Monday, May 22, 2006

On Raising One's Voice (and Guitar) in Protest

Stephen and Thunderbird performing Oh Mary, Don't You Weep

As Shakes has often said, one of the best things about our corner of the Blogosphere is its community—in particular, the many intelligent and breathtakingly erudite readers who, in the process of sharing their thoughts, comments, and, indeed, their life experiences with one another on these pages, inspire, provoke, and educate us all. One such reader and ever-thoughtful commenter is Stephen Benson, a bilingual musician, composer, admitted bookworm, and Viet Nam veteran who lives a few miles from the Mexican border in Southern California. This weekend, Thunderbyrd's Restless Natives featuring Stevie B played the spiritual Oh Mary, Don't You Weep during their gig in Palm Springs. Stephen writes:

It's an old spiritual that was sung in the presence of Confederate troops by slaves. All about Pharoah's army coming to grief. It's been running around my head for the last couple of weeks. I was on my Strat (which I built myself) with my trusty Coriciden (an old decongestant) bottle for a slide. The crowd went apeshit when I got to the "raise your voices, take a stand" phrase; it really took me back to why I got into music--not just being out having fun, but saying something that has meaning and purpose.

Stephen provides the lyrics to the moving spiritual, which has been covered by countless musicians, including Bruce Springsteen:

If I could
I surely would
stand on the rock
where Moses stood.
Pharaoh’s army been drownded.
Oh mary don’t you weep
Oh, mary don’t you weep, don’t you moan
Oh, mary don’t you weep, don’t you moan
Oh, mary don’t you weep, don’t you moan
Pharaoh’s army been drownded, oh mary don’t you weep.

One of these days
in the middle of the night,
people gonna rise up
and set things right
Pharaoh’s army…

One of these days
you’ll hear the sound
all their walls
come a tumbling down,
Pharaoh’s army…

Sisters and brothers,
I know your names,
The rising blood
of all your pain,
Pharaohs army…

People from all
across the land,
Raise your voices
take a stand,

Pharaoh’s army...

(With thanks to Stephen for the photo and lyrics.)

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