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I've been poor and I've been rich, and rich is better - Bessie Smith

Author Topic: Lightnin' Hopkins Lyrics  (Read 6735 times)

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Offline repeater

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Lightnin' Hopkins Lyrics
« on: March 18, 2010, 01:21:06 PM »
In The Country Blues, Sam Charters says that Tim Moore's Farm has "dozens of verses."  As far as I can tell, only a few were recorded (i.e, the ones below).  Anyone have any idea if the others were ever written down, and if so, what they are?  Thanks!

Yeah, you know it ain't but the one thing you know, this black man done was wrong
Yeah, you know it ain't but the one thing, you know, this black man done was wrong
Yes, you know I moved my wife and family down on mr. Tim Moore's farm
Yeah, you know mr. Tim Moore's a man, he don't never stand and grin
He just said, "Keep out of the graveyard, I'll save you from the pen"
You know, soon in the morning he'll give you scrambled eggs
Yes, but he's liable to call you so soon, you'll catch a mule by his hind legs
Yes, you know I got a telegram this morning, boy, it read, it say, "Your wife is dead"
I show it to mr. Moore, he said, "Go ahead, nigger you know you got to plow old Red"
That white man says, "It's been raining, yes, and I'm way behind
I may let you bury that woman one of these old dinner times"
I told him, "No, mr. Moore; somebody's got to go"
He says, "If you ain't able to plow, Sam, stay up there and grab your hoe"

Offline davet

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Lightning Hopkins Shotgun Blues Clarification please.
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2011, 02:28:23 PM »
Hello All

The following is a transcription of the first verse of Shotgun Blues

Yes, I said, go bring me my shotgun
Oh, bring me back some shells
Yes, I said, go bring me my shotgun
Oh, bring me back a pocket full of shells

Yes, if I don't get some competition
You know there's gonna be trouble here

Can anyone explain what the following line means:  "Yes, if I don't get some competition You know there's gonna be trouble here".

Thanks very much

Davet


Offline uncle bud

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Re: Lightning Hopkins Shotgun Blues Clarification please.
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2011, 05:51:40 AM »
Hi davet,

Bumping this to see if there is an answer out there. I don't know that Lightnin' tune myself. Normally, I would say "competition" would refer to another man/lover, as you find in Blind Lemon's Competition Bed Blues.

Competition Bed Blues (20749-2) - Blind Lemon Jefferson

Competition worryin' me, I don't even know what competition mean.
Competition worryin' me, do you realize what competition mean?
It pops up at every man's door and it worries him in his midnight dream.

I had a lovin' brown, I didn't never mean to do her wrong.
I had a lovin' brown, I didn't never mean to do her wrong.
My partner's so full of competition, he's got my gal and gone.

I passed my partner's house, I stopped in to comb my head.
I passed my partner's house, I stopped in to comb my head.
Who should I find, but my brown makin' up my partner's bed.

Almost wrecked my mind, competition's goin' between me and my friend.
Almost wrecked my mind, competition's goin' between me and my friend.
It hurts me so, I thought we'd be pals 'til the end.

It makes a man feel bad for his partner to turn him down.
It makes a man feel bad for his partner to throw him down.
Now it's so much competition, I believe I'll leave this town.


Not sure of the meaning in Lightnin's song. If I don't find another woman I'm going to start shooting? Perhaps others will chime in.

Offline Gumbo

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Re: Lightning Hopkins Shotgun Blues Clarification please.
« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2011, 09:44:34 AM »
Sounds to me like there's going to be trouble either way!

She knows he is trouble and is trying to get rid of him.
the verses are:
Yes, you know my woman tried to quit me
When I ain't done nothin' wrong
She done put me out of doors
But I even ain't got no home as it goes

Yes, you know that my momma told me
The day that I left her door
She said, y' gonna have bad luck, son
And I don't care where you go


I take it to mean that either Lightning has competition or he doesn't. He's not sure. If he has competition (if there is another man in 'his' woman's life ... ) then he can understand being kicked out. I see him planning to stake out his girlfriends house and see how things are. if there is no competition (no other man) then she just kicked him out, and i think he is having trouble getting his head around that possibility. He wants to be part of the contest (and he wants the advantage of his trusty shotgun). Either way he's going to sort things out to his satisfaction.


In the 1960 version (Bring Me My Shotgun) Lightning is threatening to kill the woman, and competition isn't mentioned.

that threat is implied in this version (1948?)

Well, I cried, Bye-bye, baby
You know you done me wrong
I'm gonna take my little shotgun now
And I'm gonna carry it back home

I said one in the morning
I'm gonna carry my shotgun home
Yes, I figure the best thing I can do
Why did I leave that woman alone?


All in all it's a pretty scary portrait of a man who prefers murder to domestic upheaval!
« Last Edit: April 07, 2011, 09:45:45 AM by Gumbo »

Offline unezrider

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Re: Lightning Hopkins Shotgun Blues Clarification please.
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2011, 03:47:32 PM »
hello friend,
i always wondered what he meant by "competition", too. never quite made sense to me. b.b. king recorded the song in the mid or late fifties, & he used the word "consideration" in it's place. that made more sense. but lightnin' is definitely saying "competition". & i know this doesn't help any, but the king version suggests he didn't like it either. or perhaps translating a slang term that was dead within a decade after lightnin's original recording?
"Be good, & you will be lonesome." -Mark Twain

Offline LB

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Re: Lightning Hopkins Shotgun Blues Clarification please.
« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2011, 04:07:59 AM »
Sounds like the word competition means what it says. Am I missing something? I can also state from my own experiences where country artists often get words reversed around in their meaning. Especially when they twist and take ownership of another tune. Sometimes intentional, sometimes simple ignorance. I know one guy I consider very authentic that sings, "I'm tired of living a bachelor" and I backed him up for a number of years as he performed that song and I know personally he was married and actually meant the opposite of what people would hear in his lyric. I never said a word to him but it's a great example how we can put more thought and analysis into the lyrics than the performer actually did. Lightnin took a ton of standard songs and made them his, and even claimed he wrote them. 

