So Sweet, So Cold, So Fair

5 Feb

Bogart apparently used to say that the Academy Awards were rigged, that to make judging fair every actor and actress should have to play Hamlet.

Which isn’t to say that I use it as some sort of competitive rating system, but I’ve had a long love affair with the song “St. James Infirmary Blues”, largely because of the difference in style each musician brings to the classic.

From the wikipedia:

“St. James Infirmary Blues” is based on an 18th century traditional English folk song called “The Unfortunate Rake” (also known as “The Unfortunate Lad” or “The Young Man Cut Down in His Prime”). There are numerous versions of the song throughout the English-speaking world.

The first I was familiar with was actually the Cab Calloway version:

It wasn’t long after that though that I stumbled into the most famous version, Louis Armstrong’s, with that long low note in the opening:

Eric Burdon and the Animals bring a White-guy-blues melodrama angle, but in my opinion the backup vocals take a lot of the fun out of it:

Joe Cocker does a nice job of giving it that ’70s blues twist:

Jack White of The White Stripes belts out my favourite modern rendition:

In the end though, it’s tough to beat the simplicity and lyrical embellishment of Danny Barker’s version:


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