Diggin’: Rufus McKenzie’s “Slavery Time Blues”

inNewson September 12, 2013

Rufus McKenzie-1Listen: Slavery Time Blues

I have been thinking a lot about slavery as of late. Growing up in Connecticut we learned about it, but it was very abstract to my experience. Many of our artists that I have spent time with had great-great-grandparents born into slavery that lived to be very old, who told them about these times when the artists were young. In the last month I have become good friends with the Warren Family. They have an old general store that was built in 1850; the land they live on has been in their family since the 1700s. They have slave papers in their family vault, a spinning wheel that slaves spun cotton grown on their farm, and so much more that demonstrates the history of slavery in their county. The Warrens are incredibly involved in the wellbeing of their community, and are looking to utilize their family land to enhance the arts and music in their area. Music Maker is partnering with them to make this happen.
Rufus McKenzie, from Macon, Georgia, never ever gave an inch with his anger and resentment of his family’s history as slaves and much of his music dwells on this history. Rufus sings in the ancient field holler tradition. He is one of the most amazing musicians I ever recorded.

— Tim

Slavery Time Blues

Well you know, my grandmother and my grandfather
People, they’re dead and in their grave
Well you know, my grandmother and my grandfather
People, they’re dead and in their grave
Son, your grandparents both was slaves

Well you know, they keep telling me that this country is free
There’s gonna be some changes in the White House
People I don’t see no freedom for me

You know, I walked to my boss’s house
Knocked up on his back door. Said, “What can I do for you?”
I said please, please, boss man give me a bite to eat

Yeah you know, my boss man’s wife she would fix me a plate
When I began to eat, she began to smile
Big dog standing in the corner, people, he began to growl
I said Lady, I am sorry, I am sorry I believe your dog has seen a snake
She said no, no my friend, you are eating from his plate
And you still want to know, why the black man sings the blues

Yeah, you know, there have been so many a cold morning
People I had to go to work without no shoes

Leave a Comment

What is worth keeping is worth passing on,

help preserve American Culture.

Donate Today