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Lyr Add: Death, Oh Death^^^

DigiTrad:
OH DEATH
OH DEATH (2)


Related threads:
Req: Death in the Morning (Rev Anderson Johnson) (4)
(origins) Conversation With Death (songs) (30)
Lyr Req: Conversation With Death (8)
Lyr Req: O Death (from Ralph Stanley) (13)
Lyr Req: Death oh death see what the Lord hath.... (5)
Lyr Req: Oh Death (6) (closed)


Joe Offer 27 Aug 01 - 04:27 AM
masato sakurai 27 Aug 01 - 05:39 AM
masato sakurai 27 Aug 01 - 06:05 AM
wysiwyg 27 Aug 01 - 06:20 AM
GUEST 27 Aug 01 - 06:54 AM
masato sakurai 27 Aug 01 - 07:13 AM
wysiwyg 27 Aug 01 - 07:22 AM
Stewie 27 Aug 01 - 08:06 AM
Stewie 27 Aug 01 - 08:10 AM
Malcolm Douglas 27 Aug 01 - 08:22 AM
Stewie 27 Aug 01 - 08:35 AM
Joe Offer 27 Aug 01 - 12:31 PM
pavane 27 Aug 01 - 02:43 PM
Erica Smith 27 Aug 01 - 03:04 PM
wysiwyg 22 Sep 01 - 12:13 PM
masato sakurai 22 Sep 01 - 12:53 PM
wysiwyg 22 Sep 01 - 01:40 PM
wysiwyg 25 Sep 01 - 02:55 AM
GUEST,Leonard 25 Sep 01 - 05:31 AM
wysiwyg 25 Sep 01 - 08:37 AM
masato sakurai 25 Sep 01 - 09:24 AM
GUEST,JohnL 25 Sep 01 - 12:44 PM
GUEST,Leonard 25 Sep 01 - 01:11 PM
GUEST,Trewbill 18 Nov 01 - 01:14 PM
Oversoul 18 Nov 01 - 07:21 PM
Bill D 18 Nov 01 - 11:04 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 02 Feb 02 - 05:58 PM
fat B****rd 03 Feb 02 - 02:55 PM
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Subject: Lyr Add: OH DEATH (from Nancy Thym)^^^
From: Joe Offer
Date: 27 Aug 01 - 04:27 AM

I heard this haunting song the first time at a concert Friday night. I watched the video of O Brother Where Art Thou? this evening, and the same song was played during the Ku Klux Klan scene. Does anybody have any background information on the song?
-Joe Offer-

OH DEATH
(traditional)

My name is Death and none can excel
I can open the gates of heaven or hell.
Cast aside the flesh of thee
Cast it aside and set you free.
REFRAIN
Death, Oh Death
Can't you spare me over til another year?

Death, oh, Death, consider my age,
Please don't take me at this stage.
My wealth is at your command
If you'll stay your icy hand.
REFRAIN

The old, the young, the rich, the poor
It's all alike with me, you know.
No wealth, no land, no silver, no gold
Nothin' satisfies me but your soul!
REFRAIN

Mama, Mama, come to my bed.
Place cold towels upon my head.
My eyes are closed and I can't see.
Take the sheet, pull it over me.
REFRAIN


from the liner notes from the CD "If I Had Wings Like Noah's Dove," by Nancy Thym

^^^

Digital Tradition Lyrics: (click) and (click #2)

Click for related thread


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Subject: Lyr Add: O DEATH (from Bessie Jones)^^^
From: masato sakurai
Date: 27 Aug 01 - 05:39 AM

No background info with me, but Bessie Jones sings "O Death" inThe Alan Lomax Collection: Southern Journey, vol. 12 (Georgia Sea Islands). Her lyrics are:

(Chorus):
(Leader): O death in the mornin', (3x)
Spare me over in another year.
Well, Death walked up to the sinner's gate,
Says, "I b'lieve you have waited now a little too late.
Your fever now is gwine a hundred and two;
Have a narrow chance, if you ever pull through."

(Chorus):
He cried, "O Death,"
Cryin', "O Death in the mornin',
O Death,
Death, spare me over in another year."

