The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #20256   Message #688972
Posted By: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
13-Apr-02 - 12:52 AM
Thread Name: Tune Req: St. James Infirmary Blues

Went down to St. Joe's infirmary,
To see my woman there;
She was layin' on the table,
So white, so cold, so fair.

Went up to see the doctor,
"She's very low," he said;
Went back to see my woman,
Good God! she's layin there dead.
(Spoken:) She's dead!

Let her go, let her go, God bless her,
Wherever she may be!
There'll never be another like her,
There'll never be another for me.

I may be killed on the ocean,
I may be killed by a cannonball,
But let me tell you, buddy,
That a woman was the cause of it all.

Seventeen girls to the graveyard,
Seventeen girls to sing her a song,
Seventeen girls to the graveyard-
Only sixteen of 'em comin' back.

O sixteen coal-black horses,
To carry me when I'm gone.
O flowers on the coffin
While the burial's carried on.

This version also in Carl Sandburg, 1927, The American Songbag, pp. 228-231. Contributed to Sandburg by Jake Zeitlin, Ft. Worth, TX, and Jack Haggerty, Los Angeles, CA. Same music as the version above.

Notice that the hospital is St. Joseph's. There is no evidence to connect the song with New Orleans. There is no evidence to connect the song with the Black musical genre. Although the song is from before 1927, its lack in other collections is noticeable. A copyright was taken out in 1928, but the song was already in print at the time by Sandburg, and his contributors obviously collected from different sources. The song apparently came from England or Ireland; older versions are known there (see post in this thread by Malcolm Douglas). How it was picked up and developed into an American "gutter song," as Sandburg called it, is unknown. Sandburg was unaware of its occurrence outside of the United States.