Well, blood is always thicker than water even when you live underwater, and I’m swimming down the Mighty Mississippi to reunite with my Wall I family relatives near Memphis, Tennessee for the holiday. On my way here’s what I heard:
This tune penned by Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern is one of Spin Laden’s personal faves, and I know he’s tickled pink I found the version from the 1936 film adaptation of “Showboat” from Edna Ferber’s novel. The layfolks might remember Dr. Julius Hibbert singing it in The Simpsons episode “Tall Tales” during Matt Groening’s revival of Tom Sawyer. This powerful version comes from the riveting, chilling voice of black civil rights, anti-imperialist vanguard actor and singer Paul Robeson, who was more than a renaissance man as a NFL player, first black lead in Shakespeare’s Othello, Columbia Law School grad, and much much more. A personal hero of mine and inspiration!
Paul Robeson – “Ol’ Man River” (Showboat – 1936)
Let’s get into some Memphis born and raised legends that I love, starting with B-3 organ grinder Booker T., of Booker T. and the MG’s. His newest album, The Road From Memphis, is a star-studded showcase of funky soul that features ?uestlove from The Roots on production and drums, Sharon Jones, Jim James from My Morning Jacket, Matt Berninger from The National, and legendary Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed. The cover of Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy is to die for! I’m hoping to catch him July 5th at the Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, OR. I was first enlightened by this LP last summer when I made my maiden voyage to NYC to bust my gotham cherry in my first time to the big apple. After a 14 hour Monday pub crawl across Brooklyn in 100 degree heat with the unofficial mayor of Buffalo, the debaucherous prankster known as Sketchery, and upon stumbling back to his digs, he poured some scotch and put this record on his turntables, flooring me! When Sharon Jones belts out in Representing Memphis, “I love it on the south side, they know how to deep fry”, my soul tingles! No doubt one of my favorite songs of recent memory!
Booker T and the MG’s – “Green Onions”
Next up is the one and only bluesman, Memphis Slim, with his timeless blues standard, Everyday I Have the Blues.
Memphis Slim – Everyday I Have the Blues
More native sons and daughters from the home of Stax Records and the city more affectionately known as the following aliases, “Barbecued Pork Capital of the World, “Home of the Blues”, “Bluff City”, and the “Birthplace of Rock ‘n Roll”.
Al Green – “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” from Live with Jools Holland
Aretha Franklin – “Think”
B.B. King – “The Thrill is Gone” featuring Tracy Chapman
John Lee Hooker – “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer”
Howlin’ Wolf – “Smokestack Lightning”
Otis Redding – “Try a Little Tenderness”
Iranian classical guitarist and University of Memphis Professor Lily Afshar – “My Memphis”
See you next week and a million thanks to my enthusiastic and supportive readers, while I fill my gills with down home southern cooking and sip on some sweet tea!