Sunday, February 1, 2015

Cocaine Blues

Cocaine's bad for you,
causes trouble, makes you sick.
Try a little more.

There must be a bottomless barrel of songs about cocaine use in the pop and blues worlds. "Cocaine Blues," which Bob Dylan performed in 1961 and 1962, and again in 1997 on the Aug. 24th show at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia (a show that I attended, so I remember this song well), is a song with endless variations too. There are more recordings out there of Dylan doing this song in concert in the late 1990's, but the 1997 recording is available commercially on volume 8 of the Bootleg Series.

The Reverend Gary Davis popularized the song, and according to the Wikipedia entry, said he learned it in 1905 from a traveling carnival musician named Porter Irving. It spread through the folk scene where plenty of musicians including Dylan learned it. Possibly the biggest-selling cover of the song would be Jackson Browne's, which he recorded for the 1977 live album "Running on Empty."

The lyrics are straightforward about the drug being a big kick and a hell of a monkey to shake off your back. There are three sets of lyrics that Dylan sang for the song. I'll paste the 1997 lyrics here because they're short and get to the point:

Everytime my baby and me go up town
police come and they knock me down
Cocaine all around my brain

Hey baby, better come here quick.
This old cocaine is making me sick.
Cocaine all around my brain.

Yonder comes by baby, she's dressed in red
She's got a shot-gun, says she's gonna kill me dead.
Cocaine all around my brain

Early one morning, half past four
cocaine came knockin' on my door.
Cocaine all around my brain

Cocaine's for horses and it's not for men
Doctor said it kill you, but he don't say when.
Cocaine all around my brain.





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