Hey, what is this I see,
Cold icy hands all over me?
You say, "I am Death, no one can excel,
I open the doors of Death and Hell." (Chorus)

"No, you heard God's people sing and pray,
You would not heed, you just walked away.
You would not even bend your knee,
Now you got to go and come with me." (Chorus)

"Well, I'm gonna fix your feet so you cannot walk,
I'm gonna fix your tongue where you cannot talk,
Close your eyes and you cannot see,
You got to go and come with me." (Chorus)

"Well, Death, consider my age
And do not take me in this stage
Because all of my waelth is at your command,
If you'll just move your cold, icy hand." (Chorus)

He cried, "No, no!
Now, O death in the mornin,
No, no,
Lawd, spare me over in another year."

O Mother standin' by the bed,
With her achin' heart and her hung-down head,
And the very sad,
Said, "It's the worst ol' case I ever had." (Chorus)

He said, "Mother, I got feets and I can't walk,"
I got a tongue, but I can't talk;
I got eyes but I can't see.
Mother, but Death got the shackles on me." (Chorus)

Also sung by Pace Jubilee Singers (How Can I Keep From Singing: Early American Religious Music & Song, Vol.2, Yazoo); New Lost City Ramblers (There Ain't No Way Out, Smithsonian Folkways); Dock Boggs (His Folkways Years 1963-1968, Smithsonian Folkways); and the Carter Family (On Border Radio, vol.3, Arhoolie). Those are what I know. ^^^


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Death, Oh Death
From: masato sakurai
Date: 27 Aug 01 - 06:05 AM

There is an entry in The Traditional Ballad Index. It says:

Conversation with Death (Oh Death)

DESCRIPTION: Death approaches the young person who is "unprepared for eternity." (S)he tries to buy Death off. It doesn't work. Death describes how it takes everyone and snuffs out their lives. The soon-to-be-dead person bids farewell
AUTHOR: almost certainly Lloyd Chandler
EARLIEST DATE: 1928 (recording, Vernon Dalhart)
KEYWORDS: death bargaining dialog Hell
FOUND IN: US(Ap,SE,So)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Randolph 663, "Conversation with Death" (1 text)
DT, OHDEATH*

Roud #4933
RECORDINGS:
Rich Amerson, "Death Have Mercy" (on NFMAla4)
Dock Boggs, "Oh Death" (on Boggs1, BoggsCD1)
Al Craver [pseudonym for Vernon Dalhart], "Conversation with Death" (Columbia 15585-D, 1930; rec. 1928)
Rev. Anderson Johnson, "Death in the Morning" (Glory 4015, rec. 1953; on Babylon)
Charlie Monroe's Boys, "Oh Death" (Bluebird B-8092, 1939)
Charley] Patton & [Bertha] Lee, "Oh Death" (Vocalion 02904, 1935; rec. 1934)
Dock Reed & Vera Hall Ward, "Death is Awful" (on NFMAla5) (on ReedWard01)
Berzilla Wallin, "Conversation with Death" (on OldLove)

BROADSIDES:
Bodleian, Harding B 11(885), "Dialogue between death and a sinner" ("Death. Now sinner come by heaven's decree ...") Ryle & Co (Seven Dials), n.d.; also "Dialogue between Death & a sinner," John Harkness (Preston), n.d.; Johnson Ballads 412, "Dialogue between Death and a sinner," W. S. Fortey (Monmouth), n.d.
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Death and the Lady" (theme)
cf. "Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie" (tune of one version)
cf. "Oh Death (III)" (lyrics)
ALTERNATE TITLES:
Death Is Awful
NOTES: It is possible that this is a Holy Roller version of "Death and the Lady," but there are enough differences that I decided I had to separate them. There may be a "missing link" out there somwhere, though. - RBW
I think Boggs' version may well be the missing link you seek. A very similar version was recorded by the blues singer Charley Patton. Or it could be Vernon Dalhart's recording, but certainly the Boggs and Patton versions are fairly close to "Death and the Lady." - PJS
John Garst has this to add:
Carl Lindahl seems to have wrapped up Lloyd Chandler's authorship of "Conversation with Death." See http://tinyurl.com/tbdx-LChandler and works cited there.
Chandler's piece has become mixed with "Oh, Death" ("Death Have Mercy," etc.) which seems to be, in some versions, entirely different from "Conversation."
It seems clear to me that "Oh, Death" derives from the,,, broadside [Bodleian, Harding B 11(885)].
Both "Conversation" and "Oh, Death" differ considerably from "Death and the Lady." - JG
Last updated in version 2.5
File: R663

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Bibiography
Go to the Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2009 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Death, Oh Death
From: wysiwyg
Date: 27 Aug 01 - 06:20 AM

wow!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Death, Oh Death
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Aug 01 - 06:54 AM

There's a version already in the DT: Click here


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Death, Oh Death
From: masato sakurai
Date: 27 Aug 01 - 07:13 AM

Dock Boggs sings with banjo here.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Death, Oh Death
From: wysiwyg
Date: 27 Aug 01 - 07:22 AM

Loved that!

