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Jazz Music

Billie Holliday - When It's Sleepy Time Down South (Verve Records 1959)

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From 2:44 to 2:55 you can clearly hear Billie faintly yet woefully breathing... then again intermittently until 3:04. "When It's Sleepy Time Down South", also known as "Sleepy Time Down South", is a 1931 jazz song written by Clarence Muse, Leon René and Otis René. It was sung in the movie Safe in Hell by Nina Mae McKinney, and became the theme song of Louis Armstrong, who recorded it almost a hundred times during his career. The song is now considered a jazz standard. The lyrics concern the Great Migration in the United States, the movement of African-Americans from the South to cities in the North, with the singer talking about the "dear old Southland... where I belong", and contain many racial stereotypes. Armstrong's popularity among African American audiences dropped because of the song, but at the same time it helped the trumpeter to make his fan base broader. There is a 1942 film short of the song where Armstrong and others played slaves and farm workers.

Billie's accompanied by Milt Hinton (bass), Osie Johnson (drums), Barry Galbraith (guitar), Janet Putname (harp), Hank Jones (piano), Gene Quill (alto sax), Jimmy Cleveland (trombone), and Harry Edison (trumpet). Recorded March 4, 1959, New York City. (Verve Records)

Homesick, tired, all alone in a big city
Why should eveybody pity me?
Nighttime falling, and I'm yearning for Virginia
Hospitality within ya calls me

Pale moon shining on the fields below
Folks are crooning songs soft and low
You Need'n tell me so,
Because I know it's sleepy time down south

Softs winds blowing thru the pinewood trees
Folks down there live a life of ease
When ole mammy falls upon her knees
It's sleepy time down south
Steamboats on the river, a coming, a going
Splashing thenight away

Hear those banjos ringing,
The folks who are singing
They dance till break of day
Dear old Southland with its dreamy songs
Take me back there where I belong
Oh how I'd love to be in mammy's arms
When it's sleepy time down south

Dear old Southland with its dreamy songs
Take me back therewhere I belong
Oh how I'd love to be in mammy's arms
When it's sleepy time down south
When it's sleepy time down south
When it's sleepy time down south
When it's sleepy time down south

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