The wind will blow it higher: “Biko”

Steve Biko Tribute (1992), by Willie Bester

“The man is dead, the man is dead” This week marks the 40th anniversary of the death of South African anti-apartheid activist Bantu Stephen Biko. Biko, a leader in the Black Consciousness Movement, died in the custody of South African security services. A banning order imposed by the government in … → read more

“Still Growing” / “The Trees They Do Grow High”

Introduction – “Still Growing” Today’s featured song fits clearly, if not neatly, into our wheelhouse here at MBM.  It is not precisely a murder ballad.  Neither is it exactly what we call a ‘conversation with death.’ It is, like many of the ballads we cover, old and rather widely dispersed … → read more

Podcast: When I Paint My Masterpiece
Episode #16-46 | airing 11-16-16

Dylan in Nashville

In December Bob Dylan will travel to Stockholm to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. (Update: Actually, looks like he will *not* be in attendance for the ceremony) This is unprecedented in awarding the prize to a musical composer, much less a popular music figure. Bob Dylan obviously is no … → read more

Never Again: Redemption, Loss, & Wrecks on the Highway (Part 2)

To good and true love fear is forever fixed. — Rabelais This is the second of a two-part look at songs (“Wreck on the Highway” and “Percy’s Song”) about road crashes and their aftermath … Bad News In one of the most memorable sequences in Don’t Look Back, D. A. … → read more

Three Fishers

Today is Labor Day in the U.S. and Canada. Our song this week is not a murder ballad proper, but I felt drawn to write about it because it portrays the sacrifices and risks of working. Just as my friend, Maureen, mentioned a few years ago how “El Paso” helped her as a child … → read more

SORM Playlist #15-18: Nashville Cats
(airing the week starting 4-29-15)

Dylan in Nashville

In 1966 Bob Dylan was struggling with the recording of his next album. He was having little success recording in New York City. His producer Bob Johnston suggested they move the sessions to the CBS studios in Nashville. Bob took his advice and he, Al Kooper and Robbie Robertson moved … → read more

BOB DYLAN: Shadows In The Night

          Bob Dylan Shadows In The Night Columbia 88875057962 www.columbiarecords.com   I once asked the late Mimi Baez Farińa what Bob Dylan is like as a person. She replied that she didn’t know because she hadn’t seen him in awhile and he changes all the time. … → read more

Don’t You Call My Name — Caleb Meyer, pt. 2

Jaywalkers This is the second post on the Gillian Welch and David Rawlings song “Caleb Meyer.” Read the first post here.  In the last post, we heard how Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings’s “Caleb Meyer” successfully embraces trappings of Southern Appalachian musical authenticity to do something innovative through something utterly … → read more

Sweet Annie Was Loved Both Far and Near…

Introduction Our first post this week dealt with the lyrics and the provenance, as well as we can know it, of the ballad “Willie Moore.”  If you’re looking for information and discussion along those lines, I encourage you to click back to that rather long post.  Today’s post will be … → read more

“Willie Moore”

Leonard Rutherford (fiddle) and Dick Burnett (banjo) – Theirs is the earliest known recording of “Willie Moore” Introduction One thing I find about murder ballads in my own life is that I often remember the first time and place I hear one, or at least I remember the time I … → read more