December 19, 2011

I'm gonna sing this song, An I ain't goin' to sing no mo'

Finally made the pilgrimage to Skip James' gravesite at the Merion Memorial Park outside of Philadelphia.  

Merion's a fairly small cemetery but it sprawls down a hillside, so I decided to make things easy on myself by asking in the office where to find Nehemiah James.  The two older white folks working the office couldn't seem to find him in their register, but when I mentioned he had been a musician also known as Skip James, a lightbulb went off.  They sent me back outside to ask one of the groundskeepers, a young, dreadlocked black guy who knew right away who I was talking about and who was very happy to walk down the hill with me, chatting along the way about blues music and what it's like to work in a cemetery full of Canada geese (and their droppings).  Then he left me alone to sit in front of Skip's headstone and smoke and think about the man, the music he made, and how he came to be buried in Pennsylvania rather than in some cypress grove in the Delta. 

Here's hoping you've been resting in more peace than you had in life, Skip.

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