Joe Williams at the Blue Note/Chicago, 1955; March 30, 1999

Sam Hamod

 

 “Everyday, everyday, everydaayyy 
 I got the blues, 
talking of bad luck and sorrow 
Well you know I had my share…” 

 – Joe Williams with the Count Basie Band

 

  

Tonight, they tell me you died
on a Vegas street,
Walked several miles from a hospital
Just checked yourself out and escaped toward home–
No, no–
I don’t want to believe it, rather, we’re
back at the Blue Note, Chicago, 1955
You’re standing on the bandstand, light green rolled collar, your
Big white teeth smile as the Count says,
” Now here’s a young man whose recently joined our band–
we think you’re going to like his singing”
then you smacked it out, like a 1×12 smacking water, “Everyday
“Everyday, everyday, everyday I got the bluesÖ”
and now, hearing that you’ve passed into that other side of the song,
everyday we’ll have the blues, talking of bad luck and sorrow, well you
know this will add to our share–but let me hear you, let me look at that big
smile again– swinging uptempo with the band ” The Comeback“–telling your girl, hold tight,
hold tight baby, and we could hear the pleading in your voice as you asked her
to hang on, to just wait a while longer because you’d be back–and then you were
sliding into “Rollem Pete” you made us all jump for joy, and you were up there
just like a rollin’ baby boy–and we were up on our feet dancing and clapping
Basie just kept smiling and the band kept blaring, trumpets
High- cresting, the saxes laying down that harmonic line and the trombones
filling the background, their slides darting in and out of the the light
then you’re joined by Lambert, Hendrix and Ross and you make the Blue Note shake
with “Going To Chicago” — and you tell it like it is, cause ain’t nothin’ in Chicago
that a monkey woman can do– and we were like that, hometown people, full
of good folks from home, and you knew it, and we knew it when you sang it,
and the Count said it, “Chicago is always like home to me” and somehow,
you up there with that big rolled collar have always stayed in my mind, in
my heart, now tonight, I refuse to believe
that you stole out of that hospital late at night
I donít’ want to remember you struggling down that road
Struggling for breath, each slight step a pain, a
Gasp, a pulling for air, just wanting to get back home
To those lights, to get back to that stage, to get back
Among your friends–why was it no one understood
A singer like you can’t be kept away from your people, you
Were given that voice to sing, to get out among people, to make
Them laugh, to feel wistful, to remember when they were in love, and what
Love is, that special feeling that embraces us with its happiness and sorrow,
That love in all its configurations is still that warmth, that warmth in your voice
In your broad smile, and in that way you held the mike and moved from jet black to silver hair
All in an instant–almost too fast for any of us to remember how it all changed–none of us
Noticed the time passing because there was always you, Ella, Sarah, Dinah, Count, Duke,
Hamp, Diz–now we have only Nancy Wilson, and I know she’ll cry tonight and a lot of days
And nights as she remembers your big wide voice pleading, “Please Send Me Someone To
Love,
” and she’ll ask the lord to send you to the right place, where you’ll join the others
Singing with the angels–and we’ll be earthbound, having you in vinyl, on cassette, on CD and in
our memories– so tonight, I know they speak their truth
That you have died, but my truth is that you are there at the Blue Note in Chicago
You are there at Blues Alley in Washington, DC, a little hoarse, and you are there with your arm
 

 

 

Sam Hamod has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry by Ray Carver and Ishmael Reed. He has published several books of poetry and his current book An Old Arab in My Mind: New and Selected Poems will be published this year. Hamod has been widely anthologized in print and online. He is the Editor in Chief of CWLJA

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