I have at least sixteen versions of the classic song “Stagger Lee” on my iPod. Yet, I only recently discovered this version that I love recorded by Lloyd Price.
Lloyd Price’s version of “Stagger Lee” topped the pop and R&B charts in 1958, and it also made the top 10 in the U.K singles charts. The folk song about Stagger Lee killing Billy Lyons, however, has been around since at least 1911 when it was first published.
Price was born on March 9, 1933, and he is from Kenner, Louisiana. The town has a street named after him and celebrates an annual Lloyd Price Day.
Although his first hit – “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” — was in 1952, he is still around. He gave this interview in 2013.
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast near New Orleans, Louisiana. The hurricane and its after effects devastated the city and surrounding areas along the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
The following year, Bruce Springsteen visited New Orleans and performed his version of the song “How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live.” He used the first verse from the original by Blind Alfred Reed. But then he added three new verses that focused on the situation in New Orleans.
Springsteen’s lyrics criticize the federal response to the emergency, invoking President George W. Bush‘s trip to the area: “He took a look around, gave a little pep talk, said ‘I’m with you’ then he took a little walk.” At his performance in New Orleans, he introduced the song with a reference to the “Bystander-in-Chief.”
Reed, who lived from 1880 to 1956, recorded his version in New York City on December 4, 1929, less than two months after the stock market crash. Check it out.
Ry Cooder also recorded a variation on Reed’s original version, releasing it on his self-titled album in 1970. Musically, one can hear how Cooder’s version apparently influenced Springsteen’s version. Check out this video of Cooder’s 1974 recording of “How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live” at The Record Plant in Sausalito, California.
Unfortunately, it seems like we will always need songs like these. Fortunately, we have artists like Reed, Cooder, and Springsteen to keep challenging us.
Photo of Hurricane Katrina via NASA (Public Domain). Leave your two cents in the comments.
New Orleans legend Antoine “Fats” Domino Jr., was born in the Big Easy on February 26, 1928. Fats Domino began recording in 1949 but had his big breakthrough in the mid-1950s with the classic “Ain’t That A Shame,” which was soon followed by “Blueberry Hill” and “I’m Walkin’.”
For Domino’s birthday, check out this video that puts together his appearances on a 1957 Perry Como Show. Rock music was still young in those days, but Domino illustrates why it was around to stay.
When The Beatles came along in 1964, many original rock and roll singers like Domino were pushed aside. Domino’s streak of hits ended that year, although he did have a top 100 song when he covered The Beatles’ “Lady Madonna,” a song that Paul McCartey wrote as an homage to Domino’s boogie-style piano playing.
Domino continued to perform in later decades, although he does not travel outside New Orleans these days. So we will settle for listening to his records and wishing him a happy birthday.
What is your favorite Fats Domino song? Leave your two cents in the comments.
On April 7 in 1915, Eleanora Fagan was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a young 13-year-old girl, Eleanora learned songs and began singing while working in a brothel. After getting arrested and serving time in a workhouse, the girl began seeking a singing career and adopted her new first name from the actress Billie Dove and her last name from a jazz guitarist who was her father, Clarence Halliday (although that name later transformed into “Holiday”).
By 1946, Billie Holiday was so well-known for her singing that she appeared in the film New Orleans with Louis Armstrong, where she sang “The Blues are Brewin’.”
After a lifetime of facing racism, drug abuse, drinking, and abusive men, Holiday died in 1959 suffering from liver and heart disease. She was only 44. While she was in the hospital dying, police raided her room and arrested her for drug possession. Despite her troubled life, she had a unique influence on American music, much like Louis Armstrong. Thanks Eleanora.
On August 4, 1901, the world was graced with the birth of one of the great musical geniuses, Louis Daniel Armstrong. Armstrong, who was born in New Orleans, often said he was born on the Fourth of July, although his actual birth date was August 4. Either way, we should still have fireworks on his birthday. Just as July 4 is seen as the birth date of our country, one might easily say that August 4 is the birth date of American music.
Below is one of my favorite Louis Armstrong recordings, “West End Blues.” This perfect song was recorded in 1928 by Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five when Armstrong was in his late 20s.
The “West End” in the title refers to an area with night life on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans. The jazz classic appears on various CDs, including Complete Hot Five & Hot Seven Recordings. The following video provides some interesting information about what you are hearing as you listen to the song. Enjoy. Happy birthday Pops.
What is your favorite Louis Armstrong recording? Leave a comment.