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Mad Mama’s Blues

Josie Miles

Metal has no monopoly on lyrical mass murder. The blues is full of cuttin’ and shootin’ and .44’s. (See this thread on the Most Violent Blues Songs Ever.) In the ’20s, two female blues singers, Josie Miles and Julia Moody, each recorded “Mad Mama’s Blues,” written by Spencer Williams under the pseudonym Duke Jones. (He is probably best known for “Basin Street Blues” and “I Ain’t Got Nobody.”)

Mad Mama’s Blues (Josie Miles)
Mad Mama’s Blues (Julia Moody)

Little is known about Miles and Moody. Miles recorded around 50 songs in the early ’20s, became a devout churchgoer, and died sometime in the ’50s or ’60s. Google yields literally nothing about Moody, except for 13 cuts that Document Records tacked onto a discography compilation of blues singer Viola McCoy. But just hearing them sing this song is a trip. Its lyrics could come from Slayer:

Wanna set the world on fire
That is my one mad desire
I’m a devil in disguise
Got murder in my eyes

Now I could see blood runnin’
Through the streets
Now I could see blood runnin’
Through the streets
Could be everybody
Layin’ dead right at my feet

Now man who invented war
Sure is my friend
The man invented war
Sure is my friend
Don’t believe that I’m sinkin’
Just look what a hole I am in

Give me gunpowder
Give me dynamite
Give me gunpowder
Give me dynamite
Yes I’d wreck the city
Wanna blow it up tonight

I took my big Winchester
Down off the shelf
I took my big Winchester
Down off the shelf
When I get through shootin’
There won’t be nobody left

This was 70 years before Annihilator’s Set the World on Fire, mind you. Misanthropic black metal has nothing on this. Some commentators place songs like “Mad Mama’s Blues” in a larger narrative of latent revenge against white oppression, rather than simple misanthropy. I can imagine ’20s radio listeners tapping their toes to this song, then being horrified at its lyrics.

– Cosmo Lee

Josie Miles:
Amazon (CD)
Amazon (MP3)
eMusic (MP3)

Julia Moody:
Amazon (CD)
Amazon (MP3)
eMusic (MP3)

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