Saturday , May 18 2024
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Verse Chorus Verse: Sonny Boy Williamson – “Your Funeral And My Trial”

I remember years ago having a conversation with my trusted sidekick 11 about violence in music.  I can't remember if he said he heard someone say this or if he came up with it on his own, but he said he gets a laugh when he hears contemporary moralists decry the increasingly violent lyrics in music.  A character in a Johnny Cash song "shot a man in Reno just to watch him die."  That was 1955.  We can argue about gratuitousness or explicitness, but it doesn't get a whole lot more violent than shooting a man just because.

A less well-known example is Sonny Boy Williamson's "Your Funeral And My Trial."  If you take the song literally, this is just as menacing as anything written before or since.  Williamson doesn't sing the threat exactly the same way each time, but here's the gist of it:

"I'm begging you, baby, please cut out that off-the-wall jive
If you can't treat me no better it's gonna have to be your funeral and my trial"

Williamson was not known for being the kindest, warmest man to work the blues circuit.  There's no report on him making good on the threat of his song the way there is with Pat Hare and "I'm Gonna Murder My Baby" nor is there any reason to believe Williamson was being ironic. 

In our desensitized modern culture where we use the words "kill" or "killed" in a number of contexts that don't actually involve death, "Your Funeral and My Trial" can be enjoyed if you take it with a pinch of salt.  In that light, it's a bit like one of the million sitcoms about midlife marriage.  The male character in the song still believes his companion can bring the high heat with a love that can heal the sick and raise the dead, but things have gotten stale and he's feeling mistreated and neglected.  "To the moon, Alice" might be a bit gentler way to express the sentiment but I'll stick with Sonny Boy.

Musically, there's a great beat and a vintage Sonny Boy harmonica solo.  Laugh along with the lyrics or ignore them and enjoy the beat.

About Josh Hathaway

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