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'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'

GUEST,Joseph Scott 27 Apr 16 - 04:12 AM
GUEST,leeneia 27 Apr 16 - 10:07 AM
Richie 27 Apr 16 - 10:40 AM
mayomick 27 Apr 16 - 11:41 AM
GUEST 27 Apr 16 - 04:23 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 27 Apr 16 - 04:44 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 27 Apr 16 - 04:48 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 27 Apr 16 - 05:18 PM
Amos 27 Apr 16 - 07:13 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 27 Apr 16 - 11:06 PM
Joe Offer 28 Apr 16 - 12:41 AM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 28 Apr 16 - 01:34 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 28 Apr 16 - 01:49 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 28 Apr 16 - 01:56 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 28 Apr 16 - 02:03 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 28 Apr 16 - 02:35 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 28 Apr 16 - 03:43 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 28 Apr 16 - 04:26 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 28 Apr 16 - 04:34 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 28 Apr 16 - 05:15 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 28 Apr 16 - 05:26 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 28 Apr 16 - 05:39 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 28 Apr 16 - 08:50 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 28 Apr 16 - 09:08 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 28 Apr 16 - 09:13 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 28 Apr 16 - 09:29 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 28 Apr 16 - 09:43 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 28 Apr 16 - 10:06 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 28 Apr 16 - 10:18 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 14 Aug 16 - 12:02 AM
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Subject: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 27 Apr 16 - 04:12 AM

One of the best-known lines in early blues was some variant of "Got the blues, too damn mean to cry." Examples from before 1920:

-- During 1905-1908 Howard Odum collected a stanza from a black Georgia singer consisting of "I got the blues, but too damn mean to cry/I got the blues, but too damn mean to cry."
-- In 1909 a Mr. Alrdich heard Mississippi blacks sing "I've got the blues; I'm too damn mean to talk."
-- In early 1912, the very first copyrighted blues song ever was "The Blues (But I'm Too Blamed Mean To Cry)" by Chris Smith and Tim Brymn.
-- A 1912 article about black folk songs by W.H. Thomas included the stanza, "I got the blues, but I haven't got the fare/I got the blues, but I haven't got the fare/I got the blues, but I am too damn'd mean to cry."
-- In 1913 "I Wonder Where My Easy Rider's Gone" by Shelton Brooks included a variant of the line.
-- In a 1914 newspaper, "Got de blues but I ain't gwine to cry" was included in a speech bubble over a cartoon of bluesman Butler May performing.
-- In 1914 "I Wonder Where My Lovin' Man Has Gone" by Jones, Whiting, and Cooke included a variant of the line.
-- In 1915-1916 B.A. Wooten heard "I got the railroad blues, but I'm too damn mean to cry" in a black song in Marengo County, Alabama.
-- In 1915-1916 W.M. Mobley heard "I got the blues, but I'm too damn mean to cry" in a black song in Birmingham, Alabama.
-- In about 1916-1917 H.F. Parks heard "Got dem blues, but I'm too damn'd mean to cry" in "the southwest," probably in Texas, where he lived in 1916-1917 before moving to Montana in 1917.


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 27 Apr 16 - 10:07 AM

I just encountered that line in a blues song right here, Joseph, but I forget which one. I had no idea it was so widespread.


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: Richie
Date: 27 Apr 16 - 10:40 AM

Hi,

The other popular early variant is "Got de blues, Can't be satified."

Richie


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: mayomick
Date: 27 Apr 16 - 11:41 AM

Roosevelt Sykes sang that line about the Railway Blues but I think he had it as,"I got them railroad blues, she's too mean to cry". I used to like the line when I thought it meant "mean" in the English, tight-fisted sense of the word - too mean to waste tears
I suppose that blues singers would have used mean in the American "tough" sense ?


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Apr 16 - 04:23 PM

"Hi,

The other popular early variant is 'Got de blues, Can't be satisfied.'"

Richie"

I agree, those two seem to beat out all others really early on -- among the lines that have the word "blues" in them. I wonder what we think might be third place?


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 27 Apr 16 - 04:44 PM

Above post was me. Three possible starting points to try to figure out a candidate for third most common would be the long blues Floyd Canada sang that Webb reported on in 1915, the "Negro Blues" that Lee White copyrighted in 1912 and then published with some differences in lyrics in 1913, and the various lyrics that John Lomax lumped together for his 1917 article (although he lumped them together creatively, as he acknowledged in the article, at least hopefully he actually had collected them all somewhere as of 1917!). Also, Handy 1926 can be relied on to be quite honest about what he recalled as pre-1920 (which IIRC again included the "too mean to cry").