Offline IainS

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Penitentiary Blues Lightnin' Hopkins
« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2013, 07:02:36 PM »
Hi folks:

I need the great ear of you folks and tell me what he's saying, especially in the first couple of verses?



Thank you!


Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Penitentiary Blues Lightnin' Hopkins
« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2013, 07:31:14 PM »
moan Big Brazoes whooo lawd here I come, you know I'm gonna do time for another man
When it haven't been a thing poor lightnin' done
 They say you oughta been on Brazos, 19an' 10 Buddy Russel drove the pretty women
Like he did the ugly men
Moan Big Brazoes here I come figurin' to do time for another man
when it ain't nothin' poor Lightnin' done.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline eric

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Re: Penitentiary Blues Lightnin' Hopkins
« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2013, 07:54:05 PM »
Penitentiary Blues
Mmm?.Big Brazos here I come
Mmm?Oh, Lord have mercy
Big Brazos here I come
You know I?m gonna do time for another man
When there haven?t been a thing poor Lightnin? done
They say you oughta been on Brazos
Nineteen and ten
Bud Russell drove pretty women
Just like he did ugly mens
Mmmm Big Brazos
Oh lord yes here I come
Thinkin?to do time for another man
And ain?t nothing poor Lightnin? done
Well, you oughta be ?shamed
Yeah you know my momma called me
I answered ma?am
She said son: You tired a workin?
I said Mama yes I am
Papa called me
I answered: Sir
He said son you tired a workin?
What the hell you gonna stay there for?
I couldn?t
No, I just couldn?t hear myself.
--
By the way, that's a GREAT album.
--
Eric

Offline IainS

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Re: Penitentiary Blues Lightnin' Hopkins
« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2013, 08:33:41 AM »
Thanks all.  You folks are amazing!

Offline JohnLeePimp

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Re: Penitentiary Blues Lightnin' Hopkins
« Reply #10 on: October 17, 2013, 10:31:26 AM »
Related:
...so blue I shade a part of this town.

Offline jphauser

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Re: Penitentiary Blues Lightnin' Hopkins
« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2013, 08:45:58 AM »
Penitentiary Blues
Mmm….Big Brazos here I come
Mmm…Oh, Lord have mercy
Big Brazos here I come

The Brazos River was originally named "Brazos de Dios" meaning "Arms of God."   The Texas Almanac link below has more info on it including various explanations for how that name came to be.

http://www.texasalmanac.com/topics/environment/rivers

In the book (and film) titled Racehoss, a former convict who served time in a penitentiary on the Brazos writes that the place was referred to by the convicts as "the burnin' hell." 

So you might say that the men who tried to escape from the prison by running to the river were running from hell to the arms of God.


Jim Hauser
https://sites.google.com/site/JohnHenryTheRebelVersions/
« Last Edit: October 18, 2013, 10:33:28 AM by jphauser2000 »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Penitentiary Blues Lightnin' Hopkins
« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2013, 11:00:18 PM »
Since the early 70s I've had an ever disintegrating photocopy of Sterling Brown's Negro Folk Expression: Spirituals, Seculars, Ballads and Work Songs. This topic has reminded me that it's now on the internet. The chapters Seculars and Ballads and Work Songs and Social Protest might be of particular interest...or not, as the case maybe.

http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/brown/folkexpression.htm

Offline jphauser

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Re: Penitentiary Blues Lightnin' Hopkins
« Reply #13 on: October 20, 2013, 05:15:04 AM »
Since the early 70s I've had an ever disintegrating photocopy of Sterling Brown's Negro Folk Expression: Spirituals, Seculars, Ballads and Work Songs. This topic has reminded me that it's now on the internet. The chapters Seculars and Ballads and Work Songs and Social Protest might be of particular interest...or not, as the case maybe.

http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/brown/folkexpression.htm


Thanks for the link Alan.  I've got a copy of it too, but I'll be darned if I know exactly where it is.  I'll save this link to my bookmarks.

Jim
https://sites.google.com/site/JohnHenryTheRebelVersions/

Offline jphauser

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Re: Penitentiary Blues Lightnin' Hopkins
« Reply #14 on: October 20, 2013, 05:48:55 AM »
Yeah you know my momma called me
I answered ma?am
She said son: You tired a workin?
I said Mama yes I am
Papa called me
I answered: Sir
He said son you tired a workin?
What the hell you gonna stay there for?
I couldn?t
No, I just couldn?t hear myself.

Does anybody know the significance of the above lyrics from the song ?  Are they some kind of protest?  Are they somehow connected with the other lyrics in which Hopkins claims he hasn't done anything wrong and is serving time for another man's crime?  If he has done nothing wrong, then he should be free to go home.  Maybe this is some kind of veiled comment on the brand of justice that blacks had to endure???

These particular lyrics remind me of something I read in the Bruce Jackson book Wake Up Dead Man.  In it, a prison guard asks a convict if he's going home this weekend (knowing full well that the man is not done serving his time.)  I imagine that this question was asked regularly and was meant as a taunt.  The response was:

"No suh, I don't think I'm goin' home this weekend.  The warden told me I had to work, boss.  I can't make it."

The guard knows the convict can't go home and Hopkins's parents know that he can't go home, but they ask questions which assume the opposite.  In the case of the Jackson book, the convict even has to play along and pretend that he's not incarcerated. 

Jim
https://sites.google.com/site/JohnHenryTheRebelVersions