"Black Cross" was written in 1948 by Joseph S. Newman and published in a collection of poems entitled It Could Be Verse. The poem was recorded by Richard "Lord" Buckley live at the Ivar Theatre, Los Angeles, 1959 and released on Way Out Humor, World Pacific, 1959. Rereleased as Lord Buckley in Concert, Demon Verbals, 1985.
"Black Cross" was performed by Bob Dylan on the Minnesota Hotel Tape, Dec 1961
and Second Gaslight Tape, late 1962.
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Lyrics as performed by Bob Dylan, Second Gaslight Tape, late 1962.
This is the story of Hezekiah Jones...
Hezekiah Jones lived in a place... in Arkansas.
He never had too much, except he had some land,
An' he had a couple of hogs and things like that.
He never had much money
But he'd spend what he did make as fast as he made it,
So it never really mattered that he had much money.
But in a cupboard there, He kept in the cupboard... he kept in the cupboard books,
He called the books his "rainy season."
The white folks around the county there talked about Hezekiah...
They... said, "Well... old Hezekiah, he's harmless enough,
but the way I see it he better put down them goddam books,
Readin' ain't no good, for nigger is nigger."
One day the white man's preacher came around
Knockin' on doors, knockin' on all the doors in the county,
He knocked on Hezekiah's door.
He says, "Hezekiah, you believe in the Lord?"
Hezekiah says, "Well, I don't know, I never really SEEN the Lord,
I can't say, yes, I do..."
He says, "Hezekiah, you believe in the Church?"
Hezekiah says, "Well, the Church is divided, ain't they,
And... they can't make up their minds.
I'm just like them, I can't make up mine either."
He says, "Hezekiah, you believe that if a man is good Heaven is his last reward?"
Hezekiah says, "I'm good... good as my neighbor."
"You don't believe in nothin'," said the white man's preacher,
You don't believe in nothin'!"
"Oh yes, I do," says Hezekiah,
"I believe that a man should be indebted to his neighbors
Not for the reward of Heaven or fear of hellfire."
"But you don't understand," said the white man's preacher,
"There's a lot of good ways for a man to be wicked..."
Then they hung Hezekiah high as a pigeon.
White folks around there said, "Well... he had it comin'
'Cause the son-of-a-bitch never had no religion!"
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