This is a chestnut from The Band, written by Robbie Robertson and sung by Levon Helm. It’s from 1969 but sounds like it’s hundreds of years old, part of the underlying fabric of everything. I suppose nearly everyone’s heard it, but it’s worth another listen.

There’s nothing ground-breaking or innovative here, just a straightforward verse/chorus thing like you might have heard around a campfire or in a tavern in my grandparents’ grandparents’ grandparents’ time. Well, there is the funky wah-wah on Garth Hudson’s Hammond, and the swirling instrumental polyphony, but really it’s a just a good old-fashioned singalong tune. And Levon Helm sounds like the guy at the next table over, assuming that guy was always flawlessly in tune.

The Band by The Band

And that chorus, it’s so heart-warming: Up on Cripple Creek she sends me / If I spring a leak she mends me / I don’t have to speak she defends me / A drunkard’s dream if I ever did see one.

Mind you, the narrator’s not a 100% honorable man, I bet his Big Mama doesn’t know about Little Bessie. And I suppose many women would be unhappy at being described as a drunkard’s dream; but we all feel like drunkards sometimes, a few too many drinks of life and just not able to handle it, hoping to be defended and mended, for mercy not justice.

This is part of the Song of the Day series (background).

Links · Spotify playlist. This tune on iTunes Spotify, Amazon. As for live video, you can’t beat the the opening of the Last Waltz.


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From: John Cowan (Apr 04 2018, at 08:16)

Wikipedia points out that "Big Mama" can mean the truck dispatcher in CB slang.


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April 04, 2018
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