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“The blues is the healer”, sang John Lee Hooker. Well, jazz witch Cassandra Wilson casts a healing spell in “Death Letter” – a powerful womanly take on Son House‘s raw blues classic. It’s about hearing that the man/woman you love is dead and being faced with the dead body and the funeral. Listen to that guitar growl at the beginning.

Cassandra Wilson

I got a letter this morning
How do you reckon it read?
It said, “Hurry, the man you love is dead”
I got a letter this mornin’
How do you reckon it read?
It said “Hurry, hurry, on account of the man you love is dead.”

Well I packed up my suitcase
took out down the road
When I got there
he was lying on the cooling board
I took my suitcase
And I took out down the road
When I got there
he was lyin’ on the coolin’ board

Well I walked up right close
and then I looked down into his face
Good old boy is going to lay there until the judgment day
walked up right close
and looked down in his face
Good ol’ boy is gonna lay here until the judgment day

It looked like it was ten thousand people
standin’ round the buryin’ ground
I didn’t know I loved that man until they laid him down
didn’t know I loved him until they laid him down

I got up this morning
it was right about the break of day
I was huggin’ the pillow
where he used to lay
I got up soon in the morning, soon
I was huggin’ the pillow
where he used to lay

Hush
I thought that I heard him call my name
thought I heard him call my name
Hush

The original by Son House is a bit more complicated, because the singer is mourning an unfulfilled love. It includes more verses, including this one:

You know it’s so hard to love
someone who don’t love you
Won’t get satisfaction
Don’t care what you do
You know it’s so hard to love
someone who don’t love you
Won’t get satisfaction
Don’t care what you do

Intro:
healer – Heiler
witch – Hexe
cast a spell – verhexen
a take – Interpretation
raw – roh
to be faced with – konfrontiert sein
funeral – Beerdigung
growl – knurren
Lyrics:
How do you reckon it read – Was denkst du stand drin
on account of – wegen
take out – losrasen
coolin’ board – Kühlbrett (Leichenhaus)
judgment day – Jüngstes Gericht
buryin’ ground – Friedhof
lay someone down – begraben
the break of day – Tagesanbruch
hug the pillow – Kissen umarmen
Hush – still
mourn someone – um jmd. trauern
unfulfilled – unerfüllt

Hear Son House himself (who was an old drunk by the time he was filmed) and the garage punk White Stripes (Jack White & Meg White), whom he strongly influenced:

Son House

White Stripes

learning english with songs :-) englischlernen mit liedern