by catherine yronwode

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TITLE: Lady Luck Blues
SINGER: Bessie Smith
COMPOSER(S): Weber / Williams
DATE OF REC.: 14 June 1923
REISSUE(S): The Complete Recordings, Vol. 1 (Columbia/Legacy C2K-47091)
by Bessie Smith

Bad luck has come to stay
Trouble never end
My man has gone away
With a girl I thought was my friend
I'm worried down with care
Lordy, can't you hear my prayer

Lady Luck, Lady Luck
Won't you please smile down on me
There's the time, friend of mine
I need your sympathy
I've got a horseshoe on my door
I've knocked on wood till my hands are sore
Since my man's done turned me loose
I've got those Lady Luck blues, I mean
I've got those Lady Luck blues

Lady Luck, Lady Luck
Won't you please smile down on me
There's the time, friend of mine
I need your sympathy
I've got his picture turned upside down
I've sprinkled goofer dust all around
Since my man is gone I'm all confused
I've got those Lady Luck blues
Find my good man
I've got those Lady Luck blues


COMMENTS BY CAT YRONWODE: This song displays the blending of European and African-American influences on urban hoodoo. The use of a horseshoe to ward off evil and the gesture of knocking on wood to prevent disaster are European in origin, as is making a prayer to "Lady Luck," whose image is derived from the ancient Roman Goddess Fortuna. However, by the 1920s there were at least two companies manufacturing Lady Luck Perfume and marketing it to the African-American community.

Regarding V.3, it would be a very troubled hoodoo practitioner who turned a departed lover's picture upside down and sprinkled goofer dust around it to get him to come back, for that is a hurtful or even killing magical act, as can be seen in the nearly contemporaneous song "Getting Dirty Just Shakin' That Thing" by Romeo Nelson (1929), with its often-copied line, "Sprinkle goofer dust around your bed, in the mornin' find your own self dead." Still, there are some love spells that utilize graveyard dirt or goofer dust to get a lover to return by causing him to suffer or bringing him near to death as long as he stays away. The strongest such spells i know are the Prayer of Intranquility, which does not use goofer dust, and the "Love Me Or Die" Jack Ball, which does.

FURTHER INFORMATION: The following web pages can be consulted for more details about the topics referenced in this song:
V.2 horseshoe
V.3 goofer dust
V.3 using goofer dust to force a lover to return ("Love Me Or Die" Jack Ball)

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Individual acknowledgements for transcriptions and discographical data appear on each song-page, but i want to note that this Blues Lyrics and Hoodoo archive would never have been possible without the contributions of Gorgen Antonsson, who generously shared with me the format and content of his own personal lyrics archive, and Alan Balfour and Chris Smith, who have devoted a great deal of time to supplying me with tapes, transcribed lyrics, and detailed discographical information. Additionally, i wish to thank the kind members of the prewar blues e-list who have aided my research in innumerable ways. If you have missing data to supply, hear a substantially different take on a transcription, or want to let me know about a song that has been overlooked in these pages, please contact me through the prewar blues e-list:

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Due to certain social, economic, and political paradigms in place at the time of their composition, many early blues songs were improperly copyrighted or not copyrighted at all. Many bore no composer credits. Many were ripped off by unethical music publishers who falsely claimed authorship and copyrighted them in their own names. Many that were once copyright-protected are now in the public domain due to publishers' or composers' failures to properly renew the copyrights. Many have since been ripped off by unethical performers or music publishers who have pretended to be the composers for the purpose of securing a belated copyright or who have claimed "arranger's" credits on songs they falsely swore were "traditional" when in fact the songs were composed by the people who originally performed them on record. It is my sincere belief that the song transcribed on this page bears the implied moral copyright of its composer, whoever that may be. If you believe that you control the copyright by virtue of authorship or legal legerdemain, you may contact me in a civil and polite manner and i will attempt in good faith to satisfy your needs in the matter of obtaining formal permission to quote the lyrics in this scholarly publication.

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