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Land Where the Blues Began transcript from captioning work

Land Where the Blues Began transcript from captioning work

- [Johnny Brooks] Ladies and Gentlemen, Childrens and Chaps, Proud-eyed mosquitoes, and bow-legged laps, Pull up a seat, or either sit on the floor. I'll tell you a story you've never heard before.

- [Walter Brown] See, God's taking care of me, because I should have been dead 40 years ago. But I was a good mark. . .

- [Belton Southerland] ♪ Killed the old gray mule, ♪ ♪ Burned down the white man's barn. ♪

- [Jack Owens] Learned to write my pieces right out in the cotton field, plowing. Cotton field. I hadn't learned nothing in no town. Ain't been to town hardly.

- Didn't know what town was, did you?

- No.

- Sure.

- [Beatrice Maxwell] I worked 12 years. Just me and my girls farmed 12 years. Didn't have no men's help at all. And I made it.

- [J.T. Tucker] That band give the team spirit to play, and that singing give you pep to work.

- [Spires] Don't get mad with me, boys, ♪ ♪ Buggy don't drove like mine. ♪ ♪ It's a easy-riding buggy, ♪ ♪ Raring to go all the time. ♪

- [Lomax] These people witnessed the birth of the blues They lived them. This haunting music, laughing at life's ironies, and set to a dancing beat, this amazing mix of Europe and Africa, is America's most distinctive song style. It's also the product of the folk culture of the Mississippi Delta. Today, the blues have gone electric, gone urban, and belong to the whole world. And that's fine. But I'm worried because the folk culture that produced the blues has almost disappeared. Now, I've spent a lifetime studying ethnic folklore, and in 1931 recorded songs like this one in the Mississippi Delta. ♪ Oh, Rosie, ♪ ♪ Oh Lord, Gal. ♪ ♪ Oh, Rosie, ♪ ♪ Oh Lord, Gal. ♪

- [Lomax] Once there were scores of such songs. Now there are only a few left, and only a handful of the older generation remembers them. The wellspring that's given the world so much is drying up, neglected, misunderstood, and unheard. So today we give a platform to this vital folk culture and its creators. We visit picnics and revivals. We meet the black pioneers who helped to carve Mississippi out of the wilderness with their work on farms, river, railroad, and levee, creating a new music out of their loneliness and their deprivation. Music that, once heard, can never be forgotten. ♪ Poor boy and I'm a long way from home. ♪ ♪ Poor boy and I'm a long way from home. ♪ ♪ World can't do me no . . . ♪

- [Lomax] This old blues of the wandering laborer leads us deep into the hills east of the Delta. Just as the southern Appalachians preserved the old English ballads, so the Mississippi hill country sheltered a fantastic African music that fed the blues. This music is from Lexington, Mississippi. A young bluesman, Lonnie Pitchford, is playing his homemade one-stringed electric guitar. And his music is amazingly close to the sound this West African produces on his typical one-stringed instrument. And his instrument looked like the model of a one-stringer that Lonnie made. The African musical bow, here played by two Bushmen boys, is the oldest of these one stringers. Black Mississippians call this instrument the diddley bow, and they make it by nailing a broom wire on the side of the house.

- [Lonnie Pitchford] You wrap it around. K., I nail this in tight. When you tune it, you pulls it down, like so. I don't know if you can hear it too plain, but this is actually tuning. Those actually the songs I would play when I was a kid. ♪ Lord, woke up this morning, ♪ ♪ Sun shine in my back door. ♪ ♪ Lord, woke up this morning, baby, ♪ ♪ Sun a-shine in my back door. ♪ Yes, yes. ♪ Wait up, baby, don't you see ♪ ♪ Shaking that thing, kill poor me, ♪ ♪ If only I bust out--♪

- I don't like to play this but once in a while, you know. Sometimes I get the blues. ♪ Burn my house. Ain't no turning 'round. ♪ ♪ Don't know 'bout that. Going to break it on down. ♪ ♪ Must I . . . ♪ Now, when I first started, started to making them fifes-- all right, I'll show you. The way I start there, I start my fingers like this. Now that's wet. Then I took my knife. I swung it out like this, swung that out. Then I lick, grab my fingers like that. Then I took my knife and swung this out. Then I swung that out. All right, got up here. Got up here. Got my tongue like this.

