Some might know W.C. Handy’s AUNT HAGAR’S BLUES as one of the ancient classics — a multi-strain composition, hallowed through decades of performance. But the lyrics tell a deep story: here is an approximate transcription of what Louis sang on the 1954 Columbia session honoring Handy (that recording the precious gift of the far-seeing George Avakian):
Old Deacon Splivin his flock was givin’ the way of livin’ right, yes
Said he, “No wingin’, no ragtime singin’, tonight,” yes
Up jumped Aunt Hagar and shouted out with all her might
All her might.
She said, “Oh, ain’t no use to preachin’
Oh, ain’t no use to teachin’.
Each modulation of syncopation
Just tells my feet to dance and I can’t refuse
When I hear the melody they call the blues, those ever lovin’ blues.”
Just hear Aunt Hagar’s children harmonizin’ to that old mournful tune.
It’s like a choir from on high broke loose, amen
If the Devil brought it, the good Lord sent it right down to me
Let the congregation join while I sing those lovin’ Aunt Hagar’s blues.
Even in 2017, the Deacon is still waggling his bony finger at us, and even when the lyrics to AUNT HAGAR’S BLUES aren’t sung, you can hear Aunt’s triumph. A convincing example took place downstairs at Fat Cat (75 Christopher Street, Greenwich Village, New York) on Sunday, January 29, 2017, when Terry Waldo’s Gotham City Band played the song. The hot philosophers sending the message are Terry, Jon-Erik Kellso, John Gill, Brian Nalepka, Jay Lepley, Jim Fryer, Evan Arntzen:
The message is clear. When faced with those who would preach denial of life, always choose joy, no matter who tries to direct your course. I’m with Aunt Hagar.
May your happiness increase!