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Bebop Spoken There

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Born This Day
Louis Armstrong and Steve Andrews.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Another Man Done Gone - An appraisal by Ann Alex.

I wrote in a previous post of a blues song that I heard performed by one of the students at the Final Recitals of the Folk and Traditional Course which were held at Sage Gateshead.  After some research, I was amazed to discover that many singers, such as Johnny Cash and John Mayall, had recorded it, yet I’d never heard it before. The song was first collected by the famous folk and blues researcher, Alan Lomax, in the 19C. I simply just had to do one of my song appraisals, so here goes:-
Another Man Done Gone

Another man done gone
Another man done gone
Another man done gone
From the county farm
Another man done gone

I didn’t know his name x4
Another man done gone

He had a long chain on x4
Another man done gone

They killed another man x4

They set the dogs on him x3
Tore him limb from limb
Another man done gone

They killed another man x3
From the county farm
Another man done gone

YouTube has slightly different versions, and a singer could switch various lines for effect. For instance, verse 2 could simply have the 1st line repeated for the whole verse. Blues songs, like folk songs,  come in different versions. The power of this song comes from its seeming simplicity and the fact that the story is revealed gradually so that the listener is involved. If the singer is a woman, a listener may suppose that this is a song of lost love after hearing the 1st verse, but then the awful truth is revealed later. ‘I didn’t know his name’ suggests lots of men herded together in the chain gang. ‘He had a long chain on (internal rhyme) is more effective than saying ‘he was wearing a long chain.’
And here is a problem which a singer must sort out. Is it about a man dying through exhaustion or murder in a chain gang, or is he a slave killed by his owner, as suggested by ‘They set the dogs on him?’ It may be advisable to sing either one verse or the other, but not both, as I understand that the chain gangs came after slavery. Many ex-slaves actually ended up working in chain gangs after the official end of slavery.

The steady but relentless pulse of the beat imitates chain gang marching, so a steady drum accompaniment is effective. The repetition of the 1st verse at the end could be done quietly, or angrily, with loud drum beats. 
Truly a gem of a song, and so powerful.
Ann Alex.

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