Monday, May 2, 2011

Death Letter Blues

I've been looking for a good blues song to post. I found it in an unusual place. The White Stripes (a rock group) do a cover of the song "Death Letter" (also called "Death Letter Blues". This song was originally performed by American blues singer Eddie James "Son" House. (Apparently House greatly influenced their music and they dedicated their first album to him.)

"Death Letter" is a song about a man who receives a letter that his love has died. He doesn't realize how much he loves her until he sees her being . He goes home grief stricken and missing his love. He then decides he needs to change his way of living so he "don't have to cry no more." I think the death, grief and regret aspects do well sung to the blues.

Interestingly, I found several different lyrics for this song. The ones below don't completely match the song performed below. Apparently House would often change the tempo and lyrics of his songs and would even perform the same song more than once in the same concert. The lyrics are apparently a long version of the song. If you are interested in hearing The White Stripes version, there is a video here which is quite good depending on what you like.





I got a letter this mornin how do you reckon it read?
It said Hurry, hurry, yeah, your love is dead
I got a letter this mornin I say how do you reckon it read?
You know it said Hurry, hurry, how come the gal you love is dead?
So I grabbed up my suitcase and took off down the road
When I got there she was layin on a coolin' board
I grabbed up my suitcase and I said and I took off down the road
I said but when I got there she was already layin on a coolin' board
Well I walked up right close looked down in her face
Said the good ol' gal got to lay here 'til the Judgment Day
I walked up right close and I said I looked down in her face
I said the good ol' gal she got to lay here 'til the Judgment Day
Looked like there was 10 000 people standin' round the buryin' ground
I didn't know I loved her 'til they laid her down
Looked like 10 000 were standin' round the buryin' ground
You know I didn't know I loved her 'til they damn laid her down
Lord have mercy on my wicked soul
I wouldn't mistreat you baby for my weight in gold
I said Lord have mercy on my wicked soul
You know I wouldn't mistreat nobody baby not for my weight in gold
Well I folded up my arms and I slowly walked away
I said Farewell honey, I'll see you on Judgment Day
Ah yeah oh yes I slowly walked away
I said Farewell, farewell, I'll see you on the Judgment Day
You know I went in my room I bowed down to pray
The blues came along and drove my spirit away
I went in my room I said I bowed down to pray
I said the blues came along and drove my spirit away
You know I didn't feel so bad 'til the good ol' sun went down
I didn't have a soul to throw my arms around
I didn't feel so bad 'til the good ol' sun went down
You know I didn't have nobody to throw my arms around
I loved you baby like I love myself
You don't have me you won't have nobody else
I loved you baby better than I did myself
I said now if you don't have me I didn't want you to have nobody else
You know it's hard to love someone that don't love you
Ain't no satisfaction don't care what in the world you do
Yeah it's hard to love someone that don't love you
You know it don't look like satisfaction don't care what in the world you do
Got up this mornin' just about the break of day
A-huggin' the pillow where she used to lay
Got up this mornin' just about the break of day
A-huggin' the pillow where my good gal used to lay
Got up this mornin' feelin' round for my shoes
You know I must-a had them old walkin' blues
Got up this mornin' feelin' round for my shoes
Yeah you know bout that I must-a had them old walkin' blues
You know I cried last night and all the night before
Gotta change my way a livin' so I don't have to cry no more
You know I cried last night and all the night before
Gotta change my way a livin' you see so I don't have to cry no more
Ah hush thought I heard her call my name
If it wasn't so loud and so nice and plain
Ah yeah
Mmmmmm
Well listen whatever you do
This is one thing honey I tried to get along with you
Yes no tellin' what you do
I done everything I could just to try and get along with you
Well the minutes seemed like hours hours they seemed like days
It seemed like my good old gal outta done stopped her low-down ways
Minutes seemed like hours hours they seemed like days
Seems like my good old gal outta done stopped her low-down ways
You know love's a hard ol' fall make you do things you don't wanna do
Love sometimes leaves you feeling sad and blue
You know love's a hard ol' fall make you do things you don't wanna do
Love sometimes make you feel sad and blue

3 Responses to “Death Letter Blues”

Niamh said...
May 2, 2011 at 5:13 PM

Check out Guitar Shorty......he's got some interesting lyrics.


Frances Shani Parker said...
May 2, 2011 at 10:49 PM

That's one long blues song. Feeling sad and blue? That's what love can do. Nothing like the blues when your sky is falling.


Dspacl said...
May 3, 2011 at 8:52 PM

The Great Son House! Good for the soul, whatever the song. I think these lyrics as a stand alone can't convey the soulful espression without the music and the sound of a true bluesman. There is an acute grief experience described here, most notably in this line (among others)

Ah hush thought I heard her call my name
If it wasn't so loud and so nice and plain
Ah yeah
Mmmmmm

Your analysis is spot on; death, grief and regret are found here. But one can imagine that getting it down and singing it, would likely be therapeutic beyond measure! Relief and release from suffering is implicit in the Delta Blues style.