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Lyr Req: Soul of a Man (Blind Willie Johnson)

Roberto 19 Dec 07 - 03:40 AM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 19 Dec 07 - 06:03 AM
Roberto 19 Dec 07 - 06:14 AM
PoppaGator 19 Dec 07 - 02:34 PM
Les from Hull 19 Dec 07 - 03:43 PM
PoppaGator 19 Dec 07 - 04:38 PM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 19 Dec 07 - 06:11 PM
Roberto 20 Dec 07 - 05:12 AM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 20 Dec 07 - 05:18 AM
dilly daly of Adelaide 25 Aug 09 - 02:27 AM
Stower 25 Aug 09 - 08:50 AM
Mark Ross 25 Aug 09 - 09:19 AM
dilly daly of Adelaide 17 Dec 10 - 04:19 AM
Jim Dixon 18 Dec 10 - 12:44 PM
GutBucketeer 25 May 11 - 01:35 AM
PoppaGator 25 May 11 - 05:11 PM
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Subject: Lyr Req: Blin Willie Johnson's Soul of a Man
From: Roberto
Date: 19 Dec 07 - 03:40 AM

Please, help me to get an exact transcription of this great recording by Blind Willie Johnson. What follows is what I've got so far. R

Well, won't somebody tell me, answer if you can
Won't somebody tell me, tell me what is the soul of a man?

I'm going to ask the question, please answer if you can
Is there anybody sure can tell me, tell me what is the soul of a man?

Well, won't somebody tell me, answer if you can
I want somebody to tell me, tell me what is the soul of a man

I've travelled different countries, I've travelled in foreign lands
I've found nobody could tell me, tell me what was the soul of a man

Well, won't somebody tell me, answer if you can
I want somebody to tell me, tell me what is the soul of a man

I saw a crowd stand talking, I just came up in time
Was teaching the lawyer, the doctor, well a man ain't nothing but a mind

Well, won't somebody tell me, answer if you can
I want somebody to tell me, tell me what is the soul of a man
God-a, won't somebody tell me, answer if you can
I want somebody to tell me, tell me what is the soul of a man

I read the bible often, I tries to read it right
And furthest I could understand, nothing but a burnin' light

God-a, won't somebody tell me, answer if you can
I want somebody to tell me, tell me what is the soul of a man

When Christ sat in at the temple, the people, Lo', stood amazed
Was teaching the lawyer, doctor, how to raise a man from the grave

Well, won't somebody tell me, answer if you can
Won't somebody tell me, tell me what is the soul of a man?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Blind Willie Johnson's Soul of a Man
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 19 Dec 07 - 06:03 AM

Roberto - I've just had a quick listen and offhand the only change I could see was in the bible verse:

  And far as I could understand


I'm short of time now, but I'll try to have a more careful listen this evening.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Blind Willie Johnson's Soul of a Man
From: Roberto
Date: 19 Dec 07 - 06:14 AM

Thank you, Mick. R


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Blind Willie Johnson's Soul of a Man
From: PoppaGator
Date: 19 Dec 07 - 02:34 PM

Roberto seems to have a pretty-nearly-complete set of lyrics there. Anyone who can add to it deserves recognition as a true Blues Scholar!

I've seen and heard this song fairly recently in a contemporary video ~ probably part of the "The Blues" PBS series.

I'm pretty sure that Chris Thomas King (son of Baton Rouge blues musician and club-owner Tabby Thomas, also know for his acting/singing in "Oh Brother Where Art Thou?") performs the song while acting the role of Blind Willie, and the cinematographer hand-cranked an old camera to give the black-and-white footage the herky-jerky look of old silent movies.

Another contemporary blues artist does a similarly terrific job portraying ("channeling") Skip James in the same film ~ or perhaps in a different episode of the same series. Anyone remember who that was?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Blind Willie Johnson's Soul of a Man
From: Les from Hull
Date: 19 Dec 07 - 03:43 PM

Keith B Brown, according to the website

I assume you mean the Wim Wenders film 'Soul of a Man'.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Blind Willie Johnson's Soul of a Man
From: PoppaGator
Date: 19 Dec 07 - 04:38 PM

Yeah, Wim Wender's episode. Thanks for the link.


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Subject: Lyr Add: SOUL OF A MAN (Blind Willie Johnson)
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 19 Dec 07 - 06:11 PM

Roberto

I've had a closer listen now. The version I used I picked up from YouTube and it says it's Blind Willie Johnson with Willie B Harris, 1930 (no matrix number given), so I don't know if it's the same version that you have.

