Friday, July 19, 2013

Life on the Mississippi

    Margaret is writing a book that has taken her on a few research visits to the South. We've talked a few times about the best songs about life below the Dixon, and she's directed me to some noteworthy songs about Mississippi, from an old blues anthology to Afroman. You can probably tell where this is headed.

    Life on the Mississippi
    1. Mississippi Fred McDowell, "Baby Please Don't Go"
    2. Bob Dylan, "Mississippi"
    3. Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Mississippi Kid"
    4. King's X, "Mississippi Moon"
    5. The Grateful Dead, "Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodleoo"
    6. Charley Patton, "Mississippi Boweavil Blues"
    7. Kid Rock, "Jackson, Mississippi"
    8. Robert Johnson, "Travelling Riverside Blues"
    9. Mountain, "Mississippi Queen"
    10. Nina Simone, "Mississippi Goddam"
    11. Jerry Lee Lewis, "Miss the Mississippi and You"
    12. Johnny Cash & June Carter, "Jackson"
    13. R. L. Burnside, "Goin' Down South"
    14. ZZ Top, "My Head's in Mississippi"
    Mississippi is rooted so deeply in the blues that it can't help but come out in rock n' roll. "Baby Please Don't Go" has been covered by everyone, and I'll admit that I thought Led Zeppelin wrote "Travelling Riverside Blues" until high school. But Mississippi's influence crosses over to all sorts of genres and sentiments--the Cashes' charmingly bitter "Jackson," Nina Simone's heated "Mississippi Goddam" and Mountain's lascivious cowbell classic should all be a part of everyone's songbook. Though in an ideal world, that book would also include R. L. Burnside's haunting early recordings and King's X's lonesome "Mississippi Moon."

    Other than Bob Dylan and ZZ Top, not many American rockers have been able to translate the blues into their music in a way that's both respectful and distinct. I couldn't bring myself to include "Black Water" or North Mississippi Allstars, which felt like the equivalent of picking the Black Crowes' "Hard to Handle" over Otis Redding's. But hey, some people might say that about choosing Mississippi Fred McDowell over Big Joe Williams.


    M said...

    not really "blues" and I don't know a lot about the mighty Miss... but love Proud Mary.

    Ben Apatoff said...

    "Proud Mary!" How could I forget. Could have gone with Tina Turner, CCR or Solomon Burke.