enormity of the project. How would you go about collecting words and defining them with no dictionary to consult? Would you start with aardvark and work your way alphabetically to zygote or start with verbs, assembling the gamut, so to speak, from states of being to acts of doing, and once you’d worked your way from is to zapped, would you then turn to the vast realm of nouns?
I ain’t know cause my mind be blown.
In 1994 with the help of a writer named Jack Rummel, Dr. John (nee Mac Rebennack) published an autobiography entitled Under a Hoodoo Moon.
Like Samuel Johnson, Dr. John, who just now died June 6, was a lover of locutions. Like James Joyce, Mac, the Dr. (also known as the Nite Tripper) found the English language inadequate for his needs.
“So weenybeenyveenyteeny.” James Joyce, Finnegan’s Wake
“Posilutely honorifficatedly medicatedly doctoratedly yours thank you. Dr. John, from the liner notes of Desitively Bonneroo.
Sam Johnson was an eccentric. Obsessive, compulsive. Before crossing the threshold of door, he’d go through a series of ritualistic gesticulations and when walking down the street feel compelled to touch every single post he passed.
Mac Rebennack was also an eccentric and was no stranger to wild gyratin-i-ficatin’, as he might put it.
I’m now reading Under a Hoodoo Moon, and it occurs to me that I could honor these two doctor heroes of mine by doing a little lexicography myself, i.e., by compiling a Dr. John dictionary, a handy go-to reference when you run across a term like junk-a-dope-a-nals or marygeranium.
The project is underway, and of course, I’ll publish it here, free of charge, despite Dr. Johnson’s oft-quoted observation: “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.”
But, as Dr. John says, “You can’t shut the fonk up. No, the fonk got a mind of its own.
I-and-I, that’s right, Mr. Hoodoo Man he-self, boon companion and devoted supporter of Mr. John Jameson, lover of hoppy craft beer concoctions, not to mention spicy Sunday morning bloody marys, has voluntarily climbed aboard that proverbial wagon that refuses to stop at taverns, bodegas, juke joints, and roof top bars.
Or to put it more succinctly, he’s quit drinking alcohol.
Why, you ask? Has Mr. Moore been stumbling in at 3 a.m. and slapping around his beloved consort Judy Birdsong?
Of course not.
Has he found that drinking has adversely affected his social life?
To the contrary.
Okay, is he chronically late, a no-show sometimes? Does he hire barmates to grade his essays? Does he put himself in risky situations? Is he a frequent visitor to emergency rooms? Has he gotten a DUI? Recently made a complete and utter ass out of himself?
No, no, no, no, no, and “not that he is aware of.”
The answer is vanity. Recently, he saw photographs of himself at his son’s wedding and realized that his once David-Niven-like svelteness had ballooned into a girth approaching Hitchcockian proportions. And even though he now possesses a Falstaffian paunch, his arms and legs have maintained the emaciation of his 97-pound-weakling adolescence.
John Falstaff by Eduard Von Grutzner
He’s too vain to post a photograph, but picture a four-month pregnant Mick Jagger and you get the picture.
Why not cut out those empty calories? Why not give it a try?
So how has he been spending those hours not spent in drinking establishments?
Listening to songs about substance abuse, that’s how, and he’s come up with a list a few killer song lyrics devoted to over-indulgence, like this classic from Willie Nelson:
The night life ain’t no good life, but it’s my life.
Not only that, he’s going to provide sound samples to go along with a few of his favs. So sit back and enjoy
THESE KILLER ROCK LYRICS ABOUT SUBSTANCE ABUSE!!!
(I know it lacks that Buzzfeed allure of botched plastic surgeries).
Okay, we’re going to start with John Hiatt’s “Paper Thin,” whose first sentence has the panache of the opening of a well-crafted short story. Listen.
Here’s how the song ends:
(Saw John about a year ago in concert. Here’s the REVIEW).
Okay, for our next lyric on substance abuse, let’s go way back to my tenth grade year of 1968 and the Butterfield Blues Band’s “Drunk Again.” The song’s by Elvin Bishop and features the domestic trauma drinking can cause. Here’s a snippet:
Of course, as Bob Dylan famously tells us in “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” — “I started off on burgundy but soon hit the harder stuff” — alcohol is the ultimate gateway drug. I betcha ain’t nobody ever shot up heroin who hadn’t started out on the road to perdition with wine or beer. You start off seemingly innocuously with a PBR and the next thing you know your rolling up bills and snorting cocaine or worse. Here’s John Hammond, Jr’s superb cover of the Tom Wait’s classic “Heart Attack and Vine”:
Boney’s high on china white;
Shorty’s found a punk
You know there ain’t no devil;
that’s just god when he’s drunk.
Well, this stuff will probably kill you;
let’s do another line.
What you say you meet me
down on Heart Attack and Vine.
Love can be a drug, they say. Wasn’t Robert Palmer “addicted to love?” Here’s the great Lucinda Williams making the analogy:
C’mon, Lucinda. You know what Willie B Yeats sez: “Never give all the heart for love . . .
Okay, let’s end this thing on a positive note. The resurrection of Tim Finnegan via Irish whiskey. Here, the Clancy Brothers describe how dead Tim’s corpse is brought back to life during a drunken brawl at his wake, which is the song that gave rise to James Joyce’s last novel.
Mickey Maloney ducked his head
when a bucket of whiskey flew at him
It missed, and falling on the bed,
the liquor scattered over Tim
Now the spirits new life gave the corpse, my joy!
Tim jumped like a Trojan from the bed
Cryin will ye walup each girl and boy,
t’underin’ Jaysus, do ye think I’m dead?”
Come to think of it, quitting drinking altogether seems anti-Buddhist. Maybe the middle way would be better. Lose weight by exercising, eating healthily, and limiting one’s intake to a couple a day?