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SEE THAT MY GRAVE IS KEPT CLEAN

(Blind Lemon Jefferson)

LISTEN TO DYLAN'S VERSION (Real Audio) at SONY/Columbia's Official Bob Dylan Site


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One of Blind Lemon Jefferson's most influential songs, recorded in 1927 (+) and re-issued on LP 3 [Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music, track No. 76]. It included a "dig my grave with a silver spade / let me down with a golden chain" verse of which Dylan used a variation in some of the recordings of the song: "...with a bloody spade / please see that my digger gets well paid" (he also used this in Motherless Children). Dave Van Ronk had recorded See That My Grave... for Folkways shortly before Dylan's first recording.

Library of Congress collected two different versions... in Texas, by Smith Casey (Two White Horses Standin' In Line, 1939...) and Pete Harris (Blind Lemon's Song, 1934), both clearly based on Jefferson's recording.

Goergen Antonsson, Stealin', Stealin' -- Bob Dylan & The Blues (1960 to 1963), The Telegraph, No. 54, Spring 1996, p. 57.

NOTE:
(+)
Harry Smith, in his liner notes to Anthology of American Folk Music claims that the song was recorded in 1928 as Paramount 126088 (matrix No. 20374-1). Paul Oliver, in his The Meaning of the Blues (cf. next paragraph) lists the original issue as Paramount 12608, recorded Feb 1928.


After a life of hard toil..., of sweat and tears, death comes as a welcome release for many of the poorest Negroes... For years they may cherish the prospect of a splendid funeral... in which every sign of affluence and expense is evident, and in which the hearse is drawn by "white horses standing in line," and the coffin is lowered on a chain of gold.

Paul Oliver, The Meaning of the Blues, New York, 1972, p. 304


Lyrics as recorded by Bob Dylan, Columbia Studios, New York, NY, Nov 22, 1961 (take 4); also on "Minnesota Hotel Tape," Dec 22, 1961, Second Gaslight Tape, late 1962 and Second McKenzies' Tape, Apr 1963.

Transcribed by Manfred Helfert.


Well, there's one kind of favor I'll ask of you,
Well, there's one kind of favor I'll ask of you,
There's just one kind of favor I'll ask of you,
You can see that my grave is kept clean.

And there's two white horses following me,
And there's two white horses following me,
I got two white horses following me,
Waiting on my burying ground.

Did you ever hear that coffin sound,
Have you ever heard that coffin sound,
Did you ever hear that coffin sound,
Means another poor boy is under ground.

Did you ever hear them church bells toll,
Did you ever hear them church bells toll,
Did you ever hear them church bells toll,
Means another poor boy is dead and gone.

Well, my heart stopped beating and my hands turned cold,
Well, my heart stopped beating and my hands turned cold,
Well, my heart stopped beating and my hands turned cold,
Now I believe what the Bible told.

There's just one last favor I'll ask of you,
And there's one last favor I'll ask of you,
There's just one last favor I'll ask of you,
See that my grave is kept clean.


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