- [Lomax] All through the northeast Mississippi hill country the fife and drum bands call the folks to summer picnics, looking like "The Spirit of '76," Afro-American style. This picnic music was a happy relic of the old-time South, hidden away in the Mississippi hills, just like a reservoir of hot rhythms for the later blues. And it's a joyous group thing, while the blues tends to be solo and melancholy. It was the song of the individual foreigner, caught between poverty and prejudice. And you hear the first notes of the blues in the work songs he sang. ♪ Take it easy all our days ♪ ♪ Early in the morning coming back home. ♪ ♪ Ain't gonna promise I'll be gone. ♪ ♪ Down in the bottom where the water rise, ♪ ♪ Take me, Baby. I'll be satisfied. ♪ ♪ Whoa, Baby. Whoa, Baby. ♪ ♪ Early in the morning . . . ♪

- [Lomax] Generations of steel-muscled black axe men hacked away at the endless forests of the Delta, bringing daylight into the river bottoms and opening up the richest land in the world for cultivation, land suitable for vast cotton plantations where agriculture became a big, impersonal business that grew richer and richer at the expense of hired black labor.

- Well if you ever come, way back yonder all you'd work for, your clothes, way back yonder.

- [Lomax] They didn't pay you any money at all?

- Oh, they'd pay you 50 cent a day, or 40 cent a day. 35, I picked cotton 35 cent a 100. Picked cotton, chopped cotton from sun to sun, two bits and 40 cent. My daddy lived in 1900, when they chopped cotton on a Saturday evening, started at one o'clock and he chopped till sun down for twenty cent. That's it.

- [Lomax] As one old time bluesman told me, "It take a man that have the blues to sing the blues." ♪ Will you please tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me, Baby ♪ ♪ Where you stay last night. ♪ ♪ Yeah, will you please tell me, tell me, tell me ♪ ♪ Baby, where'd you stay last night? ♪

- [Lomax] At the bottom of the system, the debt-laden black farmer somehow recalled the wailing complaints of his ancestors under West African kings, and in his free-rhythmed, ornamented field hollers the blues melodies began to grow. ♪ Hey, Mama told me, Mama told me, Mama told me ♪ ♪ Way back when I was born. ♪ ♪ Hey, gonna be a wild child coming, coming, coming ♪ ♪ Oh, gonna be a rolling stone. ♪

- Learned to write my pieces right out in the cotton fields. Plowing. Cotton field. I hadn't learned nothing in no town. Ain't been to town hardly.

- You didn't know what town was, did you?

- No.

- Sure.

- No, I learned all my blues in the country. Right here, out in the country.

- In the fields.

- Fields, we picking the cotton.

- Out here picking cotton, hoeing, picking peas, Plowing, something like that.

- That's where we learned all this mess at. That's the reason we can't, don't know no other pieces.

- Oh, we learned something.

- [Lomax] You been a farmer all your life?

- All my life, been farming out here all my days. Ain't never had no-

- Plow a mule in the daytime, pick guitar at night.

- That's right. That's all I do. Nothing but a farmer. Daddies and things was a farmer. That's all I know, raise chickens and a few hogs, something to eat around here. Farm out there in the fields. That's all they ever knowed. That's all they ever knowed. ♪ Oh, hard times here every ♪ ♪ where I go, Lord, hard times, ♪ ♪ Baby Gal, drive me to the door. ♪ ♪ Hard times, Baby Gal, drive me to the door. ♪ ♪ Oh, go, drivin' me to go. ♪ ♪ Hard times drivin' me to the door. ♪ ♪ I ain't going no higher, Baby, now. ♪ ♪ Blow y'all down, Lord. ♪ ♪ Stay right here, Baby Gal, till you drag. ♪ ♪ Stay right here, Baby Gal, till you drag me down. ♪ ♪ Drag me down, till you drag me. ♪ ♪ That's just how you drag. ♪ ♪ Lord, hard times here every ♪ where I go. ♪ Hard times, Baby Gal, drive me to go. ♪ ♪ Hard times, Baby Gal, drive me to the door. ♪ ♪ Hard times drive me to go. ♪ ♪ Hard times, Baby Gal, drive me to door. ♪

- [Lomax] And so the blues were born. Field hollers floating over solid, syncopated dance rhythms. Songs that voiced unspoken anger. The powerful bitter poetry of a hard pressed people.

