Frankie and Johnny

The traditional “Frankie and Johnny” may have been inspired by several murders. One of these took place in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 15, 1899, when Frankie Baker, a 22-year-old dancer, stabbed (or shot) her 17-year-old lover Al Britt, who was having a relationship with a woman named Alice Pryor. Britt died of his wounds two days later. On trial, Baker claimed that Britt had attacked her with a knife and that she acted in self-defense. She was acquitted and died in a Portland mental institution in 1952. (Wikipedia)

Frank Crumit first recorded it in 1927:

Maybe it has country blues roots. At least that’s where Corey Harris takes it:

Frankie and Johnnie were lovers,
Oh, Lordie how they could love!
They swore to be true to each other,
Just as true as the stars above,
He was her man, but he done her wrong.

Frankie and Johnnie went walking
John in his brand new suit.
Then, “oh good Lawd,” says Frankie
“Don’t my Johnnie look real cute!”
He was her man, but he done her wrong.

Frankie she was a good woman,
And Johnnie was a good man,
And every dollar that she made
Went right into Johnnie’s hand,
He was her man, but he done her wrong.

Frankie went down tn the corner,
Just for a bucket of beer.
She said to the fat bartender,
“Has my lovinest man been here7”
He was her man, but he done her wrong.

“I don’t want to cause you no trouble,
I don’t want to tell you no lie;
But I saw your man an hour ago
With a gal named Alice Bly,
And if he’s your man, he’s a-doing you wrong.”

Frankie looked over the transom,
And found, to her great surprise,
That there on the bed sat Johnnie,
A-lovin’ up Alice Bly.
He was her man, but he done her wrong.

Frankie drew back her kimono;
She took out her little forty-four;
Root-a-toot-toot, three times she shot
Right through that hardwood floor,
She shot her man, ’cause he done her wrong.

Roll me over easy,
Roll me over slow,
Roll me on de right side,
‘Cause de bullet hurt me so.
I was her man, but I done her wrong.

The judge said to the jury
“It’s as plain as plain can be
This woman shot her lover
It’s murder in the second degree
He was her man, though he done her wrong.

This story has no moral
This story has no end
This story only goes to show
That there ain’t no good in men
They’ll do you wrong, just as sure as you’re born

Johnny Cash gave it “brand-new, 1958-style words”

Well now Frankie and Johnny were sweethearts
They were true as a blue blue sky
He was a long-legged guitar picker with a wicked wanderin’ eye
But he was her man nearly all of the time

Well Johnny he packed up to leave her but he promised he’d be back
He said he had a little pickin’ to do a little farther down the track
He said I’m your man I wouldn’t do you wrong

Well Frankie curled up on the sofa thinkin’ about her man
Far away the couples were dancing to the music of his band
He was Frankie’s man he wasn’t doin’ her wrong

Then in the front door walked a redhead Johnny saw her right away
She came down by the bandstand to watch him while he played
He was Frankie’s man but she was far away

He sang every song to the redhead she smiled back at him
Then he came and sat at her table where the lights were low and dim
What Frankie didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her none

Then the redhead jumped up and slapped him she slapped him a time or two
She said I’m Frankie’s sister and I was checking up on you
If you’re her man you better treat her right

Well the moral of this story is be good but carry a stick
Sometimes it looks like a guitar picker just can’t tell what to pick
He was Frankie’s man and he still ain’t done her wrong

song of the week :-) englisch lernen mit liedern

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Anne

Teaching English for business communication skills, writing online for learners, translating, sailing whenever I can, from Washington, D.C.

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