Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Show 47 - T.B. is Killing Me




Tuberculosis is a deadly disease that attacks the lungs.  It's been around since ancient times and there's something about it that compels stories about the suffering it cause.  This includes a lot of blues songs. Georgia bluesman Buddy Moss who recorded T.B. is Killing Me in 1933.  He sings that he's headed to the graveyard with T.B. 
I went to the doctor of the sea
I sat right down and he looked at me
He said Y hate to tell you but you got disease
You ain't got nothing but them old T.B.s


Oh T.B. is killing me
I used  to have friends, but none of them that I can see
mmmm, T.B. is killing me
And it won't be long before some lonely graveyard I'll be


I had a good girl and a happy home
But the T.B. got me, she left me all alone
said now, mmmm, T.B. is killing me
And it won't be long before some lonely graveyard I'll be


Now boys, these days I'm just hanging on
And it wont be long before I'll be gone
Said now, mmmm, T.B. is killing me
And it won't be long before some graveyard I will be
The disease often was a death sentence when that song was recorded.  That was due to mostly to the inadequate care available, particularly to poor black men and women.  Victoria Spivey who recorded the first of  the string of T.B. song when she made the often covered T.B. Blues in 1927.  She continued exploring the idea in 1929 with Dirty T.B Blues:
Here I lay a crying
Something is on my mind
It's midnight, I wonder where the nurse can be

I feel down, not a friend in this town
I'm blue and all alone
Sisters are gone, brothers are too
Nowhere to call my own

I can't keep from crying
Left alone while I am dying
Yes, it may look crazy, for me to beat on my knee
But if the Lord 's forgiven between the breaks(?) and T.B



Oh Lord, yes he railroaded me to the sanitarium
Its too late, too late mother, I've finished my run
This is the way all good women are done
When they got the dirty T.B.

Yes I run around for months and months
From gin mill to gin mill to honky tonks
Now its too late, yes look what I gone done

I got the dirty T.B, oh Lord, mmmm

Harmonica legend Sonny Boy Williamson recorded T.B. Blues in 1939:
Now but oh, T.B. is killing me
Now I want my body buried way down in Jackson, Tennessee

Now when I was up on my feet now I couldn't even walk down the street
For the women looking at me from my head to my feet
But oh, T.B. is killing me
Now I want my body buried way down in Jackson, Tennessee

I ain't going to buy you no more pretty dresses, I ain't going to even buy you no diamond rings
And I'm going to sell my V‑8 Ford because I don't want a doggone thing
Because oh, the T.B. is killing me
Now I want my body buried way down in Jackson, Tennessee

Well now my mother she said one thing, you know my father said the same
You keep on fooling around, Sonny Boy, they going to change your name
But I told them Oh, mama T.B. is killing me
Now I want my body buried way down in Jackson Tennessee

Well now here I am here sick baby, you know and I'm laying here in my bed
And now even won't none of my friends come and even rub my aching head
Because oh, T.B. is killing me
Now I want my body buried way down in Jackson Tennessee
In 1028, New Orleans Willie Jackson recorded his version of Victoria Spivey's T.B. Blues:
Too late, too late, too late, too late, too late
too late, too late, too late, too late, too late
I'm on my way to Denver and papa mustn't hesitate

TB is alright to have if your friends don't treat you so lowdown
TB is alright to have if your friends dont treat you so lowdown
Don't you ask 'em for no favors, they'll even stop hanging around

Oh T.B. is killing me, Oh T.B. is killing me
I am like a prisoner always wishing I was free

When I was up on my feet I couldn't walk down the street
For you women looking at me from my head to my feet
But oh now T.B. is killing me

I want my body buried in the deep blue sea
Oh oh, I got tuberculosis, consumption's killing me
In 1936, Victoria Spivey herself returned to the T.B. theme with T.B.'s Got Me

Here I lay a crying Something is on my mind It's midnight, I wonder where the nurse can be

T.B.'s got me, all my friends done throwed me down
T.B.'s got me, and all my friends done throwed me down
But they treated me so nice when I was up able to run around


Ooaah my poor lungs are hurting me so
Mmmm my poor lungs are hurting me so
I don't get no peace or comfort no matter where I go

Lord, my good man don't want me no more
MMMM my good man don't want me no more
Well I wished I was dead and in the land I'm doomed to go
Sleepy John Estes talked about consumption in Milk Cow Blues:
Now ask sweet mama let me be her kid
She says, "I might get boogied Like to keep it hid"
Well, she looked at me, she begin to smile
Says, "I thought I would use you for my man a while"
That you just don't let my husband catch you there
Now, just don't let my husband catch you there"

Now, went upstairs to pack my leaving trunk
I never saw no whiskey, the blues done made me sloppy drunk
Say, I never saw no whiskey, blues done made me sloppy drunk
Now, I never saw no whiskey but the blues done made me sloppy drunk

Now some said disease some said it was dream
But it's the slow consumption killing you by degrees
Lord, it's the slow consumption killing you by degrees
Now, it's the slow consumption and it's killing you by degrees
The songs share a lot of verses and musical ideas, but even when the lyrics are totally different they all dress abandonment by friends, family, and lovers when suffering from a disease that's going to send you to the grave.  That kind of abandonment is really the classic blues situation.

T.B. is Killing Me - Buddy Moss
Dirty T.B. Blues - Victoria Spivey
T.B. Blues - Sonny Boy Williamson
T.B. Blues - Willie Jackson
T.B.'s Got Me - Victoria Spivey
Milk Cow Blues - Sleepy John Estes

2 comments:

barbad said...

Great show... leadbelly's version is missing though

Just Another Ordinary Girl said...

I was wondering if you could help me. What does "doctor of the sea" mean, in Buddy Moss's song?

Thank you.