Mudcat Café message #3022537 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #38444   Message #3022537
Posted By: BrooklynJay
03-Nov-10 - 11:24 AM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Jean Harlow Died the Other Day
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Jean Harlow Died the Other Day
Interesting thread... I've had the Leadbelly recording for years but never knew that anyone else was known for doing this song. The version I do is pretty much what Leadbelly wrote (though I don't play a 12 string), and his original lyrics are somewhat different from what has been posted. I see it's not in DigiTrad, so I'll take the liberty of setting it down here.

It was also published in The Leadbelly Songbook, edited by Moses Asch and Alan Lomax. (The second verse is not on the recording I have, and I omit it because it's nearly identical to the first verse.)

JEAN HARLOW
(Leadbelly)

Jean Harlow died the other day,
These are the words I heard her say;
Her mother was sitting at her bedside and cryin',
"I believe to my soul that my child's dyin'."

(Chorus:)
Tang-a-lang tang-a-lang, ba-da-da deedle-de
Tang-a-lang tang-a-lang, ba-da-da deedle-de
Tang-a-lang tang-a-lang, ba-da-da deedle-de, oh!

Her mama goin' to walk, her mama talk, yes
Her mama goin' to walk, her mama talk, yes
Her mama goin' to walk, her mama talk, New York!


I looked out the other day,
These are the words I heard her say;
Her mother was settin' by her bedside a-cryin',
"I believe to my soul that my child is dyin'."

(Chorus)

Send for the doctor, the doctor come,
Mother says, "Doctor, can you save me one?"
Doctor says, "Well, I believe I will go,
Need me tomorrow, you can let me know."

(Chorus)

Doctor left, he was looking mighty sad,
"This is the hardest case I ever had."
Jean Harlow said just before she died,
"Two more moving pictures I would like to write."

(Chorus)

Asch's note to the song (in the book) says, "Leadbelly told me that at night in prison when thoughts turned to women he composed this song. Since guitars were forbidden he played it on the concertina." According to the book The Life and Legend of Leadbelly by Charles Wolfe and Kip Lornell, Leadbelly was not incarcerated in 1937 (the year Jean Harlow died). His next stint in jail would not come until mid-1939, in New York City. In any case, it appears that he did not record the song until 1944.

Harlow's reputation and personal life were thoroughly trashed when a lurid book came out in the early 1960's titled Harlow: An Intimate Biography. Mostly fictitious claptrap, it was, unfortunately taken as truthful by a public that ate it up - despite people like Sally Rand and Myrna Loy publicly stating that much of what author Irving Shulman wrote was fabrication. Two (!) film versions were made in 1965. Recent biographies have attempted to set the record straight and do justice to the memory of a talented star whose life ended far too soon.