A Bit Like You And Me Radio

March 15, 2012

Dave Van Ronk - Willie the Weeper (1961)

When Bob Dylan moved to Greenwich Village, New York, at the age of 20, he frequently stayed with this man and his wife. Van Ronk, five years older, taught Dylan guitar techniques as well as exposing him to material that Dylan would use in his later work. Finding his influences in jazz, he became an important figure to the folk scene where he befriended the likes of Dylan, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, Joni Mitchell, and many others. He rarely flew, never learned to drive, and never left Greenwich Village for an extended period of time.

Written by Frankie “Half-Pint” Jaxon in 1927, this folk song focuses around drug use. It’s been recorded by Louis Armstrong, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and others, but it is this version by Van Ronk that is said to have inspired The Velvet Underground’s song, “Heroin”.

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Dave Van Ronk - Willie the Weeper (1961)

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Lyrics:

Oh, well a’this is the story about Willie the Weeper
Now, Willie the Weeper was a chimney sweeper
He had the habit, boy, he had it bad
Let me tell ya ‘bout a dream he had

Oh, well he went to the hop house the other night
Wearin’ his goulashes, boy, were shinin’ bright
Ah, well’a called to the boy to bring him some hops
Started then a smokin’ like he’d never stop

Oh, well after he had smoked about a dozen pills
He says, “This ought’a cure all my aches and ills”
Oh, well’a he turned on his side and went to sleep
Dreamed he was a sailor on the ocean deep

Oh, well he played draw poker as they left the land
He won a million dollars on the very first hand
Oh, well he played and he played until the crew went broke
Then he turned around and had another smoke

Oh, well he came to the island of Siam
He rubbed his eyes and said, “I wonder where I am”
He played craps with the King; he won a million more
Had to leave the island ‘cause the King got sore

Oh, well he went to Monte Carlo where he played roulette
He couldn’t lose a penny ‘cause he won every bet
Oh, well he played and he played until the bank went broke
Then he turned around and had another smoke

Oh, well’a then he thought he better be a’sailin’ for home
Oh, well he chartered his ship and sailed away alone
Ah, well the ship hit a rock, he hit the floor
Oh’ho well the dope gave out and the dream was o'er

Oh, well’a that was the story about Willie the Weeper
Now, Willie the Weeper was a yen-pox eater
Someday a pill, too many, he’ll take
And dreamin’ that he’s dead, he will forget to wake

3 comments:

  1. Wonderful work! If I may, can I submit a couple of small corrections:

    In case you want to include it, there is a scat at the end of each verse
    Dee-dee-dee-dee deedah , Dee-dee-dee-dee deedah
    Da datn-datn-dah-dah dee-da da

    "This ought to CURE all my aches and ills"

    "Played and played UNTIL the crew went broke": a small thing, but noted for metricality. "Til" doesn't fit the rhythm quite as well. Sorry to be a nerd about it.

    "Oh, well he played and he played UNTIL the bank went broke" Same.

    "Oh’ho well the dope gave out and the dream was O'ER".

    "Now, Willie the Weeper was a YEN-POX eater" Yen-pox was slang for the scum from the opium bowl.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi William and/or Polly. You most certainly may- and thank you. I tend to leave out scats and other bodily noises (usually), but I definitely agree with you regarding the other corrections.

      Thank you very much for your submission; it's much appreciated!

      Delete
  2. Sorry! Can I correct my correction? According to WS Burroughs, "Yen pox is opium ash taken with hot tea, if any".

    ReplyDelete