Singing While Black, by Cornelius Eady
I was living life as a nickel / When I wanted to be a dime / Angels dance on a pin / If being poor ain’t a sin / It’s an imaginary crime. / A low wage / And a big city / Never seems to rhyme.
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This is the second in Cornelius Eady’s series of Limited Edition chapbook-CDs (following the 2013 Book of Hooks.) It’s hard to imagine a more timely collection than Singing While Black. The chapbook opens with poems Eady often brings to the mike before his blues-folk band, Rough Magic, performs, including: “Aretha Franklin’s Inaugural Hat,” “Otis Redding, being pulled from Lake Monoma,” and “Emmett Till’s Glass Top Casket.”
Lyrics of the thirteen songs of the contained CD follow, threading Eady’s familiar preoccupations: the truth of our history; the blues of our daily struggle; the sweetness of our self-delusions and occasionally, our moments of ringing clarity. It is no accident that Eady is already the recipient of a slew of literary awards. Singing While Black underscores his importance, as well, as a contemporary songwriter and musician.
Half-Shut Words and Music: Cornelius Eady You tried to reach out and grab his hand But he was made of barb wire Don’t patty-cake with a rattlesnake Or try to kiss a fire Keep your mouth half-shut Jesus tried to save the world They hung him up like a scarecrow Changed the water into wine Refused that boy like a Negro Keep your mouth half-shut Three ships sailed into the bay They claimed the world was Christian You tried to give them your proper name They weren’t there to listen Keep your mouth half-shut He tells you this He tells you that He’s a fountain of sorrow Any beggar who steals your time Won’t give it back tomorrow Keep your mouth half-shut