Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Songs That Sound Alike? Ray Charles - "What'd I Say" & Lightnin Hopkins - The Foot Race Is On (Part II - Lightnin Hopkins)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part II of a two part series that features two Blues/Rhythm & Blues songs that I believe have very similar tunes: Ray Charles' "What'd I Say" and Lightnin Hopkins' "The Foot Race Is On".

This post showcases Lightnin Hopkins'song and includes information about Lightnin Hopkins, and a sound file and lyrics of "The Foot Race Is On". In addition, this post includes comments about some of the lyrics in that song.

Click for Part I of this post. That post includes information about Ray Charles, information about the 1958 song "What'd I Say" and a video of Ray Charles performing that song.

If these two songs do indeed have the same tune or very similar tunes, given the firm documentation about the December 1958 date that Ray Charles composed his song "What'd I Say", given the fact that that song was an instant hit, and given the fact that Lightnin Hopkins didn't perform outside of Houston, Texas until 1959-1960s, it's almost certain that Lightnin Hopkins borrowed the tune for "The Foot Race Is On" from Ray Charles' hit song "What'd I Say" -that is, unless there is another song-or other compositions- that preceded both of these songs that has (have) the same tune.

I'd love to know if other folks think these songs sound the same, and if there are other songs -before and after 1958- that have the same or similar tunes.

The content of this post is presented for cultural, entertainment and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Lightnin Hopkins for his musical legacy. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publisher of this sound file on YouTube.

"Sam John Hopkins (March 15, 1912 – January 30, 1982[1]), better known as Lightnin’ Hopkins, was an American country blues singer, songwriter, guitarist, and occasional pianist, from Centerville, Texas. Rolling Stone magazine ranked him number 71 on its list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.[2]
The musicologist Robert "Mack" McCormick opined that Hopkins is "the embodiment of the jazz-and-poetry spirit, representing its ancient form in the single creator whose words and music are one act".[3]

Hopkins was born in Centerville, Texas.[4] As a child, was immersed in the sounds of the blues. He developed a deep appreciation for this music at the age of 8, when he met Blind Lemon Jefferson at a church picnic in Buffalo, Texas.[1] That day, Hopkins felt the blues was "in him". He went on to learn from his older (distant) cousin, the country blues singer Alger "Texas" Alexander.[1] (Hopkins had another cousin, the Texas electric blues guitarist Frankie Lee Sims, with whom he later recorded.[5]) Hopkins began accompanying Jefferson on guitar at informal church gatherings. Jefferson reputedly never let anyone play with him except young Hopkins, and Hopkins learned much from Jefferson at these gatherings.

In the mid-1930s, Hopkins was sent to Houston County Prison Farm; the offense for which he was imprisoned is unknown.[1] In the late 1930s, he moved to Houston with Alexander in an unsuccessful attempt to break into the music scene there. By the early 1940s, he was back in Centerville, working as a farm hand.
Hopkins took a second shot at Houston in 1946. While singing on Dowling St. in Houston's Third Ward (which would become his home base), he was discovered by Lola Anne Cullum from the Los Angeles–based Aladdin Records.[1] She convinced Hopkins to travel to Los Angeles, where he accompanied the pianist Wilson Smith. The duo recorded twelve tracks in their first sessions in 1946. An Aladdin executive decided the pair needed more dynamism in their names and dubbed Hopkins "Lightnin'" and Wilson "Thunder".

Hopkins recorded more sides for Aladdin in 1947. He returned to Houston and began recording for Gold Star Records. In the late 1940s and 1950s he rarely performed outside Texas, only occasionally traveling to the Midwest and East for recording sessions and concert appearances. It has been estimated that he recorded between eight hundred and a thousand songs in his career. He performed regularly at nightclubs in and around Houston, particularly on Dowling St., where he had been discovered by Aladdin. He recorded the hit records "T-Model Blues" and "Tim Moore's Farm" at SugarHill Recording Studios in Houston. By the mid- to late 1950s, his prodigious output of high-quality recordings had gained him a following among African Americans and blues aficionados...