- [Beatrice Maxwell] I started the field when I was eight years old. I used to cry to go to make a day. And my mother, she didn't want me to go. So there's old white man, weren't staying too far from us. All of them would be in the field but me. And he asked what I was crying. I told him I was crying because I wanted to go make a day like the rest of them. They started me off at a dollar a day. I was getting just what they was getting. From then on, I come all the way through. I cleaned up new ground. I cut down trees. I cut wood. I can cultivate. I can plow. I can even sweep. And then I can plant. I done did all of that all the way through in my life and days. I worked 12 years. Just me and my girls farmed 12 years. Didn't have no men's help at all, and I made it. ♪ I run down to that river ♪

- [Lomax] Many men often left home and farm looking for better jobs along the river. And these rootless men became the creators and consumers of the blues. ♪ Oh, yes now, Baby.♪ ♪ That's right. Come on, boys. ♪ ♪ You know I won't leave you here. ♪

- [Lomax] Life on the big white river boats was hard. But it also meant freedom, and money to spend, and wild good times for the roustabout. ♪ Come here, dog, and let's get your bone. ♪ ♪ Tell me what shoulder that you want it on. ♪ ♪ Everybody talks about... ♪

- [Lomax] These old-time roustabouts had such fond memories of river life that they fixed up a rig to show us how the work was done and the songs were sung. ♪ Tell me, Gal, what you been waiting on. ♪ ♪ I been away from my home too long. ♪

- One, me and one man. He had it on one end, and I had it on other, going down the gang planks, going over the water. And we'd get out there, and we'd stagger like that, you know like we gonna fall with it, and just keep on rocking. I worked on the Tennessee Belle, the Kate Adams. When she used to get long yonder, she would make that blow. And that levee there would be lined with women meeting us.

- [Lomax] What would the blow be? ♪ Whoooaa-- ♪ ♪ Whoooaa-- ♪ ♪ Whoooaa-- ♪ ♪ Whuh ♪

- You know what she be saying?

- [Lomax] What would happen then?

- You would see women come from everywhere.

- [Lomax] What did they come out there for? What were they doing?

- Meeting the men.

- Meeting payday.

- Payday.

- Payday. Women be to take that man's whole month. They'd put them out then, 'cause man off the boat. He ain't gonna be there but two or three days, then they going to take him on. When he, when that boat blowed, they'd put him out. And he would have to stay gone till the boat go back out.

- [Arthur] He was a playboy.

- [Brown] Playboy!

- [Owens and Spires] ♪ Lord, I went to her, to her house. ♪ ♪ When I sat down on her steps, ♪ ♪ "Lord, come right in, Pretty Boy, now. ♪ ♪ Good many days now left, good many days now ♪ ♪ Good many just ♪ ♪ Good many just ♪ ♪ Good many just ♪ ♪ Good many just ♪ ♪ Good many days now left, good many days ♪

- [Lomax] Did you guys on the boat know about those men?

- No.

- No, they didn't know about it.

- No, they didn't know about it. I caught one at my house one time.

- [Lomax] What happened?

- I left him right there, him and her. I just got my clothes and left from there. ♪ Well, I came again, ♪ ♪ Went and set down ♪ ♪ 'fore your door. ♪ ♪ Oh now, please don't leave me out here. ♪ ♪ Good man never know. Good man never . . . ♪ ♪ Good man never . . . ♪ ♪ Good man never . . . ♪ ♪ Good man never . . . ♪ ♪ Good man never . . . ♪

- [Lomax] In the competition for women and a place to stay, the bluesman with his music had a decisive advantage. As one of them told me, "I got a home everywhere I go."