No point worrying as much about the lyrics Norton made up for Handy's "Memphis Blues" (without Handy's involvement) or Garrett made up for Wand's "Dallas Blues" because Norton and Garrett don't seem to have been in touch with Southern idiomatic blues to the extent that e.g. Lee White and W.H. Thomas were. There's also the different "Dallas Blues" that Marie Cahill sang on record in 1917, although IIRC its writers largely cribbed from Lee White's earlier song.


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 27 Apr 16 - 04:48 PM

Hi mayomick, yes in the U.S. we don't really know "mean" to mean cheap until we get assigned a few Old World authors in school.


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 27 Apr 16 - 05:18 PM

Floyd Canada 1915:
"If you ever had the blues, you know just how I feel"
"When you take the blues and don't know what to do"
"I got the railroad blues, but I haven't got the fare" (cf. W.H. Thomas 1912)
"You get the blues so bad, you can't control your mind"

White's song 1912/1913 (George O'Connor recorded it in 1916):
"Oh! the blues ain't nothing but a good man feeling bad"
"The blues ain't nothing but the doggone heart disease"
(and more)

Lomax 1917:
"Some folks say dat de worry blues ain't bad"
"I've got de railroad blues and de Cincinnati heart disease"
"I woke up dis mornin' with the blues all roun' my head"
"Oh de blues ain't nothin' but a man on yo' min'"
"If de blues overtake me, I'll jump overboard an' droun'"
(Lomax wasn't above changing individual words, but this gives us a gist)

(An aside: On available evidence the early blues singers sure sang about railroads and jail a lot more than they sang about cotton fields.)


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: Amos
Date: 27 Apr 16 - 07:13 PM

It makes a certain sense--if you were raised in a cotton-picking family, cities, trains and jails would be alien and overwhelming.

A

"If you want to know the blues, well, I'll tell you if I can.
It's a ten dollar woman, tied down to a two-dollar man."

(This couplet was borrowed by Patrick Sky in altered form in his song "Nectar of God")


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 27 Apr 16 - 11:06 PM

Well, if we think that to someone raised in a fishing family, for instance, trains and jails would be alien, then unfortunately that doesn't tell us much about how many early blues musicians who mentioned trains and jails were raised in fishing families.


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: Joe Offer
Date: 28 Apr 16 - 12:41 AM

Here's a couple:

Smith, Trixie; Freight Train Blues; New York, 26 May 1938; (63866-A) De-7489 Cor CP-58

I hate to hear : that freight train blow boo hoo
Every time I hear it blowing: I feel like riding too
I asked the brakeman : to let me ride the blinds
He said little girlie : you know this train ain't mine
Oh it's a mean old fireman : cruel old engineer
It was a mean old train : that took my man away from here
I've got the freight train blues : but I'm too darn mean to cry
I'm going to love that man : till the day he dies




Weaver, Curley; No No Blues; Atlanta, 26 Oct. 1928; (147305-2) Co-14386-D His HLP-32

Got up this morning : my good gal was gone
Stood by my bedside : long many long many morn
Went down the street : I couldn't be satisfied
Had the no no blues : just too mean just too mean to cry
Take a mighty good woman : treat her good man wrong
Ain't none of my business : but it sure ain't right
Take another man's woman : walk the streets all walk the streets all night


These are from the Web Concordance of Michael Taft's Pre-War Blues Lyrics


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 Apr 16 - 01:34 PM

More from 1915-1916, all from different black singers, in Newman White 1928:

Five variants of "The blues ain't nothing but a...."
Five variants of "Some folks say the __ blues ain't bad."
Two variants of "When a woman gets the blues, she hangs her head and cries."
Two variants of "If the blues was whiskey, I'd stay drunk all the time."


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 Apr 16 - 01:49 PM

Looks like during 1912 on, "The blues ain't nothing but..." was very popular. But we don't have evidence for it as early as 1908 or earlier as we do for both "mean to cry" and "satisfied."

BTW those "adjective blues" in which someone in the lyrics has the "railroad blues" or the like, those seem to have come in during the 1910s, don't seem to have been around yet in blues as of about 1908.


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 Apr 16 - 01:56 PM

Caption to a cartoon of a young white soldier singing and playing banjo, drawn by a soldier stationed in Alabama, _Judge_, 11/23/1918: "Oh, the blues ain't nothin' but a good man feelin' bad."


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 Apr 16 - 02:03 PM

From a poem about a tramp in _Scribner's_ 12/1916:

"I looked in his eyes and I read the news;
His heart was having the railroad blues.
Oh, the railroad blues will cost you dear,
Keeps you moving on for something that you don't see here."


