mymusic youtube

roots of New Orleans funeral music

Today’s YouTube masterpiece is a morbid bluesy number with a Spanish tinge that was published in 1857. I discovered it because Jelly Roll Morton quotes it in “Dead Man Blues.” This song is still around in the New Orleans funeral style that Jelly Roll was riffing on — you hear this tune as the gothic minor snippet before things get happy.

But in that context you never get to hear the whole thing, just a little snatch of it, so what I did here is let it keep rolling out all the way to the end. Then at the end I quote the beginning of “Yellow Dog Rag” by W. C. Handy, as if that was going to be the uptempo number the whole thing was setting up.

What’s the song about?:

In 1839, beset by the recent deaths of her husband, brother, sister, and infant son, twenty-seven-year-old mary Dana began to pour out her grief in verse.


Flee as a bird to your mountain
Thou who art weary of sin
Go to the clear flowing fountain
Where you may wash and be clean
Fly, for th’avenger is near thee
Call, and the Savior will hear thee
He on His bosom will bear thee
O thou who art weary of sin
O thou who art weary of sin

He will protect thee forever
Wipe ev’ry falling tear
He will forsake thee, O never
Sheltered so tenderly there
Haste, then, the hours are flying
Spend not the moments in sighing
Cease from your sorrow and crying
The Savior will wipe ev’ry tear
The Savior will wipe ev’ry tear

I learned from two sheet music sources — the Library of Congress digitization of the 1885 publication and Stan Sanderson’s Lilypond transcription at Mutopia, where you can also get MIDI.

The recording is under a Creative Commons BY SA 3.0 license. The guitar is a National Estralita. The video was made with Garageband, iMovie HD, and the built in camera in my laptop. Needless to say there’s a Nick Cave / Tom Waits influence in the singing and a Flamenco influence in the guitar.

5 replies on “roots of New Orleans funeral music”

I see what you mean by the Spanish Theme, especially the fingerstyle entre … then swinging it’s way into the blues ( bap, bap bap bap).

I’ve got a load of old Jelly Roll and W.C.Handy tracks if you ever feel the urge. Did you ever read that Jelly Roll Morton didn’t have any music played at his funeral ? It seems that he died in the blues tradition, poverty stricken.


Trev 🙂

Trevor, I’m about three chapters into Jelly Roll’s autobiography. Fantastic read so far. But I haven’t gotten to the end yet…

Blind Tom’s grave was a really pathetic end. He was buried as a pauper in an unmarked grave after being an incredible cash cow for managers all his life, because to his managers he was no more than a broken piece of farm equipment.

Thanks for stopping by.

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