- If I seed a woman I wanted, and she just absolutely, her husband couldn't carry her home. I'd pick that guitar hard. I'd play guitar hard and sing hard. I've had women come up and kiss me. Didn't ask could they kiss me, kiss me right then. Just grab me and kiss me. ♪ I said, "Tell me now, Sweet Mama, ♪ ♪ Yeah, how want your loving done. ♪ ♪ Tell me, Sweet Mama. ♪ ♪ Gall, how you want your loving done? ♪ ♪ You said, "Slow and easy, Like my ♪ ♪ old-time rider done." ♪ ♪ Roll my belly, Mama. ♪ ♪ Roll it like you roll my dough. ♪ ♪ Want you roll my belly, ♪ ♪ yeah, like you roll my dough. ♪ ♪ I want you roll me too, Mama ♪ ♪ Till I tell you I don't want no more. ♪

- [Lomax] And so the bluesman appealed for feminine sympathy and a place to hang his hat. The favorite subject of the blues, however, was the troubled relationship between men and women in a disturbed society. And years before the rest of the world, the people of the Delta tasted the bittersweet of modern alienation, so that the blues of those days ring true for all of us now. ♪ You could go ♪ ♪ Oh, and don't come back to Sam no mo'. ♪ ♪ Woman, it's your last time ♪ ♪ Shaking it in the bed with me. ♪ ♪ Since I told you to your face ♪ ♪ I had another good girl to shake it in your place. ♪ ♪ Baby, it's your last time ♪ ♪ Shaking it in the bed with me. ♪ ♪ Oh, you shake it, you can break it, ♪ ♪ Hang it on the wall, ♪ ♪ Throw it out the window and run round, ♪ ♪ And grab it just 'fore it falls. ♪ ♪ Shake it, you can break it. ♪ ♪ Hang it up on the line. ♪ ♪ I don't want your love ♪ ♪ 'cause it sure ain't none of mine. ♪ ♪ I told you in the Spring ♪ ♪ When the birds all began to sing, ♪ ♪ Woman, it's your last time ♪ ♪ Shaking it in the bed with me. ♪ ♪ Well, you kicked all my cover ♪ ♪ Off the bed on the floor. ♪ ♪ You better be glad, Sad Foot, ♪ ♪ You ain't gonna get to kick it no more. ♪ ♪ Now you wear your miniskirt ♪ ♪ way above your knees.♪ ♪ Now you can shake your jelly ♪ ♪ with every man you please. ♪ ♪ I told you you could go ♪ ♪ And don't come back this time no more. ♪ ♪ Woman, it's your last time ♪ ♪ Shaking it, I mean twisting it, ♪ ♪ Doing that monkey dog, ♪ ♪ And that slop in the bed with me. ♪ ♪ Oh go, Baby. ♪

- [Chatmon] I suppose the blues is about a woman. If you have the blues about a woman, your wife or anybody, and they misuse you, you go and make up a song to sing. Instead of telling her in words, you would sing that song. So, when you be singing that song, you have your mind direct on how she done treated you. ♪ I went down to that river. ♪ ♪ Oh, thought I'd jump in and drown. ♪ ♪ I thought about the woman I was loving. ♪ ♪ Boys, I turned around. ♪ ♪ I went down to that depot, ♪ ♪ Asked the man how long the train been gone. ♪ ♪ He said, "It's been gone long enough ♪ ♪ For your woman to be at home." ♪

- [Lomax] The railroad was another escape route away from the plantation system. It also brought jobs with a new sense of competence and higher pay, and a new flowering of rhythmic work songs.

- It's a good job. I mean, you can raise a family with your job. It pays pretty good, nowadays, now. I started out here while-- course at the rate of things back in then, you didn't make too much money, but it was enough, you know, to have a job to support your family off of. And nowadays, it's almost the same thing. I mean you make a little bit more money, but the cost of living at this time and age is a lot larger, though. So we just about doing about as good as we did in '45.

- It was good enough for me to put five kids through high school and college too. Course it was tough, but I made it.

- Right, I had 17 of them.

- You talk about singing on the railroad. It's just like a band on a football field. That band gives the team spirit to play, and that singing gives you pep to work. ♪ All right now, up on your rail ♪ ♪ Up on the tie ♪ ♪ On the rail ♪ ♪ Where tie lie ♪ ♪ Up on the rail ♪ ♪ Where the tie lie ♪ ♪ Up on the rail ♪ ♪ On the tie ♪ ♪ On the rail ♪ ♪ Where the tie lie. ♪

