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the murder ballad by jelly roll morton, complete lyrics

So, I’m wandering the net trying to find a complete version of the lyrics to The Murder Ballad by Jelly Roll Morton, and to my great surprise it just ain’t there. I kind of needed it to complete an essay I promised to the internetually famous and too-cool-for-school Largeheartedboy (to whom I thank for the invitation), so, what the hell, I decided to transcribe it and post it here myself. After all, I type and dictate like a pro. Tippity-tap-tap.

 

I’ll include a link to the Largeheartedboy essay when it’s done, but in the meantime here’s some basic facts about The Murder Ballad:

 

In 1938, the great music archivist Alan Lomax liquored up New Orleans jazz pioneer Jelly Roll Morton and cajoled him into playing one of the tunes that he used to play and sing in the Storyville brothels of New Orleans at the turn of the century. The liquor must have been damn fine, because Mr. Jelly Lord swaggered drunkenly into a 30 minute epic blues tale which you will find below. Because it was recorded directly to aluminum disc, the tune is broken into 7 parts (the discs could only hold around 4 minutes apiece), but the result is still pretty phenomenal. I would actually call this one of the most historically important recordings ever. So sez me.

 

I’m putting it under the cut because it is nasty as hell. When I say nasty, I mean even by today’s standards. If you are tender of heart, do not peek behind the cut. Storyville was not Disneyland.

 

*

 

The Murder Ballad by Jelly Roll Morton

 

1

 

I know you’ve got my man

I know you’ve got my man

Try to hold him if you can

 

 

I know that man don’t want nobody but me

I know my man don’t want nobody but me

If you don’t believe it, I’ve got his room key

 

If you don’t leave my fucking man alone

If you don’t leave my fucking man alone

You won’t know what way that you will go home

 

I’ll cut your throat and drink your fucking blood like wine

Bitch, I’ll cut your fucking throat and drink your blood like wine

Because I want you to know he’s a man of mine

 

I told you once, I’m not gonna tell you anymo’

I told you once, I’m not gonna tell you anymo’

Right into the barren ground your big black ass will go

 

I’m gonna tell him, I’m gonna tell him ‘bout you

I’m gonna tell him, I’m gonna tell him ‘bout you

He’ll either have me, or he won’t have you, too

 

Let me tell you one of the things that I’ve said

Let me tell you one of the things that I’ve said

The bitch that fucks my man, they’ll find among the dead

 

I know you don’t believe a thing that I say

I know you don’t believe a thing that I say

If you don’t leave my man alone they’ll find you every Decoration Day

 

2

 

Let me tell you, don’t want to tell you anymore

Let me tell you, don’t want to tell you anymore

I catch you again, you’ll be on that floor

 

If I see my man hanging round your door

If I see my man hanging round your door

If I see my man hanging round your door

 

Tell me, baby, what you doin’ comin’ out that bitch’s house?

Tell me, baby, what you doin’ comin’ out that bitch’s house?

I don’t think she’s no good, she’s a great big louse

 

If she comes out here, that’ll be her last time

(What you said?)

I said, if you come out here, that’ll be your last time

I’ll teach you some lessons ‘bout fucking a man of mine

 

She said, I’m coming out, I’d like to see someone stop me

She said, I’m coming out, I’d like to see a bitch like you stop me

This ain’t no slavery time and I’m sure that I’m free

 

Yes, come on, bitch, your day has come

Yes, come on, bitch, your day has come

You fucked my man but you will never fuck another one

 

She pulled out a pistol and shot her right in her eyes

She pulled out a pistol and shot her right in her eyes

She said, open your legs, you dirty bitch, I’m gonna shoot you between your thighs

 

She said I killed that bitch because she fucked my man

She said I killed that bitch because she fucked my man

She said I killed that bitch because she fucked my man

 

Policeman grabbed her and took her to jail

Policeman grabbed her and took her to jail

There was no one to go that poor gal’s bail

 

3

 

She got in the jailhouse, they asked you what you there for?

Her inmates in the jailhouse: what are you here for?

She said, I killed that bitch, that’s what I’m here for

 

You a murder, that’s why you in jail

You a murderer, that’s why you in jail

They had you pretty soon, they was on your trail

 

(Oh, that good whiskey makes me moan!)

 

Her trial came up, she was in front of the judge

Her trial came up, she was in front of the judge

Her attorney tried to give the judge a nudge

 

The jury said, that girl is here

The jury said, that girl is here

The jury said, that murdering girl is here

 

The prosecutor said, today we dishing out years

Prosecutor said, today, gal, we dishing out years

So be careful, don’t have your fears (?)

 

She said, judge, I killed her ‘cause she had my man

She said, I killed her because she had my man

I killed that bitch ‘cause she had my man

 

I’d rather be dead in my grave than hear that bitch havin’ my sweet man

I’d rather be dead and green than hear her havin’ my sweet man

I’d be dead in grave, let her have my sweet man

 

Jury found her guilty, she must go to jail

Jury found her guilty, she must go to jail

Up the river, to Baton Rouge is her trail

 

Judge said, fifty years for killing the woman that loved your man

Judge said, fifty years for the woman you killed loving your man

I wish that I could help you, but I’m sure that I can’t

 

So the poor gal has took her way to that mournful jail

 

4

 

They brought that gal to the prison gates

They brought that gal to the prison gates

They brought that gal to the prison gates

 

The keeper said, hard labor is your task

Yes, the keeper said, hard labor is your task

There’s anymore questions, don’t you forget to ask

 

Your number is nine ninety-three

Your prison number is nine ninety-three

Start to working right under that great big tree

 

Coffee and bread is all that you will get

Coffee and bread is all that you will get

Outside when it rain, you are sure to get wet

 

Don’t you wish you hadda let that woman have your man?

