My fiddle class (taught by the stellar Cathy Clasper-Torch) just started learning Saint James Infirmary a couple of weeks ago. Okay, I prodded and wheedled, and so she taught it to us. I had heard the song in an old Betty Boop animation by the Fleischer Brothers, drawn by Roland Crandall, performed by Cab Calloway and his band.
Later, while browsing my friend Ysanne's website (ilovestrings), I heard her new version with David J., and I had to use it on my demo reel.
So, yes, I geek out about this song.
And then, happy day, today I heard one of my favorite actors, Hugh Laurie (of Jeeves and Wooster and House, M.D. fame) discuss and perform a tidbit of the music on Fresh Air. If you want to listen for it, it's in the last three minutes of the interview.
He says that it could have originally been an English song, about the infirmary that was once in the Saint James Palace, although he only learned it through Louis Armstrong.
Wikipedia (yay!) goes on to mention that this infirmary was dedicated to leprosy in the 1500s...
The song was also known as "The Unfortunate Rake." Makes me think of David Hockney, and his series of etchings for The Rake's Progress.
For more of my posts on fiddle tunes: Improving on the Fiddle, Giraffes and, well, fiddle songs about drugs, House Sings Saint James Infirmary, Ashokan Fall, Setauket, a Mystery So Far, Fiddle Advice, Noveling Novelties, and Wildness, Learning Vibrato as an Adult, and Improving on the Fiddle.
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