- [Puckett] A lot of mens have got hurt handling steel. Steel is very dangerous. It's heavy, and if you don't-- if they hadn't of devised some method of handling that steel with a big bunch of mens, they'd always be putting out money on hospital bills and injuries. And they had to have some system to protect that, you know, prevent it from happening all the time. And at its best, we have accidents with it. When you come to work on Monday morning at seven o'clock, and get out there on the job working, singing comes according to what job you're doing. Now you take lining track. That singing was just a rhythm that the laborer used in keeping in time and getting the track lined like your boss man wanted it. But now, singing wasn't no joy in it whatsoever. I mean, that was just a part of the way we men set up to work to get the job done. ♪ Well the old lady says, "You calm me down." ♪ ♪ She put a hand on her hip and one on the thigh. ♪ ♪ Good Lord, have mercy ♪ ♪ Good Lord, have mercy ♪ ♪ Good Lord, have mercy ♪ All right, quarter back. ♪ All right, all right. Just a little bit. Just a hair.♪ ♪ Just a little bit. Right there. ♪ ♪ Just a little bit. Just a hair. ♪ ♪ Just a little bit. Right there. ♪ ♪ All righty. Jack the rabbit. Jack the bear. ♪ ♪ Just a little bit. Right there. ♪

- [Foreman] Give it to me in the center. ♪ What did the hen done said to the drake? ♪ ♪ No more crawfish in this lake. ♪ ♪ Just dive. ♪ ♪ Other side. ♪ ♪ Dive. ♪ ♪ Other side. ♪ ♪ Dive. ♪ ♪ Other side. ♪ ♪ Dive dive side. ♪

- [Foreman] All right, move ahead a little bit.

- [Workman] Move ahead there, one eye.

- [Workman] How about this? ♪ All right all right. Jack the rabbit. Jack the bear. ♪ ♪ Just a little bit. Just a hair ♪

- [Foreman] All right, gotta move. Train's coming.

- [Worker] I dare you to use a hammer. Don't laugh and don't cry. I'm gonna work 20 more years.

- [Chatmon] ♪ I'm going to down to that railroad, ♪ ♪ Lay my head on that railroad track, ♪ ♪ I'm gonna think about the woman I'm loving ♪ ♪ Then I'm gonna snatch it back. ♪ ♪ You go down in that quarter ♪ ♪ Tell my buddy- ♪

- [Lomax] This is the blues that grew up in the shadow of the levee on which we're riding. This earthwork thrown up against the Mississippi floods, higher and longer than the Great Wall of China, was piled up by generations of black muleskinners who added a new chapter to the book of the blues. In the days when the levee camps outdid the Wild West in careless violence, the men yonder walked the levee living the blues. Walter Brown, Joe Savage, William S. Hart, Bill Gordon. They are meeting us at this old river towboat to swap the songs that, African style, they used to encourage their mule teams. ♪ Oh, my wheel mule crippled, ♪ ♪ And my lead mule blind. ♪ ♪ Lord, I'm gonna need some old body. ♪ ♪ I can't shake a line. ♪

- [Lomax] How many people would be singing at one time? Would everybody be singing?

- Oh, everybody near about. You couldn't hear your ears. And some of them could sing so good, till the mules would go to hollering. They'd just holler, just holler. Like it was twelve o'clock or something.

- I'd get out there and get on, got my team, man. I'd get way back on the end of my line, you know. Two great big old mules, placed hats all on them. Their head up in the air like that. And with them harness on 'em. Everywhere tassels hanging all down the side of 'em, just taking their time walking. Just walking and walking. ♪ I'm gonna be late in the morning. ♪ ♪ I'm gonna be late all day. ♪ ♪ I'm gonna be late all day. ♪ ♪ I'm gonna be late all day. ♪ ♪ Hey hey-aye-aye-aye-aye-aye-aye ♪ ♪ I'm gonna be late all day, ♪ ♪ With ol'Freddie. ♪ Them big sons of guns just stepping. They step with me, they're pulling me up the levee. They're pulling me up the levee. I'm just raring back on the lines. ♪ Oh, everybody. . . ♪

- [Lomax] The work season was short. The dirt had to move. Mules died by the hundreds. And as one levee engineer remarked, you could smell those tent cities a mile away. And there was a buzzard on every fence post.

- [Brown] You, know, people that's been here a few years, I guess that's why God didn't kill them all. He left somebody here to tell the story.

- It'd be so cold out there. They wouldn't let you go to the fire. You had to let your lines slip through your hands.

- [Lomax] I don't understand. Tell me how that was exactly.

- Like your wheeler would be going along, you'd have two mules to it, and the mule'd be going along. You'd walk along and get up to the fire.

- [Lomax] What was the fire doing there?

