A couple of years ago I stumbled into a small record store in Frankfurt, Germany where I bought an album called Negro Prison Songs. Upon returning hom
A couple of years ago I stumbled into a small record store in Frankfurt, Germany where I bought an album called Negro Prison Songs. Upon returning home, I was blown away by the sounds coming from my speakers. Recorded by Alan Lomax in 1947 at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman Farm, these songs are eerie reminders of the brutal experience that many suffered at the hands of the southern penal system.
"These songs belong to the musical tradition which Africans brought to the New World, but they are also as American as the Mississippi River. They were born out of the very rock and earth of this country, as black hands broke the soil, moved, reformed it, and rivers of stinging sweat poured upon the land under the blazing heat of Southern skies, and are mounted upon the passion that this struggle with nature brought forth. They tell us the story of the slave gang, the sharecropper system, the lawless work camp, the chain gang, the pen." --Alan Lomax
Sure, you've heard the tune before- as Wimoweh or The Lion Sleeps Tonight.
South African Solomon Linda, a cleaner at a Johannesburg record company as well as a beer hall singer, penned the song in the 1920's, but didn't record it until 1939. Read more...