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St. James Infirmary is an American folksong of anonymous origin. Sometimes it is attributed to the songwriter Joe Primrose (a pseudonym for Irving Mills). Louis Armstrongmade the song popular with his 1928recording. The funeral of a jazz musician starts traditionally with "St. James Infirmary", followed by one or more speeches, a solo or famous work of the late artist, one or more speeches and as a final "When the Saints Go Marchin' In".
"St. James Infirmary (Blues)" is based on an 18th-century traditional English folk song ' The Unfortunate Rake ' (also known as ' The Unfortunate Lad ' or ' The Young Man Cut Down in His Prime '). There are plenty of versions of the song known in the English-speaking world. It also had influence on the emergence of other American standards like "The Streets of Laredo". "The Unfortunate Rake" is about a sailor who squanders his money on prostitutes and then dies of a venereal disease. This same theme is taken up by different versions of the song, often with a moralising effect that a youth his health and his life screws up. In America were among those pernicious sins also gambling and alcohol mentioned in the text. The earliest versions were banned from the radio. Nevertheless took out the number several times later accolades.
The title is derived from St. James Hospital in London, a religious foundation for the treatment of leprosy. It was closed in 1532, when Henry VIII won on the country to St. James's Palace to be built. The text is about a soldier or sailor who just got out of the infirmary, where he visited the body of his girlfriend:
"She was stretched out on a long white table, so cold, and fine, and fair.'Let her go, let her go, God bless her, wherever she may be'She can search this world over, never find another man like me. "
Louis Armstrong, who first made a recording of the song on december 12, 1928 in Chicago, sang it with these words:
"When I die, I want you to dress me in straight-laced shoes'Box-back coat and a Stetson hat'Put a twenty-dollar gold piece on my watch chain,'So the boys will know that I died "standin' pat."
- Louis Armstrong and His Savoy Ballroom Five (1929, # 15)
- King Oliver and His Jazz Band (1930, # 9, with Bubber Miley (trumpet) and Frank Marvin (vocals)
- Cab Calloway and His Orchestra (1931, # 3)
- Artie Shaw and His Orchestra (1942, # 18, with Hot Lips Page (trumpet and vocals), and Ray Coniff (trombone)
A lot of orchestras and singers names St. James Infirmary on in their repertoire, so that it became a real "jazz standard": the orchestras of Benny Goodman , Count Basieand Stan Kenton, vocalists Billie Holiday andBing Crosby, organist Jimmy Smith, clarinetist Sidney Bechet, violinist Stuff Smith, saxophonist Ben Webster, trombonist/singer Jack Teagarden, guitarist Marc Ribot, and drummers Les McCann and Han Bennink;pianists Mary Lou Williams, Red Garland, Hank Jones and Steve Allen. Bob Mintzer Quartet with a took on in 2002, in 2003 the Marsalisbrothers with Harry Connick, Jr. on their cd and dvd; vocalist Nancy King andDiana Krall on the names respectively in 2002 and 2006.
In Netherlands is St. James Infirmary in 1964 on the plate by the Amsterdam pop group Johnny Kendall & the Heralds. In 2012, the song also appeared on the debut album by jazz band The Deeldeliers, a collaboration between Bas van Lier and Jules Deelder, which with befriended artists is included.