Friday, February 22, 2008

Mr. Bojangles

video
from wikipedia

Mr. Bojangles" is a popular song written and initially recorded by Jerry Jeff Walker in 1968 and covered since by many other artists. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band took the song to #9 on the Billboard pop chart in 1971.
It was about an obscure alcoholic but talented tap dancing drifter (not the famous stage and movie dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, as sometimes assumed). Bojangles is thought to have been a folk character who entertained informally in the south of the US and California, and some say he might have been one of the most gifted natural dancers ever. His actual name is not recorded. Authentic reports of him exist from the 1920s through about 1965.
In fact, in his autobiography 'Gipsy Songman' Jerry Jeff states "Bojangles wasn't so much a name as a category of itinerant street entertainer known back as far as the previous century."
According to the lyrics by Jerry Jeff Walker, he met Bojangles in a prison cell in New Orleans (the first precinct jail to be exact). The two began to converse about life. Bojangles began to dance as Walker admired his skill.

audio by sammy davis jr, the lyrics
I knew a man Bojangles and he'd dance for you
In worn out shoes
With silver hair, a ragged shirt, and baggy pants
The old soft shoe
He jumped so high, jumped so high
Then he lightly touched down
I met him in a cell in New Orleans I was
down and out
He looked to me to be the eyes of age
as he spoke right out
He talked of life, talked of life, he laughed
clicked his heels and stepped
He said his name "Bojangles" and he danced a lick
across the cell
He grabbed his pants and spread his stance,
Oh he jumped so high and then he clicked his heels
He let go a laugh, let go a laugh
and shook back his clothes all around
Mr. Bojangles, Mr. Bojangles
Mr. Bojangles, dance
He danced for those at minstrel shows and county fairs
throughout the south
He spoke through tears of 15 years how his dog and him
traveled about
The dog up and died, he up and died
And after 20 years he still grieves
He said I dance now at every chance in honky tonks
for drinks and tips
But most the time I spend behind these county bars
'cause I drinks a bit
He shook his head, and as he shook his head
I heard someone ask him please
Mr. Bojangles, Mr. Bojangles
Mr. Bojangles, dance..

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