Also liked DOCK BOGGS BIO posted there.

~S~


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Death, Oh Death
From: Stewie
Date: 27 Aug 01 - 08:06 AM

There's a beaut rendition by Mary McCaslin and the late Jim Ringer on 'The Bramble and the Briar' reissued on CD Philo PH1055. It has verses similar to some of those in Boggs' version in the DT linked by Guest above. The almost jaunty accompaniment with banjo and Northumbrian small pipes belies the serious subject matter.

I am puzzled by the note in the last sentence to the extract from the Traditional Ballad Index posted above by masato. Charley Patton's 'Oh Death', done with Bertha Lee, is nothing like Dock Boggs' version. Patton's recording may be found on the late John Fahey's magnificent compilation 'American Primitive Vol 1: Raw Pre-War Gospel' Revenant 206. It is also on Charley Patton 'King of the Delta Blues' Yazoo CD 2001. Bertha Lee takes the lead with Patton supplying vocal interjections. Stephen Calt and Don Kent put it well in their notes to the Yazoo: 'The call and response format, with the bottleneck as a third voice and the simple but foreboding text, creates an eerie if not disturbing atmosphere.

--Stewie.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Death, Oh Death
From: Stewie
Date: 27 Aug 01 - 08:10 AM

The title of the McCaslin/Ringer album is 'The Bramble and the Rose'. My apologies. I got it wrong even though I had it in front of me.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Death, Oh Death
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 27 Aug 01 - 08:22 AM

See also these discussions:

O Death
Conversation With Death
Conversation With Death

And in the DT:

OH DEATH (2)  From Sarah Ogan Gunning.
OH DEATH  From Doc Boggs  (already linked to above; this alternative route should last longer).


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Subject: Lyr Add: OH DEATH (Charley Patton)^^
From: Stewie
Date: 27 Aug 01 - 08:35 AM

For those interested, a transcription of Patton's 'Oh Death':

OH DEATH

Just look, just look, just look, see what the Lord done, done
Just look, just look, just look, what the Lord done, done
Just look, well, Lordy, just look, just look what the Lord done done
Lord, I know, Lord, I know my time ain't long

It was soon one morning, oh, Lordy, when death come in the room (x3)
Lord, I know etc

Oh, hush, oh, hush, oh, hush, oh, hush, somebody's calling me (x3)
Lord, I know etc

It was soon one morning, oh, Lordy, when death come in the room (x3)
Lord, I know etc

Oh, death, oh, death, oh, death, oh, death done stole my mother and gone (x3)
Lord, I know etc

Oh, move my pillow, then turn my bed around (x3)
Lord, I know etc

Oh, hush, oh, hush, oh, hush, oh, hush somebody is calling me (x3)
Lord, I know etc

Source: original recording by Patton and Lee (Charley Patton and Bertha Lee) New York City 1 February 1934. Issued as Vocalion Vo 02904.
The above transcription is as printed in John Fahey 'Charley Patton' Studio Vista 1970.

^^

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Death, Oh Death
From: Joe Offer
Date: 27 Aug 01 - 12:31 PM

I usually recommend that people search for a distinctive phrase from a song, not the title. So, I searched for "my name is Death" and came up with nothing except Death and the Lady, which is similar but not the same song. That goes to show you that Joe Offer can be wrong at times. It also shows that sometimes a request for a song that's already in the database, can still be very interesting. Thanks for all the great information, everybody.
The lyrics that Masato and I posted have elements different from the two versions in the Digital Tradition, but I don't think they're substantially different. I don't think I'll harvest them for the DT - but I think it's still worthwhile to have them posted here.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Death, Oh Death
From: pavane
Date: 27 Aug 01 - 02:43 PM

It was also recorded by Peter Bellamy on the limited edition cassette 'Fair Annie'. Well worth searching for, as it has a number of good tracks, including 'Maids of Australia' with Dave Swarbrick on fiddle.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Death, Oh Death
From: Erica Smith
Date: 27 Aug 01 - 03:04 PM

In the liner notes to the Dock Boggs "Folkways Years' CD, it says Dock noted that he learned it from Lee Hunsucker around 1930, predating the 1944 from the Traditional Ballad Index . . .?