- The fire, that they'd had a fire built for you to warm going by. You couldn't stop at it. Your wheeler couldn't stop, but you could let the mules keep a-going, and let the lines slide through your hands till it get to the end, then you got to catch them. You could never just, say, stop at the fire and warm.

- [Lomax] What would they do to you?

- They would cut your head, beat it with a pistol, or stick, or something.

- [Brown] They'd ride right in the middle of the pit. And Old Man Brown used to take his hat off his, his head. He wore a big white Stetson, great big. And he'd throw it up, and he'd shoot six holes in it before it hit the ground. Then he'd tell somebody down there, "Hand me my hat." And they would hand it to him, and he'd say, "Now listen. I'm gonna whip you if you stand, and I'm gonna shoot you, I'm gonna kill you if you run. I want you all to do so and so and so. I want you to get me some dirt. I got to finish such and such a station by such and such a time. And is there any question?" When he asked you that, he'd have his hand on that pistol.

- [Hart] Kill a nigger, hire another one. Kill a mule, buy another one.

- [Gordon] Plenty of mornings you had to wait until it get light enough to go to work.

- [Brown] That's right.

- [Gordon] You'd be standing there in the dark. Then when it get light enough, then you go to work. Then you work in the evening, until it get that-a-way. You couldn't see how to come in.

- [Brown] You wasn't locked up. But other than that, it was just like the penitentiary. They paid you what they wanted. They give you what they wanted you to have. If you didn't do it, somebody's gonna beat you up.

- [Lomax] Why did you men go into those places? That's what we don't understand.

- [Gordon] We didn't know no better.

- [Brown] You couldn't do no better. You couldn't do no better. You was trying to leave the farms for 50 and 75 cent a day, and go someplace where you could earn a little bit more money. But when you get in those places, well then you would earn the money, but you didn't get paid for it.

- [Gordon] Yeah, you'd get out there. They'd say they gonna give you 15 dollars a week. That's two and a half a day. And payday, he may pay you off. And then he may not pay you off. He'd work you out there sometimes two and three months and just give you a drag, like 10 or 15 dollars, something to gamble around in the camp with.

- [Savage] ♪ Mr. Charlie giving payday, boys, ♪ ♪ And they give a drag. ♪ ♪ Wasn't no difference in that whoa money ♪ ♪ That the two men had ♪

- ♪ Killed old gray mule, ♪ ♪ Burned down the white man's barn. ♪ ♪ Killed that old gray mule, ♪ ♪ Burned down white man's barn. ♪ ♪ I didn't mean no trouble. ♪ ♪ I didn't mean no harm. ♪ ♪ Why would you love me and leave me, girl? ♪ ♪ Anything you want to do. ♪

- [Lomax] Some of the men from the levee have, like many itinerant Delta workers, served time in jail, and in the State Pen at Parchman. They brought us out into the Mississippi River bottoms to show us what it was like in the State Penitentiary in the bad old days, when they were driven all day in the fields under the gun. And it was only their bluesy songs, and the strength of working and singing together, that kept their hearts alive under the Mississippi sun. ♪ Oh Rosie. ♪ ♪ Oh Lord, Gal. ♪ ♪ Oh Rosie. ♪ ♪ Oh Lord, Gal. ♪ ♪ I been calling you for 12 long years, Rosie. ♪ ♪ You won't answer--wonder do you hear.♪ ♪ Oh, Rosie. ♪ ♪ Oh Lord, Gal. ♪ ♪ Oh, Rosie. ♪ ♪ Oh Lord, Gal. ♪ ♪ Go ahead and marry. Don't you ♪ ♪ wait on me. ♪ ♪ Long row hoeing, and I can't go free. ♪ ♪ Oh, Rosie. ♪ ♪ Oh Lord, Gal. ♪ ♪ Oh, Rosie. ♪ ♪ Oh Lord, Gal. ♪ ♪ Look on your finger, Gal, ♪ ♪ And think of me-- ♪ ♪ Ring I bought you when I was free. ♪ ♪ Oh, Rosie. ♪ ♪ Oh Lord, Gal. ♪ ♪ Oh, Rosie. ♪ ♪ Oh Lord, Gal. ♪

- [Savage] ♪ Big-leg Rosie with her ♪ ♪ Her big-leg drawers ♪ ♪ Got me wearing ♪ ♪ these striped overalls. ♪ ♪ Overalls, oh Lordy, ♪ ♪ Overalls. ♪ ♪ Got me wearing ♪ ♪ Striped overalls. ♪ ♪ Jump behind the bushes, ♪ They gonna break my leg. ♪ Catch you fooling with my woman, ♪ ♪ I'll kill you dead, ♪ ♪ Kill you dead, ♪ ♪ Kill you dead. ♪

- There was seven of us broke jail together. We broke this county jail, and they caught me. They caught me five and a half years later, and uh. . .

