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Ma Rainey


                When Ma Rainey
                Comes to town,
                Folks from anyplace
                Miles aroun',
                From Cape Girardeau,
                Poplar Bluff,
                Flocks in to hear
                Ma do her stuff;
                Comes flivverin' in,
                Or ridin' mules,
                Or packed in trains,
                Picknickin' fools. . . .
                That's what it's like,
                Fo' miles on down,
                To New Orleans delta
                An' Mobile town,
                When Ma hits
                Anywheres aroun'.


Dey comes to hear Ma Rainey from de little river settlements,
From blackbottorn cornrows and from lumber camps;
Dey stumble in de hall, jes a-laughin' an' a-cacklin',
Cheerin' lak roarin' water, lak wind in river swamps.

An' some jokers keeps deir laughs a-goin' in de crowded aisles,
An' some folks sits dere waitin' wid deir aches an' miseries,
Till Ma comes out before dem, a-smilin' gold-toofed smiles
An' Long Boy ripples minors on de black an' yellow keys.


                O Ma Rainey,
                Sing yo' song;
                Now you's back
                Whah you belong,
                Git way inside us,
                Keep us strong. . . .
                O Ma Rainey,
                Li'l an' low;
                Sing us 'bout de hard luck
                Roun' our do';
                Sing us 'bout de lonesome road
                We mus' go. . . .


I talked to a fellow, an' the fellow say,
"She jes' catch hold of us, somekindaway.
She sang Backwater Blues one day:

      'lt rained fo' days an' de skies was dark as night,
      Trouble taken place in de lowlands at night.

      'Thundered an' lightened an' the storm begin to roll
      Thousan's of people ain't got no place to go.

      'Den I went an' stood upon some high ol' lonesome hill,
      An' looked down on the place where I used to live.'

An' den de folks, dey natchally bowed dey heads an' cried,
Bowed dey heavy heads, shet dey moufs up tight an' cried,
An' Ma lef' de stage, an' followed some de folks outside."

Dere wasn't much more de fellow say:
She jes' gits hold of us dataway.

Written by Sterling A. Brown (1901-1989)


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