Apr. 4, 2006

Trouble In Mind

by Richard Jones

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Poem: "Trouble In Mind" by Richard M. Jones. © Universal Studios Inc. Reprinted with permission.

Trouble In Mind

Trouble in mind, I'm blue,
But I won't be blue always,
For the sun will shine in my backdoor someday.

Trouble in mind, that's true,
I have almost lost my mind;
Life ain't worth livin', feel like I could die,

I'm gonna lay my head on some lonesome railroad line:
Let the two nineteen train ease my troubled mind.

Trouble in mind, I'm blue,
My poor heart is beatin' slow;
Never' had no trouble in my life before,

I'm all alone at midnight,
And my lamp is burning low,
Never had so much trouble in my life before.

I'm gonna lay my head
On that lonesome railroad track,
But when I hear the whistle,
Lord, I'm gonna pull it back.

I'm goin' down to the river
Take along my rocking chair,
And if the blues don't leave me,
I'll rock on away from there.

Well, trouble, oh, trouble,
Trouble on my worried mind,
When you see me laughin',
I'm laughin' just to keep from cryin'.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of novelist and screenwriter Marguerite Duras, born in a small village near Saigon in what was then French Indochina (1914). After her father died of dysentery, her mother struggled to support the family, and she was so distracted that she forgot to enroll her children in school. Duras said, "For two years I ran wild; it was probably the time in my life I came closest to complete happiness. At eight, I still couldn't read or write." Her mother bought some land, hoping to farm it, but it turned out to be worthless. Still, the family was able to scrape enough money together to send Duras to school in Saigon.

While Duras was going to high school in Saigon, she began an affair with an older, wealthy Chinese man, which ended when she graduated from high school and went to college in France. She kept the affair secret for the next fifty years, while writing short, experimental novels such as The Sea Wall (1953) and The Sailor from Gibraltar (1966), and screenplays for films such as Hiroshima Mon Amour (1966).

Then at the age of seventy, after struggling with alcoholism for much of her life, Duras decided to write a novel based on her adolescent affair with the Chinese man. That novel was The Lover (1984), and it was her first major literary success.

Marguerite Duras said, "You have to be very fond of men. Very, very fond. You have to be very fond of them to love them. Otherwise they're simply unbearable."

It's the birthday of playwright and journalist Robert Sherwood, born in New Rochelle, New York (1896). He grew up in a wealthy family and went to Harvard, and he was brought up to believe that he was superior because of his background. But while serving in World War I he became friends with many working-class men, and when he returned to the United States, he began to write plays about the struggles of the working poor, including The Petrified Forest (1935) and Idiot's Delight (1936), which won the Pulitzer Prize. He's perhaps best known for his anti-fascist play There Shall Be No Night (1941).

He said, "To be able to write a play ... a man must be sensitive, imaginative, naive, gullible, passionate; he must be something of an imbecile, something of a poet, something of a liar, something of a damn fool."

It's the birthday of blues singer Muddy Waters, born McKinley Morganfield in Rolling Fork, Mississippi (1915). He said that his grandmother nicknamed him Muddy Waters because as a boy he liked to play in the muddy creek near his house. He learned to play the blues in the Mississippi Delta style by listening performers like Son House and Robert Johnson. He worked as a farmhand during the week, but he began to perform at juke joints, fish fries and parties on the weekends.

In 1941, the musicologist Alan Lomax came through Mississippi, recording folk singers for the Library of Congress, and he made several recordings of Muddy Waters. Waters was blown away by the experience of hearing these recordings. He said, "Man, you don't know how I felt that afternoon when I heard that voice and it was my own voice." He was so impressed that he decided to try to make it as a professional recording artist. So in May of 1943, Waters took a train from Clarkesdale, Mississippi, to Chicago, Illinois. His only luggage was a suit of clothes and an acoustic guitar. Waters got a job at a paper factory, moved in with some cousins on the South Side, and started performing at house parties for whiskey and tips.

At the time, the most popular music in the night clubs in Chicago was big band music. Waters tried to break through with his Mississippi blues but he had a hard time playing loud enough for anyone to hear him on his acoustic guitar at the noisy parties and bars where he played. So in 1944, he bought a cheap electric guitar from his uncle, which helped increase his sound level.

It was the first time anyone had played Mississippi blues on an electric guitar, which revolutionized the sound of the blues. In 1948, Waters recorded his first hit, "I Can't Be Satisfied," for Chess Records. The song was released on a Friday afternoon in April of 1948, and the initial pressing of 3,000 copies had sold out by Saturday evening.

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