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 Apr 16 - 02:35 PM

Some of the Floyd Canada wording is close to conversational English of about 1907-1915:

"Every day about four o'clock I gits the blues so bad I don't hardly know what to do." -- from conversation in 1908 fiction

"Well my sweet Kid I git the Blues so Bad so Bad some time I don't know where or what to do." -- 1909 letter presented as evidence in a court case

"'By the time we got settled down I had the blues so bad I was ready to turn in and cry all day.' 'That's one difference between a man and a woman....'" -- conversation in 1910 fiction

Etc.


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 Apr 16 - 03:43 PM

Here's the complete lyric of the "Negro Blues" copyrighted by Lee Roy White in 1912. I forgot earlier in the thread that the "mean to cry" line is in it too!

"I've got the blues but I'm too mean to, I said mean to, I mean cry.
I've got the blues but I'm to mean to cry.
I feel so bad I could lay myself down and die.

The Blues ain't nothing but a good man feeling, I said feeling, I mean bad,
The blues ain't nothing but a good man feeling bad.
That's a feeling that I've often had.

When a man gets blue he takes a train and, I said a train and, I mean rides.
When a man gets blue he takes a train and rides.
But when a woman gets blue she hangs her head and cries.

When I leave I'm going to leave on the Cannon, I said cannon, I mean ball.
When I leave I'm going to leave on the cannon ball,
Carries fourteen coaches there ain't no blinds at all.

There's a big freight train backed up in the, I said in the, I mean yards,
There's a big freight train backed up in the yards,
I'm going to see my Baby if I have to ride the rods.

Yonder comes the train coming down the, I said down the, I mean track.
Yonder comes the train coming down the track.
It's going to take me away but it ain't going to bring me back.

Honey don't you weep and, I said weep and, I mean moan,
Honey, Honey, don't you weep and moan.
I'm going to build you a house cut out of marble stone.

I cried last night also the night be, I said the night be, I mean before,
I cried last night also the night before.
I raised my hand I took and oath I wouldn't cry no more.

Honey, Honey when I die don't you wear no, I said wear no, I mean black.
Honey, Honey when I die don't you wear no black,
Cause my ghost, it's going to come sneaking back.

I'm going to lay my head down on some railroad, I said railroad, I mean line.
I'm going to lay head down on some railroad line.
Let the Santa Fe, satisfy my mind.

My home ain't here it's a light house on the, I said on the, I mean sea.
My home ain't here it's a lighthouse on the sea.
I'm going back to my used to be.

Wish I had wings like Noah's, I said Noah's, I mean dove.
Wish I had wings like Noah's dove.
Then I'd fly home to the little girl I love.

Wish I'd died when I was, I said young, I mean a kid,
Wish I'd died when I was quite young.
Then I wouldn't have this hard old race to run.

I'll meet you honey when your heart's going to ache like I said ache like, I mean mine.
I'll meet you honey when your heart's going to ache like mine.
I'll meet you honey when you can't change a dime.

People, People, my head ain't made of, I said made of, I mean bone.
People, People, my head ain't made of bone.
'Cause I've sang what I have, I'm not a Graphophone."

It was his 1913 publication that included five of the above stanzas plus a new one:

"You can call the blues, you can call the blues, any old thing you please,
You can can call the blues any old thing you please.
But the blues ain't nothing but the doggone heart disease."

Here are the stanzas with the word "blues" in them in the January 2, 1917 recording "Dallas Blues" by Marie Cahill, credited to the Leighton brothers (she also recorded it in 1916, but unreleased):

"I got the Dallas blues and I'm-a feeling mighty, I said mighty, I mean sad
I've got the Dallas blues and I'm feeling mighty sad.
But the blues ain't nothing but a good man feeling bad.

Did you ever wake up with the blues all 'round you, I said 'round you, I mean bed
Did you ever wake up with the blues all 'round your bed
And you had no one to hold your aching head?"


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 Apr 16 - 04:26 PM

So here are some lines and, so far, the earliest date we have for them in songs:

"I got the blues, but too damn mean to cry" 1905-1908
"I got the blues and can't be satisfied" 1905-1908 (H. Odum)
"The blues ain't nothing but a good man feeling bad" 1912
"When a woman gets blue she hangs her head and cries" 1912
"I got the blues... want to lay down and die" 1912 ("Baby Seals Blues," F. Seals)
"The blues ain't nothing but the doggone heart disease" 1913
"If you ever had the blues, you know just how I feel" 1915
".. blues so bad..." 1915
"Some folks say that the ___ blues ain't bad" 1915-1916
"I got the railroad blues" 1915-1916
"If the blues was whiskey, I'd stay drunk all the time." 1915-1916
"Did you ever wake up with the blues all 'round your bed?" 1916
"If the blues overtake me, I'll jump overboard and drown" 1917


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 Apr 16 - 04:34 PM

"Blues in the bottle I've got stoppers in my hand" 1920 ("Stingaree Blues, C. Kemp)


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 Apr 16 - 05:15 PM

"I got the blues, but I'm just too mean to cry." -- "I've Got The Blues But I'm Just Too Mean To Cry" recorded by Dorothy Dodd in 1921 (written by J. Russel Robinson, 1892-1963).