Don’t you wish you hadda let that woman have your man?

There is a lotta others that you could have had your man

 

Time is comin’ that a woman don’t need no man

(That’s what she said when she was in jail)

Time is comin’ a woman don’t need no man

You can get it off with your beautiful hand

 

Woman, woman, what have you been doing?

Woman, woman, what have you been doing?

This jailhouse has brought you way out to ruin

 

I can’t have a man, so a woman is my next bet

I can’t have a man in here; a woman is my next bet

She said to a good-looking mama: baby, I’ll get you yet

 

They went to sleep that night, the other gal crawled in her bed

They went just to sleep that night, the other gal crawled in her bed

She said, I’m gonna get some of this cunt, you bitch, she said

 

5

 

She said, gal, when I get through you’ll think I’m a man

She said, when I get through you’ll think that I’m a man

I’m gonna fuck you bitch that you think I’m a man

 

She had a thing just the same as mine

She had a thing just the same as mine

We rub together – my, but it was fine

 

She said, I could learn to love you like I did that boy

She said, I should learn to love you like I did that boy

To play with my thing like that is pleasure like a toy

 

Every morning I want you to give me some of this good cunt you’ve got

Every morning I want you to give me some of this good cunt you’ve got

Because it sure is fine, it is good and hot

 

(piano solo)

 

I want you to screw me, screw me like a dog

Screw me behind, sweet bitch, screw me like a dog

When it gets good, I want to holler out like a hog

 

Years and years I could take a prick just like a mule

I could take a great big prick just like a great big mule

I found out what a big damn fool

 

I hustled night and day for that man of mine

I hustled day and night for that man of mine

Now I’m screwed, I’m behind the walls for a long time

 

6

 

Ask my sisters, please don’t be like me

Ask my sisters, please don’t be like me

It’s better to have the things you don’t want and go free

 

Now I’m back here for my natural life

I’m back here for my natural life

All I had, I ain’t got nothing but my life

 

If the guards of heaven would show me how

If the gods of heaven would show me how

I could get away from here, I would leave right now

 

Prison walls is not made for people to go

Prison walls ain’t made for people to go

I killed that gal, but I never will know

 

I’m sorry, sorry, sorry to my heart

I’m sorry, babe, sorry to my heart

I’m sorry that that argument ever did start

 

I’m in jail now, and he’s got him another bitch

Yes, I’m in jail, and my man’s got another bitch

I hate him, too – he’s a dirty rotten son of a bitch

 

I pray and pray and pray and pray and pray

I pray and pray and pray and pray

That the Lord will show me another day

 

I jeopardized my life for that no good man

I jeopardized my life for that no good man

I jeopardized my life for that no good man

 

And at last, there’s nothing else for me to do

At last there’s nothing else for me to do

I’m gonna die in here, and I hope my man does, too

 

Goodbye to the world, and I am gone

Goodbye to the world because I know I’m gone

Goodbye all good people, I know I’m gone

 

7

 

Goodbye to the world I know I’m gone

Goodbye to the world because I know I’m gone

And I’ll be gone out a long, long, long

 

(piano solo)

 

I hope heaven will be my home

I hope heaven will be my home

No more on this earth for me to roam

 

Sinners, sinners, won’t you pray for me?

Sinners, sinners, won’t you pray for me?

Pray for me to let the devil let me be

 

When I’m dead, and dead way down in my grave

When I’m dead, dead way down in my grave

No more good peter of that man I’ll crave

 

I won’t be buried like all of my family was

I won’t be buried like my family was

I won’t be buried like my family was

 

They will put me in a box in the prison yard

They will put me in a box in the prison yard

Not even a tombstone, or not even a card

 

There won’t be no body followin’ behind my self

There won’t be no body followin’, it will be me by myself

They’ll lower me in the ground, I won’t be on the shelf

 

If you get outta here, try to be a good girl

(ah, I hadda tell em)

Girls, if you get out of here, try to be a good girl

That’s the only way you gonna wear your diamonds and pearls

 

 

 

http://louismaistros.com

Comments

I like!
This would look good written on a long piece of parchment.
Very cool - I wish I could hear it! :)
You can! All 7 parts can be downloaded from iTunes.
That's the blues for sure.

Love, C.
Yeah you rite.

Oh, Mr. Jelly!

Well done.

For the record, a transcription has been on line here, part of the extensive Doctor Jazz Jelly Roll Morton website

There's also a transcription of all the LOC interviews in PBS as part of the Rounder Records boxed set of JRM LOC interviews.

Edited at 2009-05-06 04:46 pm (UTC)

Re: Oh, Mr. Jelly!

I knew that there were transcripts of all of the LOC Lomax interviews/recordings included with the box set -- but I'm still not seeing a full transcript on the net. Do you have a direct link to the transcript on the doctorjazz site?

Re: Oh, Mr. Jelly!

It's at this link I posted, about halfway down the page (it's bunches of Morton LOC transcriptions per page). Just go to the link and then do a page search for "Murder" and it'll take you to the start of it.

Re: Oh, Mr. Jelly!

Ah, ok. No wonder it was difficult to locate. Thanks.

Re: Oh, Mr. Jelly!

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