In 1959, the blues researcher Mack McCormick contacted Hopkins, hoping to bring him to the attention of a broader musical audience engaged in the folk revival.[1] McCormack presented Hopkins to integrated audiences first in Houston and then in California. He made his debut at Carnegie Hall on October 14, 1960, alongside Joan Baez and Pete Seeger, performing the spiritual "Mary Don't You Weep". In 1960, he signed with Tradition Records. The recordings which followed included his song "Mojo Hand" in 1960."...

(written by: Sam "Lightnin'" Hopkins)

What you look at me for? Look out man
What's the matter with you, I fixin' to, whoa
That man gonna jump on me,
and I just got to move on out of his way
That's all there is to it,
but, I'm goin'

Tell me, baby, what you tryin to do?
Tryin' to mistreat me and I ain't done nothin' to you.
Mama told me now understand.
Just keep-a truckin' like a man.
I'm gone, sure gone
I ain't jokin', no time waitin' on

Just keep on goin'

Look it here, baby, what you tryin' to do?
Tryin' to love me and my brother too.
Mama told me now understand.
Sit and listen with a plate in her hand
I know, gotta go
Gotta go, pretty baby,
God knows I ain't lyin'.

See, that's when it's gettin' soft.
See, I was gettin tired
And I just slowed down a little bit.
Foot race is on though.

Look-a yonder what I do see.
Whole lotta somethin' comin' after me .
But, I'm gone.
They'll have a hard time catchin' ol' Lightnin'.
Now that I got a little air,
Feel a little better now.

Keep on runnin'.

You know they run me, edge of town,
They got tired and they turned around
I sure felt good, I didn't have to run no more.
I ain't jokin', I ain't jivin'.
God knows I ain't carryin' on.

Source: On, Little Girl, Sail On

These lyrics are reformatted for this post with some punctuation marks changed or added.

That page contains a number of lyrics of Lightnin Hopkins songs.


Lightnin' Hopkins - Topic Published on Nov 7, 2014

Provided to YouTube by Warner Music Group

The Foot Race Is On · Lightnin' hopkins

Autobiography In Blues

℗ 1996 Rykodisc

Released on: 2000-05-05

Composer, Writer: Copyright Control

Auto-generated by YouTube.

"Foot race is on" is a facetious reference to the character that Lightnin is portraying in the song running away from people who are chasing him out of town. Although people are chasing him for some reason or another, in the song Lightnin accuses his woman (who is referred to as "baby" in the song) of "Tryin' to love me and my brother too."

"I fixin' to" - I'm fixin' to___. (I'm getting ready to [do or say something])

"Mama told me now understand/Just keep-a truckin' like a man" - Mama told me. Now I understand- to just keep moving like a man [keep moving with the self-control and probably also with the determination and courage of a man and don't let anything stop you.)

Note that "keep on truckin" was a common saying among African Americans, and may still be used among older (60 years and up?) African Americans. Click for the pancocojams post about the 1935 dance "Truckin" and the saying "keep on truckin".

Mama told me now understand/Sit and listen with a plate in her hand" - Mama told me [this] while she was sitting and holding a plate of food. I now understand what she said.

"See, that's when it's gettin' soft."- This probably refers to the song's tune getting soft.

"Look-a yonder what I do see./Whole lotta somethin' comin' after me." - These lines are a secular adaptation of lyrics from the African American Spiritual "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" (Well, I looked over yonder and what did I see/ Comin for to carry me home/ A band of angels comin after me/ Comin for to carry me home."

"I ain't jokin', I ain't jivin'./God knows I ain't carryin' on." - "jivin' = [in the context of this song], probably means "lying, "talking trash", making up whoopers (big stories to make him look good). I'm not carrying on" = I'm not playing around. What I said was true." ("I'm not carrying on" means the same thing as what was said before. Saying it again just re-emphasizes that point.)

This concludes Part II of this series.

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