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 Apr 16 - 05:26 PM

"The blues ain't nothin' but a good man feeling bad...
Got the banjo blues and I'm too darn mean to cry" -- "Banjo Blues," Peg Leg Howell, 1928


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 Apr 16 - 05:39 PM

Sister Rosetta Tharpe's filmed 1963 performance at Chorlton Railway Station reportedly may have included an "I Got The Blues But I'm Too Damned Mean To Cry" that was broadcast on "So It Goes" on July 3, 1976.


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 Apr 16 - 08:50 PM

Singer and drummer Thomas Fletcher, who was born in about 1872, remembered this blues stanza in his 1954 book about the history of black show business:

"I've got the blues, but I'm too darn mean to cry
I've got the blues, but I'm too darn mean to cry
Before I cry I'd rather lay down and die."


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 Apr 16 - 09:08 PM

"I've got the blues, but I'm just too mean to cry" -- "Too Mean To Cry Blues," Ivy Smith, 1927

"Too sad to worry, too mean to cry...." -- "Victim Of The Blues," Ma Rainey, 1928


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 Apr 16 - 09:13 PM

"They talked about my pa who was blind in one eye
They talked about my pa who was blind in one eye
They said he was a sinner and was too mean to cry"
-- "Eavesdropper's Blues," Bessie Smith, 1924 (song written by J.C. Johnson, 1896-1981)


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 Apr 16 - 09:29 PM

"I have got Georgia blues,
And I'm just too mean to cry"
-- "Georgia Blues," Ethel Waters, 1922 (song written by William Weldon Higgins, born 1888 in SC, and William Benton Overstreet)


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 Apr 16 - 09:43 PM

"The Weary Blues," words and music by H. Alf Kelley, 1916:

"I've got the blues, and I am too darn mean to cry;
I've got the blues, and I am too darn mean to cry;
Sometimes I wish that I could lay me down and die...
There are some people who say 'Weary Blues' ain't bad;
There are some people who say 'Weary Blues' ain't bad;
But it's the worst old feeling that I ever had."

Title of a 1914 song by Johnnie Anderson and Jesse Smith: "I've Got the Weary Blues and Don't Know What To Do."


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 Apr 16 - 10:06 PM

"I've got the 'weary blues,' and I don't know what to do...." -- "Morning, Noon And Night" by James White, 1916. Ma Rainey performed this song in Greenville, SC on Oct. 9, 1916.


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 Apr 16 - 10:18 PM

Updated list of early use of the word "blues" in blues songs and how early we can show the lines to be:

"I got the blues and can't be satisfied" by 1908
"I got the blues but too damn mean to cry" by 1908
"The blues ain't nothing but a good man feeling bad" by 1912
"When a woman gets blue she hangs her head and cries" by 1912
"I got the blues... want to lay down and die" by 1912
"The blues ain't nothing but the doggone heart disease" by 1913
"... blues and don't know what to do" by 1914
".. blues so bad..." by 1915
"If you ever had the blues, you know just how I feel" by 1915
"Did you ever wake up with the blues all 'round your bed?" by 1916
"Some folks say that the ___ blues ain't bad" by 1916
"If the blues was whiskey, I'd stay drunk all the time" by 1916
"I got the railroad blues" by 1916
"If the blues overtake me, I'll jump overboard and drown" by 1917
"Blues in the bottle I've got stoppers in my hand" by 1920


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Subject: RE: 'Got the blues, too damn mean to cry'
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 14 Aug 16 - 12:02 AM

On the topic mentioned above of apparently most popular early blues lyrics, "Mama/mother told me..." has to be a candidate. It was sung by e.g.

Frank Stokes (born 1870s or 1880s)
Simmie Dooley (born 1880s)
Huddie Ledbetter (born about 1889)
Charley Jordan (born about 1890)
Marshall Owens (born about 1891)
Charlie Patton (born about 1891)
L.V. Thomas (born about 1891)
Joe Taggart (born about 1892)
Robert Wilkins (born about 1896)
Jaybird Coleman (born about 1896)
King Solomon Hill (born about 1897)
Furry Lewis (born about 1899)
Speckled Red (born about 1899)
Sam Butler
Big Boy Cleveland
Buddy Boy Hawkins
Walter Rhodes
Edward Thompson
Jed Davenport
.
.
.


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