- [Lomax] Did they still use the bat in Parchman when you were there? Did they still whip the prisoners when you were there?

- They whipped us with big wide straps. They whipped us with big wide straps.

- [Lomax] How often did they, how many blows did they give?

- [Savage] How many blows they give? Just as many as you could stand. They whip you just, I got two whippings while I was there. They didn't whip no clothes. Unh-unh. They whipped your naked butt. They had two mens to hold you.

- Four! Four.

- [Savage] Many of men as they need.

- [Brown] Two on your legs, and two on your arms.

- [Lomax] Did they ever injure anybody that way?

- [Savage] Whoo, kill them.

- [Brown] Oh yeah. They'd kill them like that.

- [Savage] Kill them like that.

- [Brown] They'd kill them like that.

- [Savage] ♪ Got me accused of thieving-- ♪ ♪ I can't see a thing. ♪ ♪ They got me accused of forgery, ♪ ♪ And I can't even write my name. ♪ ♪ Bad luck, ♪ ♪ Bad luck, you're killing me. ♪ ♪ Well, I just can't stand ♪ ♪ No more of this bloody disease. ♪ ♪ Now look a-here, boy. ♪ ♪ I want to tell you something. ♪ ♪ They got me accused of taxes, ♪ ♪ And I don't have another dime. ♪ ♪ They got me accused of children ♪ ♪ And ain't nary one of them mine. ♪ ♪ Bad luck, ♪ ♪ Bad luck, you're killing me. ♪ ♪ Oh, I just can't stand ♪ ♪ No more of this bloody disease. ♪ ♪ I'm gonna ♪ ♪ Go begging 'fore long. ♪

- [Lomax] In the society of the blues it was the church, the only permitted community institution that offered solace to the wounded individual. It might bring the poor boy a long ways from home back into the human community through the ritual of conversion. ♪ God have a way with one of ours ♪ ♪ Oh, Lord. ♪ ♪ Oh, Lord. Oh, Lord. ♪ ♪ Oh, Lord. Oh, Lord. ♪ ♪ Have your way. ♪

- Do you not know tonight one thing I like about God, he's so just tonight. God is a just God. God is so just tonight that Kennedy's got to stand before God. I said Rockefeller's got to stand before God. And that means your money can't buy you nothing. No matter how much money you got, that can't buy it with God. 'Cause what did God say? God said--you're just a steward, and He lended it to you for a few days. You know, it's not yours. I remember one Friday morning, out there on Calvary. They tell me that they hung the S-O-N on the cross. And they tell that the S-U-N peeped up and looked at the S-O-N And said that the S-U-N told the S-O-N, "Two suns can shine together." And the reason that the sun, and now the reason that the sun don't blind His eyes, because He is the sun's creator tonight. Talking about God, look at my God tonight-- that stepped out that morning, and spoke a blooming universe into existence. God didn't need no hammer or no nail. God didn't need no pliers or no screwdriver. God didn't need no cement mixer to pour the foundation. Oh, my God said, "Let there be." Well, when God comes back, He's gonna throw away the straw of pity. He's gonna take away the leaves of compassion. He's gonna take away, I say, the feathers of mercy. There ain't gonna be nothing left in the nest but the briars of indignation. There ain't nothing gonna be left in the nest but the sharp stick of His mighty wrath. Lord have mercy tonight. Let me close here, brethren. I say God will stir you up tonight. I say He'll stir you up. He stirred me up one day. He'll stir you up. I say, can He stir you up? ♪ Oh, yes! ♪ ♪ If you know it, say "Yes," children. ♪ ♪ Yes!---- Yes!---- ♪ ♪ If I was you, I'd come tonight. ♪ I'd say, "I tried Him tonight." How many of y'all tried Him? Have you tried him? ♪ Ain't He all right? ♪ Is God all right tonight? Say "God, I'm all right tonight." ♪ You're all right ♪ ♪ You all right? ♪ ♪ Come on, yeah, come on. ♪ Have you heard about Him? Have you heard about Him? ♪ Oh, don't worry. ♪ ♪ Do what the spirit say do. ♪ ♪ If the spirit say, "Pray," ♪ ♪ You oughta pray, oh Lord. ♪ ♪ Do what the spirit say do. ♪ ♪ Do what the spirit say do. ♪ ♪ If the spirit say, "Do," ♪ ♪ You oughta do, Oh Lord. ♪ ♪ Do what the spirit say do.♪ ♪ Oh Lord ♪ ♪ Do what the spirit say do. ♪ ♪ You oughta do what the spirit say do ♪ ♪ When the spirit say, "Do," you oughta do, Oh Lord. ♪ ♪ Do what the spirit say do. ♪