There are some minor corrections in the verses, but the chorus seems to be basically:

  Well, want somebody to tell me, answer if you can
  Want somebody to tell me, just what is the soul of a man?

with slight variations. The second line I think always uses want (though to comes and goes) and definitely always uses just what.... The first line I have more trouble deciding between a-won't and I want. In the opening chorus it seems definitely to be I want agreeing with to tell me further along, but in other choruses this is not so clear cut.

I'll give the version below with the corrections I've made and I'll use I want in the first line of all choruses, with the proviso that it may not always be correct(!).

Mick



SOUL OF A MAN

Well, want somebody to tell me, answer if you can
Want somebody to tell me, just what is the soul of a man?

I'm going to ask the question, please answer if you can
Is there anybody's children can tell me, just what is the soul of a man?

Well, I want somebody tell me, answer if you can
I want somebody to tell me, just what is the soul of a man

I've travelled different countries, I've travelled to'n furthest land
I've found nobody could tell me, just what about the soul of a man

Well, want somebody tell me, answer if you can
I want somebody to tell me, just what is the soul of a man

I saw a crowd stand talking, I just came up in time
Was teaching the lawyer, the doctor, well a man ain't nothing but in mind

Well, I want somebody tell me, answer if you can
I want somebody to tell me, just what is the soul of a man
God, I want somebody tell me, answer if you can
I want somebody tell me, just what is the soul of a man

I reads the bible often, I tries to read it right
And far as I could understand, nothing but a burnin' light

God I want somebody tell me, answer if you can
I want somebody tell me, just what is the soul of a man

When Christ sat in at the temple, the people all stood amazed
Was teaching the lawyers, doctors, how to raise a man from the grave

Well, I want somebody tell me, answer if you can
I want somebody to tell me, just what is the soul of a man?

Well, I want somebody tell me, answer if you can
I want somebody to tell me, just what is the soul of a man?



Source: Blind Willie Johnson and Willie B Harris, 1930


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Blind Willie Johnson's Soul of a Man
From: Roberto
Date: 20 Dec 07 - 05:12 AM

Willie Harris was another blues artist, nothing to do with Blind Willie Johnson, as far as I know. There is only one recording of The Soul of a Man by Blind Willie Johnson, and the other voice that can be heard should be that of Angeline Johnson, his wife. Thank you very much, Mick, for the accurate transcription. R


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Blind Willie Johnson's Soul of a Man
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 20 Dec 07 - 05:18 AM

The credit was that given on the site, but before I looked at it I thought it was a woman singing; his wife makes much more sense!

Mick


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Soul of a Man (Blind Willie Johnson)
From: dilly daly of Adelaide
Date: 25 Aug 09 - 02:27 AM

Does anyone have any chord suggestions for this great song please ?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Soul of a Man (Blind Willie Johnson)
From: Stower
Date: 25 Aug 09 - 08:50 AM

You may like to know that Bruce Cockburn does a wonderful version of this on his 'Nothing But A Burning Light'. (Bruce plays it in open C - don't know about BWJ).


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Soul of a Man (Blind Willie Johnson)
From: Mark Ross
Date: 25 Aug 09 - 09:19 AM

Ramblin' Jack Elliot just recorded it on his new CD NO STRANGER HERE. Great version.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Soul of a Man (Blind Willie Johnson)
From: dilly daly of Adelaide
Date: 17 Dec 10 - 04:19 AM

Does anyone know the chord progression used in this great song.Is Willie playing in open D ?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Soul of a Man (Blind Willie Johnson)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 18 Dec 10 - 12:44 PM

I just listened to a recording a YouTube, and I believe you have the lyrics nailed, with one possible exception, in verse 6: "a man ain't nothing but a mind."


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Soul of a Man (Blind Willie Johnson)
From: GutBucketeer
Date: 25 May 11 - 01:35 AM

Would love to have the chords for this song.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Soul of a Man (Blind Willie Johnson)
From: PoppaGator
Date: 25 May 11 - 05:11 PM

As I hear it, this song has hardly any chord changes at all. Almost all of it is on the one (tonic, or "I") chord, plus a couple of brief changes to the VII (dominant seventh), at the syllables italicized below:

Well, won't somebody tell me, answer if you can
Won't somebody tell me, tell me what is the soul of a man?

In the key of E, the two chords would be E and B(7); or, in other keys,...
A and E(7)
C and G(7)
D and A(7)
G and D(7)
etc.

I've felt for a long time time that one-chord blues songs (e.g., John Lee Hooker's oeuvre), and simple two-chord songs like this one, are among the most difficult blues numbers to play well. Just strumming the chord(s) doesn't really "get it." You need to learn, or to approximate, the fingerpicking and/or the slide technique of the original.


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