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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