Jam Session — History Rhymes: Black Lives Lost, PT. 1

by | Feb 5, 2021 | 0 comments

When we asked Cornelius Eady about Black History Month, he responded by sending us a cycle of songs / poems. Eight in all, Eady named the cycle “History Rhymes,” after the famous Mark Twain quote, “History never repeats itself, but it rhymes.”

Performed by the Cornelius Eady Trio, this cycle commemorates the injustices and wrongful deaths of many Black Americans. We will share two a week over the month of February.

Cornelius Eady TRIO

National Book Award-winner and Pulitzer Prize-nominated poet Cornelius Eady has set his poetry to song with the Cornelius Eady Trio. Eady’s songs tell the story of passing time, the Black-American experience and the Blues in the style of Folk & Americana music. Guitarists Charlie Rauh and Lisa Liu join Eady to create layered and graceful arrangements to bolster Eady’s adept craftsmanship as a songwriter, lyricist, and poet. Cornelius Eady Trio has performed at Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, AWP Conference, Peabody Essex Museum, and Hill-Stead Museum and recorded at Sun Studio in Memphis, TN.

Cornelius Eady so well captures the spirit of RIFF–and especially the topic of “Jam Session”–taking us beyond poetry, beyond music, and into that hallowed place of meaning.

(Eady’s music is) in the vein of Taj Mahal when he’s at his metaphysical best, Keb’ Mo’ when he’s most squarely located at the crossroads of tradition and innovation, or Eric Bibb when he’s at his most soulfully transcendent.” — Joe Francis Doerr

As Cornelius says, the first song, “Mississippi Summer,” came into being as “An imagining of the last car ride of Emmett TilL.” 

(Read the tragic story of Emmett Till’s murder here.)

The next song, “The dead mother,” is dedicated to korryn gaines.

(Read about the shooting of korryn gaines and her son in her home here.)

MISSISSIPPI SUMMER

Words and Music: Cornelius Eady

 

You don’t think it’ll happen

til it happens to you.

You thought what you said meant nothin,

But those tires are comin’ for you.

Mississippi Summer

Chicago boy wakes up in surprise

Mississippi Summer

Now you’re the apple of these old boys eyes.

 

This is the way we make a point

This is how a point gets made

They pull you out a nice, warm bed

And toss you in a watery grave.

Mississippi Summer

They’ve been searching for you for days

Mississippi Summer

Cash you out as the debt gets paid.

 

Now they got you in

The back of the car

They’re laughing and you know you’re the joke

Won’t stop as you start to cry

Won’t stop as your bones get broke

Mississippi Summer

One-way trip under a murderous sky

Mississippi Summer

Rattler’s hunt and the hoot owls fly.

 

This is the way we make a point

When a White gal takes offense

Dirty Negro thinks he’s white

Dirty Negro ain’t got no sense

Mississippi Summer

Emmitt Till won’t see the sun

Mississippi Summer

On the bus to see the way things’ done.

 

Headlights spears on an empty road

Whiskey and hate on their breath

How many miles til the deal goes down?

How many minutes til a dead boy drowns?

Mississippi Summer

Off to meet

Who you’re ’posed to be

The last Mississippi Summer

In D-I-X-I-E.


Listen to “Mississippi Summer” here.

The Dead Mother

 Words and Music: Cornelius Eady

 

They shot me

For a question

While I held

My child

 

Like a dog

That you put down

When she barks

Too wild

 

My black skin

Was resisting

In a cop’s mad eye

 

They shot me

For impatience

While I held my kid

 

Like a monster

From a swamp

Rising from the Id

 

Surrounded

Defiant

Look at what they did

 

My soul and

Gunpowder

Rising in the air

 

My assumptions

And my boy

Lying wounded there

 

My black skin

Was poison

Was a losing hand

 

Oh people

Good people

See what they have done

 

Smashed my home

And took my breath

And stole me from my son

 

Took my name

And misspelled it

As the crazy one

 

Bring a sharp axe

To the mountain

Tear that mountain down

 

Scream my name out

Like a siren

Though every street in town

 

Don’t bury me

Plant my story

Like a seed in the ground. 

 

Listen to “The Dead Mother” here.

Cornelius Eady Trio

Cornelius Eady: Vocal;

Charlie Rauh: Acoustic Guitar & Electric Bass;

Lisa Liu: Electric Piano & Guitar.

Arranged by Rauh & Liu.

Mixed by Charlie Rauh.

Words and Music: Cornelius Eady 

more RIFFs to enjoy

<a href="https://writersatlarge.com/riff/author/cornelius-eady/" target="_self">Cornelius Eady</a>

Cornelius Eady

CORNELIUS EADY is the author of eight books of poetry, including Hardheaded Weather: New and Selected Poems. His second book, Victims of the Latest Dance Craze, won the Lamont Prize from the Academy of American Poets in 1985; in 2001 Brutal Imagination was a finalist for the National Book Award. His work in theater includes the libretto for an opera, “Running Man,” which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1999. His play, Brutal Imagination, won Newsday’s Oppenheimer award in 2002.

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