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Subject: Lyr Add: AWFUL DEATH / DEATH IS AWFUL (from Lomax)
From: wysiwyg
Date: 22 Sep 01 - 12:13 PM

CLICK HERE to hear the version the Lomaxes recorded in May, 1939. They list it as a spiritual. Also see field notes from that recording session HERE. The title is referred to in two different ways in the complete text of their work-- AWFUL DEATH and DEATH IS AWFUL.

#2682 DEATH IS AWFUL
Transcribed from version sung by Vera Hall. Just before she begins, you hear them say, "Start over again" in the background. So this must be at least Take Two.

Oh, death is awful,
Oh, death is awful,
Oh, death is awful
Spare me over another year.

If I was a flower in my bloom
Make death cut me down so soon

He'll stretch yo' eyes an' stretch yo' limbs,
This is the way death begins

Oh, death is awful,
Oh, death is awful,
Oh, death is awful
Spare me over another year.

He'll fix yo' feet so you can't walk
He'll lock yo' jaws so you can't talk,
He'll close yo' eyes so you can't see,
At this very hour you must go with me

O death, have mercy,
O death, have mercy,
O death,
Jes' spare me over another year.
O death, have mercy,
O death, have mercy,
O death,
Jes' spare me over another year.

There is a pause here and again you hear a prompt from the background. She conmtinues:
He'll fix yo' feet so you can't walk
He'll lock yo' jaws so you can't talk,
He'll close yo' eyes so you can't see,
At this very hour you must go with me

=======================================================

The words given in the field notes show a different pattern and an additional verse:

2682 A 2 Death is awful- sung by Vera Hall

Death is awful, death is awful, death is awful
Spare me over another year.

If I was a flower in my bloom
Make death cut me down so soon

He'll stretch yo' eyes an' stretch yo' limbs,
This is the way death begins

He'll fix yo' feet so you can't talk
He'll lock yo' jaws so you can't talk,
He'll close yo' eyes so you can't see,
This very hour you must go with me

O death, have mercy,
Jes' spare me over another year.

O young man if you wanta be wise
Jes' 'pent an' b'lieve an' be baptized.

========================================================

What we seem to have here are two different refrains:

Oh, death is awful,
Oh, death is awful,
Oh, death is awful
Spare me over another year.


and

O death, have mercy,
O death, have mercy,
O death,
Jes' spare me over another year.

Following this logic we can also see that a possible third title might have been, "O Death, Have Mercy."

And we have two different verse structures-- two lines, or four. One might speculate that the four-line stanza might have indicated that in the grip of emotion (or the Holy Spirit), many lines might have been run together on any occasion, as additional verses would be recalled or created. You hear this style of expression in pentecostal music today.

=========================================================

It would also seem from the context that "death" means the character Death-- a being, not death as a process. Death is addressed.... so, Death (the being) is awful.

========================================================

Regarding how the Lomaxes saw the singer, and song variants, the notes indicate this:

This was our second visit to Livingston, Alabama. Hard as we had worked ourselves and Mrs. Tartt on our previous visit, we realized that we had barely scratched the surface, so far as recording the songs of the region was concerned, though Mrs. Tartt had reams of Texts written down. Mrs. Ruby Pickens Tartt was again our chief assistant, guide and ramrod. In the few days that we were working around Livingston she drove her car nearly two hundred miles, looking up singers, and bringing them to the microphone, from far and near, over hill, over dale, through mud and stream. She has the confidence of the community including the Negroes whom she has never refused help, and this was an opportunity for them to show her their appreciation. Doc Reed and Vera Hall, cousins who have sung together for many years, are her most dependables. They are good singers of the old style spirituals, are perfect in "seconding"- "following after" they call it,- and they know many songs. Not having book-learning they store in the back of their heads innumerable tunes and stanzas. Vera Hall is especially quick to "catch up" a new tune. And if they do not understand completely the text, they are ingenious in supplying substitutes, either from other spirituals or from their own feelings of the moment. These two, however, unlike old Uncle Rich Brown, do not substitute jargon; their texts mean something, if not always what the original words meant.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Death, Oh Death
From: masato sakurai
Date: 22 Sep 01 - 12:53 PM

Thanks, Susan. My information was defective.

