The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #46310   Message #687792
Posted By: greg stephens
11-Apr-02 - 09:00 AM
Thread Name: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
Continued: the tune. American song tune for Streets of Laredo is related to English versions of the songs, but St. James Infirmary's tune isn't really, it seems to come from "The Queen of the May", a quite unrelated English song.(As I walked through the meadows to take the fresh air/The flowers were blooming and gay). This tune has a 4/3 stress pattern (unlike St. James Infirmary, 3 stress, and Young soldier/Streets of Laredo 4 stress lines). Queen of the May also had a distinct major to minor third scale change at the end. This is very intriguing, because the Cajun French version of St. James Infirmary (Blues de Soulard) has a tune intermediate between the New Orleans tune and the English original (??). Which shows that the French version is not just a straight borrowing of a popular New Orleans jazz number, as you might otherwise assume. The French version has the 4/3 stress pattern, and the shift to a minor third, which has proved very resilient: you can hear fiddlers sawing away at the B flat against the accordions major B and the guitarists G chord. The French words don't have a death/funeral narrative: those I know are standard Cajun moody ramblings, though on the same theme of the perils of loose living of the British and American songs. "Quand le blues me prend mooi je suis gone/Moi je suis parti me souler/ Quand moi je suis soul bebe moi je suis gone a la maison Pour join ma chere tite fille" (If you can't see how to sing line 3 to a 4-stress bit of melody, check out Louis Cormier's recording!). Anyway, there's a few disjointed comments. Luckily this wonderful songs origins are lost in the mists of time, just so as we can have fun trying to peer through the mist. Next WEEK: how did "The Derby Ram," an ancient English song of ritual death, end up as the definitive New Orleans funeral march "Didn't he ramble"? And it isn't even Irish/Scottish. Or is it?