Monday, January 19, 2015

Black Cross

Literate black man
Out-theologizes priest.
They hang him for this.

"Black Cross" is the story of Hezekiah Jones, written by Joseph S. Newman in 1948 and performed by Richard "Lord" Buckley in 1959, according to Bob Dylan performed the song in 1962 at the Gaslight Cafe and it appears on "The 50th Anniversary Collection" copyright extension collection that was released in 2012. Hezekiah Jones is a black farmer who reads too much for his own good in a country full of bigots. White people resent his reading habit, and one day a priest comes around to his house to ask him if he really believes in God and the Church and so on. Jones, being a literate sort, sports with the priest, using humor and irony, and turns the priest's questions back on him. After this tete-a-tete, the white people hang Jones because, as they say, "the son-of-a-bitch never had no religion!" Haha.

Here are the lyrics:

This is the story of Hezekiah Jones...
Hezekiah Jones lived in a place... in Arkansas.
He never had too much, except he had some land,
An' he had a couple of hogs and things like that.
He never had much money
But he'd spend what he did make as fast as he made it,
So it never really mattered that he had much money.
But in a cupboard there, He kept in the cupboard... he kept in the cupboard books,
He called the books his "rainy season."

The white folks around the county there talked about Hezekiah...
They... said, "Well... old Hezekiah, he's harmless enough, 
but the way I see it he better put down them goddam books,
Readin' ain't no good, for nigger is nigger."

One day the white man's preacher came around
Knockin' on doors, knockin' on all the doors in the county, 
He knocked on Hezekiah's door.
He says, "Hezekiah, you believe in the Lord?"
Hezekiah says, "Well, I don't know, I never really SEEN the Lord,
I can't say, yes, I do..."

He says, "Hezekiah, you believe in the Church?" 
Hezekiah says, "Well, the Church is divided, ain't they,
And... they can't make up their minds.
I'm just like them, I can't make up mine either."

He says, "Hezekiah, you believe that if a man is good Heaven is his last reward?"
Hezekiah says, "I'm good... good as my neighbor."

"You don't believe in nothin'," said the white man's preacher,
You don't believe in nothin'!"
"Oh yes, I do," says Hezekiah,
"I believe that a man should be indebted to his neighbors
Not for the reward of Heaven or fear of hellfire."

"But you don't understand," said the white man's preacher,
"There's a lot of good ways for a man to be wicked..."

Then they hung Hezekiah high as a pigeon.
White folks around there said, "Well... he had it comin' 
'Cause the son-of-a-bitch never had no religion!"

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