Masato


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Death, Oh Death
From: wysiwyg
Date: 22 Sep 01 - 01:40 PM

Masato, I disagree. Your information, as always, is another tantalizing piece found, placed in a mosaic whose final shape we do not yet know.

The threads are often like this-- a wealth of information found piecemeal, out of chronological order, with another new piece always possible.

~S~


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Death, Oh Death
From: wysiwyg
Date: 25 Sep 01 - 02:55 AM

HERE is another recording of a similar item, Death is an Awful Thing.

~S~


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Death, Oh Death
From: GUEST,Leonard
Date: 25 Sep 01 - 05:31 AM

Hi WYSYISWYG, am I right in thinking that Vera Hall was recorded again by Alan Lomax in 1959 in another LOC field trip and singing the same song under the title "Death is Awful?" I recollect that it was released on Atlantic Records as part of the anthology "Sounds of the South." Also her singing "Wild Ox Moan"


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Death, Oh Death
From: wysiwyg
Date: 25 Sep 01 - 08:37 AM

Hi Leonard,

I don't have that information but there is no reason it could not tbe right. Can you do some searching around the Net and post what you find? Maybe someone around here will have that collection, too.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Death, Oh Death
From: masato sakurai
Date: 25 Sep 01 - 09:24 AM

The song was recorded under the title "Death, Have Mercy" in Sounds of the South, disc 3 (Atlantic 7 82496-2). Lomax notes:

Death, Have Mercy, sung by Vera Hall, Livingdtone, Ala. White spirituals express a real yearning for death and a longing for a release from the earthly torment in the orderly pleasures of heaven. Black spiritual composers take a somewhat different view. They took forward to heaven as a place of rest, where there will be love, equality and joy. Death itself is feared. This epic song, which comes out of the best period of the spiritual a century ago, describes death in realistic language and in a way to make the blood run cold.

O Death have, mercy, O Death be easy,
O Death just spare me over another year...

...What is this that I can't see
Cold ice hands all over me.
Stretch my eyes and stretch my lims--
This is the way that Death begins.

Vera Hall's wide leaps and dramatic shifts of voice quality relate directly to the drama of the text. This highly individualized approach to singing style is a basic part of the African tradition of both speech and song. Here, Vera uses it to set forth the terror of the dying soul as it confronts the personified spectre of death.

~Masato


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Death, Oh Death
From: GUEST,JohnL
Date: 25 Sep 01 - 12:44 PM

There is a GREAT version of this song by David Johansen on his CD David Johansen and the Harry Smiths and I prefer this to the one in "Oh Brother". This CD has many other blues standards done in David's inimitable style - well worth checking out.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Death, Oh Death
From: GUEST,Leonard
Date: 25 Sep 01 - 01:11 PM

The extraordinary English blues singer and guitar player Jo Ann Kelly used to sing "Death have Mercy" accapella around the clubs in the UK as part of her performance. The way she delivered it was chilling. For me at any rate, and I heard her do it on several occasions, it was one of those musical experiences where time stands still. It would silence a room full of rowdy drinkers and make the hair stand up on your neck. Spellbinding.


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Subject: Oh Death
From: GUEST,Trewbill
Date: 18 Nov 01 - 01:14 PM

I have become with the folk song Oh Death/Conversations with Death. I am looking for information regarding its orgin, different verse structures, and performances by various artists. I would appreciate any information that anyone might have.

Thanks


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Subject: RE: Help: Oh Death
From: Oversoul
Date: 18 Nov 01 - 07:21 PM

Dock Boggs, both his late '20's recording and the "rediscovery" version, equally gut-wretching. And of course, Charley Patton's great rendition with his wife (well, one of 'em if I remember correctly) really moving stuff. You have invoked a wonderful song, one of my favorites for sure.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Death, Oh Death
From: Bill D
Date: 18 Nov 01 - 11:04 PM

There was a wonderful version of "Oh, Death" done by Nimrod Workman on an album put out on June Appal records

I can't find my copy tonight to see if there's any info on where he got it, but I will post back if I can find it...


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Death, Oh Death^^^
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 02 Feb 02 - 05:58 PM

The version of "Oh Death" as sung by Ralph Stanley in "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" is posted in thread 32023. Oh Death


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Death, Oh Death^^^
From: fat B****rd
Date: 03 Feb 02 - 02:55 PM

While we're being cheerful Charlie Patton's "Oh Death" is quite a hoot as well.


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