Henry's Songbook

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Midnight Special

  • (Huddie Ledbetter)

       Let the midnight special shine a light on me
       Let the midnight special shine its ever-lovin' light on me

    We wake up early in the morning, you hear the ding dong ring
    We go marchin' to the table to see the same darn thing
    Your knife and fork are on the table, ain't nothin' in your can
    Or you're in trouble with the sheriff, and you're in trouble with the man

    If you ever go to Houston then you better walk right
    And you better not squabble, and you better not fight
    'Cause the sheriff will arrest you and he'll carry you down
    And before you know it you're penitentiary bound

    Well yonder comes Miss Rosie - how the hell do you know
    Well I know her by her apron and the dress she wore
    Umbrella on her shoulder, piece of paper in her hand
    She's gonna see the governor to turn loose her man

    (as sung by Danny Kyle)

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1998:] This is the blue I sing (well I only know the one!). The hero is Huddie Ledbetter, or 'Leadbelly', and he wrote this one while in the State Penitentiary, and the 'midnight special' was a train that shone its light into his cell window, and represented freedom. I had the honour of meeting his niece 'Tiny' Robinson, in Memphis, and found that the nickname 'tiny' did not suit such a giant mind. (Notes Danny Kyle, 'Heroes and Soft Targets')

  • [1999:] The Midnight Special was a train that each night passed the prison in Sugarland, Texas, and became a symbol or metaphor for freedom, for going away from Sugarland. Leadbelly once said that it was considered good luck to have a cell located so that the headlight from that train would shine in as the train passed. (Sam Hinton,, 18 Sep)
    Midnight Special would be a worksong used in the prison farms in the southern U.S. while picking cotton or chopping cane. Not a real train like Shorty George but the prisoner's physical symbol of freedom (at nighttime from work or daytime from prison) and the wish to ride the rails towards anywhere that would take them from their life in hell (or to end it all by being under the wheels of the same train). On the flip side it could also be looked at or heard as, that 'Lonesome Whistle' that's not calling them. [...] Some versions talk of Bud Russell. Bud was the transfer man in Texas Prison System from 1908-1952 handling more than 115,000 prisoners in Black Annie, the truck that took men from the county jail after sentencing to prison or in Black Betty, the truck that would transfer men from one prison to another ("yonder come Bud Russell, how in the world do you know, I can tell him by his wagon and the chains he wore"). Most mention Rosie or Thelma who sometimes won't visit ("since last July") and sometimes comes in armed with release papers ("whopping, hollering & a crying"). (BarryFinn,, 18 Sep)

Quelle: USA

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aktualisiert am 28.05.2002