Labor Day Blues

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The blues is all about gettin’ through tough times. About surviving. Surviving poverty, inequality, and hard labor. See, what we now call blues sprung up out of the black soil of the delta.  A product of long days under the sun in cotton fields, levee camps, lumber yards.  Some of the oldest blues songs are work songs.

[Clip from Early in the Mornin’—22, Hard Hair, Tangle Eye off Prison Songs: Volume 1. Murderous Home]

Songs like that were sung right there beneath the hot sun as a way to pass the time. Then there are songs written for after work. Made to decompress, let loose. To voice what it’s like to break your back and still feel like you’re not gettin’ anywhere.

[Clip from Levee Camp Blues—Mississippi Fred McDowell]

How about that? Workin’ ’til you go blind. And the worst part’s when you gotta boss just wont let you off the hook. Everybody knows what that’s like. Probably why THIS song’s been recorded by dozens of artists. Jimmy Reed did it first and since then it’s been done by BB, Elvis, the Dead and many more. One of my favorite versions’s by a man who really knew what it’s like to work. Spent most of his life on a tenant farm. Texas Songster Mance Lipscomb. It is…Big Boss Man…