- [Rev. Smith] If shouting and whooping and moaning, if singing was good enough for my Grandmama, I don't care what school I finish. I'm gonna do the same thing. Amen. Amen, if it was good enough for them, it is good enough for me. It brought them a long way.

- [Congregation] Yes, it did.

- It brought them a long way.

- [Congregation] Yes, it did.

- [Lomax] Many black sermons are poems of epic beauty, and their makers are magnificent orators in an African vein. In the secular world, one finds other masters of language and wit among the bluesmen, and among the modern street poets, the bards of bar rooms and cafes, who make and recite long fanciful poems called toasts, in the places where the people gather for their good times.

- December the seventh, '41. That's when the Second World War had just begun. The Italian Mussolini was holding out his paw, And trying to get the European countries under Hitler's law. But if you have a little patience I'm gonna tell it to you. The first thing they done, they got rid of the Jews. But Great Britain got trouble in mind. She rushed the poor boys in the foreign line. Better than that, the Germans bombed Beautiful Paris late one night. They had to look to America for to get supplies. They loaded up the vessel and started across, But the news reached back that the vessel was lost. Mr. Roosevelt was in the seat then. He said, "I just can't see why Adolph Hitler's trying to rule the sea." He sent him a message right straight from the phone. Said, "Look-a here, Hitler, Leave my vessels alone till I retire. But old Tojo was back in the States. Him and . . . could not communicate. Old Japan--went to her, she advised She wouldn't fight on either side. She was a nation that wouldn't argue. You know what she did, She turned around and bombed Pearl Harbor. I don't know it, but I was told. That's the report--our base got stole. And here where we come in at. Negro soldiers standing at attention. They were the poor boys never to mention. But I'm gonna tell you about a colored man. December the seventh, '41. That's when the Yanks taught him how to man the gun. He stepped on deck, and he got dead aim. He brought a Japanese bomber down in flames. Some got wounded, and some got killed. But naturally we know, God's Holy Bible got to fulfill. I found out later there was a ration on rubber, so's gasoline. I had to get my black head in the Philippines. That's where I was, so help me God.

- Well, back in the jungle of woods deep, the bad lion stepped on the signifying monkey's feet. That monkey say, "Look lion, can't you see? Why you stand yourself on my God-durn feet" So the lion say, "I didn't hear a God-durn word you said. But you say two more, I'll be stepping on your God-durn head." Well, every day before the sun go down, The lion was kicking butt all through the jungle town. But the monkey got wise and started using a little of his wit. He say, "I'm gonna put a stop to this old drop-kicking stuff. So the lion jumped up in a bad rage, like a young gangsta full of gage. He let out with a roar. His tail shot back like a 44. He went off through the jungle, knocking down trees, Kicking giraffe till he fell down to his knees. So he ran up on the elephant talking to the swine, Said, "All right, you big bad joker, be yours or mine. So the elephant looked out at the lion with the corner of his eye, Said, "Go ahead on you little funny bunny mother, and go on pick on somebody your own size." So the lion jumped up, made a fancy pass. The elephant side-stepped, and kicked him dead in the grass. It messed up his neck, messed up his face, broke all four legs, snatched his you-know-what out of place. He picked him up and slammed through the trees. Nothing but that stuff as far as you could see. So he drug his butt back to the jungle more dead than alive.

- -Just to run into that monkey with some more of his signifying jive.