Here's my gut response: You
as Melville's The Confidence Man, appearing in a myriad of disguises
as the Mississippi gambling boat makes its way through the river of
You are there in Davenport
when Bix Biederbeck first hears Louie Armstrong performing on the boat.
You are there, trying to talk
to a preoccupied Samuel Clemens as he is sounding the depth of the river
so that the boat does not run aground. "Mark 1!" "Mark
2!" "Mark Twain!"
You are there in congo square,
black and not yet bought, after your arrival from Africa.
You are in one of the many
stories Allan Lomax tells in his book, The Land Where Blues Began.
You are China Astor, (from
the novel) selling your soul to the devil by making a friendly loan.
You are a commodity, making
its way down the river to port.
You are the living earth, bleeding
in chemicals and floating to the New Jerusalem.
You are a catfish underwater,
singing with Muddy Waters: "If whiskey were a river, and I were
a divin' duck, I'd dive down to the bottom, an' I'd never come up."
You get the idea? You as the
quintessential American, en costume ("Life is a carnival, en costume."
--Melville, The Confidence Man).
here's a piece from an opera, The Confidence Man, premiered at Santa
Fe 20 years ago. It's by my ex-wife's parents, composer George Rochberg
and libretto by his wife Gene Rochberg. This is the American mix, on
the Mississippi (from a bootleg tape someone made, it's not been recorded
yet. Section is about 5 minutes long):http://www.nd.edu/~ehalton/Confidence.mp3
The chorus, which
comes in after the Confidence Man, sings:
Trust, trust, what trust
Can you put in men?
Why the trust of perfect confidence!
Blend varieties of face and
In the all-fusing spirit of
And like the Mississippi
Uniting streams from
Distant and opposite shores
Pour forth in one
GRAND, CONFIDENT, COSMOPOLITAN
here's a blues song, AT NO ADDITIONAL COST TO YOU MY TRUSTING FRIEND,
for your listening pleasure, improvised on the spot by a great bluesman
I work with sometimes, The Tail Dragger. He's from Helena, Arkansas,
other side of the river from Mississippi. His last CD for Delmark, American
People, has as its title cut a tribute to Bill Clinton. Tail Dragger
got his first car from his uncle, who bought it from Clinton's uncle's
used car lot. My favorite verse goes: "President Roosevelt had
a girlfriend, President Kennedy had two, I've had some women in my time,
let the man do what he gotta do."
But anyway here's the song,
made up after a thunderstorm delayed the band. I play harmonica: http://www.nd.edu/~ehalton/sounds/Wesosorry.mp3