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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Jolie Holland - Old Fashioned Morphine

We should continue our Days of the Week countdown a la Theme Time Radio Hour with Morphine's Thursday, of course, but we already played that last Friday. So here's Jolie Holland's Old Fashioned Morphine instead (Morphine and morphine, get it? Hah!), which Our Host had playing in the background as he summarized the drug in last week's Theme Time. Dreamtime thanks go to Picasso of Belgium at the Expecting Rain TTRH forums for that piece of information.

Holland has a refreshingly non-informative web site, my favorite part being the bio section, which like all but the front page is blank but has the meta-description, "Bio. We have killed the bio. It is dead."

Wikipedia notes of Holland that she is a Texas-born singer who was one of the founding members of The Be Good Tanyas. Tom Waits is reportedly a big fan of Holland, and you can hear why in this clip.

Old Fashioned Morphine, which may be Old Fashion Morphine (it's usually spelled the first way in most Web sources, but the Amazon track listing has the second spelling) is based on the spiritual and staple of the Salvation Army, Old Time Religion. The author of the original song is unknown, but probably African-American. It was first published in 1891 by Charles Tillman, a singing evangelist and music publisher, who said he heard it at an 1889 camp meet­ing in Lex­ing­ton, South Car­o­li­na.

Old Fashioned Morphine includes the lines:

It was good enough for Isabelle Eberhardt
It was good enough for Isabelle Eberhardt
It was good enough for Isabelle Eberhardt
It's good enough for me
"John" a commenter at The Deception of The Thrush blog, provides a nice summary of Eberhardt's life and times.
Isabelle Eberhardt was a Russian born explorer and Islamic scholar who was known for her so-called "eccentricities" - she preferred to dress and be addressed as a man (she bedded both genders with equal aplomb), had tremendous cachet among the Algerian Sufi community, and, so the story goes, was quite the fan of opioid derivatives in all shapes, sizes, colors, and combinations.

Among the many books she wrote, were her diaries, which Paul Bowles translated into English (as "The Nomad") whilst in Tangiers, presumably also while old buddy William "Billy" Burroughs was getting high and writing what would become "Naked Lunch" on napkins, matchbook covers and the backs of (forged) prescription pads. For Isabelle, however, death provided a strange epilogue in an already epic life, as she was found **drowned** in the middle of the desert, alone. She was only twenty-seven years old. Thankfully, (to Bowles, and others) her works survive and stay in print today and are a fascinating glimpse into one of the true adventurers from a rapidly fading cultural past.
John recommends Holland's album Esondida, which includes Old Fashioned Morphine, as do I.

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