It’s time for another St. James Infirmary post. We have a St. James Infirmary Compendium here at Bumbastories (look in the header). In case you haven’t heard, St. James Infirmary is one of the all-time great American folk songs. Bumba and Maybank are hooked on it, and here present yet another version recorded earlier this week. Sing along, play along. Listen to Louis Armstrong do it. Or Cab Calloway. Meanwhile you can check out our latest go at it.
What more to say about St. James Infirmary? Robert J. Harwood wrote a book about it. Dozens of great artists have recorded it, and naturally, like all folk songs, there are various versions and interpretations. Purportedly, the song is rooted in a 17th century English folksong and references a London hospital for lepers. In America, St. James Infirmary gradually morphed into a gambler’s lament, a cathouse anthem, and finally, a New Orleans classic. The one constant is the sadness. The question remains: why do we like sad songs so much? There’s definitely something strange about us humans. In any case,we love to play this song. So,”put a $20 gold piece in my watch chain so the boys’ll know I went standin’ pat.”