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Fiddlin’ Around – July 2016


By Nancy Buchan

Rarely are health issues or our physical or mental well-being topics for songwriters or poets. We all know that life isn’t fair, that there is no justice in the world, and as Jim Morrison said, “No one here gets out alive!” Well, I did know a lawyer once who named his golden retriever ‘Justice’, just so he could feel like he had some in his life I guess. And why is it folks are always saying they’re sick as a dog? Even Aerosmith has a rocker with that title, though I’m not real sure what they’re singing about. “Sick as a dog, what’s your story? Sick as a dog, umm, cat got your tongue? Sick as a dog, you’ll be sorry—Sick as a dog, cause you really ain’t that young.” But most of the time songwriters stay clear of those gloomy and dire medical themes, universal though they may be. Of course there are always tasteless exceptions, like ACDC’s song The Jack, where they are really talking about getting the clap, or Joe Jackson’s blunt song Everything Gives You Cancer. Ted Nugent, who is often inappropriate, has a song called Cat Scratch Fever, Led Zeppelin put out a song in 1975 called Sick Again, and Van Halen sang Somebody Get Me a Doctor. New Orleans R & B artist Huey ‘piano’ Smith wrote a rollicking catchy tune called Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu in 1957, which was later a hit for Johnny Rivers. “I wanna jump but I’m afraid I’ll fall—I wanna holler but the joint’s too small. Young man’s rhythm’s got a hold of me too—I got the rockin’ pneumonia and the boogie woogie flu”. 

Let’s skip over the really dismal and painful maladies that can afflict us and go straight to the physical condition that has not only a medical manifestation but can also infer a passionate and sexy origin. Weird how one word can be both good and bad. I’m talking about when you get the Fever. A bunch of us down south here in beautiful Dominical got knocked on our butts recently by a little pesky friggin’ mosquito that carries the dengue virus. Running a fever is typical of this virus, and it would come on like a freight train, usually when you’re too weak to argue or fight back. Dengue is scary stuff, so use repellent and get rid of any standing water around where you live. Plenty of health problems include having a fever, and yet when we are seriously infatuated with someone we are also suffering from Fever. We might want to be wary of those who inspire fever in us…

Peggy Lee album coverTorch singer Peggy Lee was born Norma Egstrom in Jamestown, North Dakota. Her mom died when she was 4 years old, she had a difficult stepmom, and she spent an unhappy childhood listening to Count Basie and other jazz guys on the radio. After teaching herself to sing, she moved to Fargo and had her radio debut when she was 14. She changed her name and bravely moved on to Chicago, where she was heard by  Benny Goodman, recorded with him a few days later and her career was launched. The song Why Don’t You Do Right was her first major hit, she married Dave Barbour, guitarist with Goodman, but returned to music after a year of marriage and signed with Capitol Records. She had over a dozen charted songs by the end of the 40s, retired in the 80s and died in 2002. She collaborated with Barbour throughout her life and was a hip and respected artist for her entire career. She’ll be forever known for her sultry, smoldering and sexy version of the song Fever, written by a black R & B artist named Little Willie John, who died at a young age in prison for killing somebody. That’s a whole other story. She added a few lyrics—the last verse is a mangled version of old English, apparently inspired by Shakespeare. Peggy Lee’s version of the song had minimal instrumentation— mostly bass, a drum and finger snapping—and it is definitely cool. Way cooler than the versions by Madonna or Elvis.

“Never know how much I love you—never know how much I care. When you put your arms around me I get a fever that’s so hard to bear. You give me fever when you kiss me, fever when you hold me tight. Fever in the mornin’, fever all through the night. Everybody’s got the fever that is something you all know. Fever isn’t such a new thing, fever started a long time ago. Romeo loved Juliet, Juliet she felt the same. When he put his arms around her he said “Julie baby you’re my flame”. Thou giveth fever, when we kisseth—ever with thy flaming youth. Fever—I’m on fire—fever yeah I burn forsooth.”

I can’t make this stuff up guys. Have you ever heard a blues guy use the word forsooth? Yikes.

Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash singing togetherJohnny Cash and June Carter had a hit song with Jackson, written by Billy Edd Wheeler and Jerry Leiber in 1963, and which had some success earlier with a version by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood. Carter and Cash’s version is hilarious, full of angry slang and is sort of a singing argument between two married people who have grown apart.

We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout. We’ve been talkin’ about Jackson, ever since the fire went out. I’m going to Jackson, I’m gonna mess around! Yeah I’m goin’ to Jackson, look out Jackson town. Well, go on down to Jackson—go ahead and wreck your health. Go play your hand, you big talkin’ man, make a big fool of yourself! You’re goin’ to Jackson—go comb your hair! Honey I’m gonna snowball Jackson! See if I care! When I breeze into that city, people gonna stoop and bow (Hah!)—all them women gonna make me teach ‘em what they don’t know how. I’m goin’ to Jackson, you turn a-loose-of my coat! ‘Cos I’m goin’ to Jackson, Goodbye—– that’s all she wrote! But they’ll laugh at you in Jackson, and I’ll be dancin’ on a Pony keg. They’ll lead you around town like a scalded hound with your tail tucked between your legs, you’re goin’ to Jackson—you big talkin’ man. And I’ll be waiting in Jackson, behind my Jaypan Fan….”

Now it’s fairly simple to figure out who is singing which part, and I know what a Pony keg is, but what the heck does it mean to snowball a city? Supposedly no one ever determined which Jackon Leiber was talking about when he wrote the lyrics—he said it wasn’t anyplace in particular, he just liked the way the name sounded.

Sorry about the bumbling around of an awkward subject, but there is one thing I know for sure—and that is that music has immense healing properties. Many studies has confirmed this, our instincts lead us there, and it is clear that playing or listening to music is a proven therapy for many health problems. Music can reach people even when they seem lost to us—do not underestimate the power of a melody! Join a drum circle—sing in church—write lyrics—turn the stereo up and dance in your living room! And go listen to live music when it happens and consider it medicine! Ben Jammin’ and the Howlers play most every Friday night in Dominical at the beautiful and spacious Roca Verde, just south of town. A bit of reggae, a lot of rock and roll, some blues and a bunch of Ben’s originals will be on our set list. We might play that very cool Harry Nilsson song—“Doctor, ain’t there nothin’ I can take, I say Doctor, to relieve this belly ache?  Put the lime in the coconut and drink ‘em both together, put the lime in the coconut, then you feel better!” We’ll all be missing our friend Letty Anderson—a fine person and excellent musician whose music eased our pain. Hopefully hers is gone and heaven has coconuts!

“Doctor doctor give me the news—I’ve got a bad case of lovin’ you! No pill’s gonna cure my ill—I’ve got a bad case of lovin’ you!” Robert Palmer

“Why does it hurt when I pee?” Frank Zappa from 1979’s album ‘Joes Garage’

“Be careful about reading health books. You might die of a misprint.” Mark Twain

One Response to “Fiddlin’ Around – July 2016”

  1. Paul Mehle said:

    enjoyed, good stuff