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TED2016

Silk Road Ensemble + Rhiannon Giddens: "St. James Infirmary Blues"

February 16, 2016

Singer Rhiannon Giddens joins international music collective Silk Road Ensemble to perform "St. James Infirmary Blues," spiking the American folk song that Louis Armstrong popularized in the 1920s with Romani influence and mischievous energy.

Rhiannon Giddens - Musician
With a rich voice and an equally rich sense of history, Rhiannon Giddens animates American folk tradition with her electrifying song interpretations. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
(Music)
00:12
I went down
01:28
to St. James Infirmary
01:30
To see my baby there
01:36
She was lying on a long wooden table
01:42
So cold, so still, so fair
01:49
I went up to see the doctor
01:57
"She's very low," he said
02:04
I went back to see my baby
02:10
Good God
02:18
she's lying there dead
02:20
I went down to old Joe's bar room
03:07
On the corner of the square
03:13
They were serving drinks as per usual
03:20
And the usual crowd was there
03:25
To my left stood Old Joe McKennedy
03:31
His eyes were bloodshot red
03:37
He turned to the crowd around him
03:42
And these are the words he said
03:47
"Let her go, let her go, God bless her
03:53
Wherever she may be
03:59
She can search
this whole wide world all over
04:03
But she'll never find another man like me
04:08
She can search
this whole wide world all over
04:14
And she'll never find
04:19
another man
04:23
like me
04:31
When I die, please God, bury me
04:46
In my ten-dollar Stetson hat
04:51
Put a twenty-dollar gold piece
on my watch chain
04:57
So my friends know I died standing pat
05:02
Get six gamblers to carry my coffin
05:08
And six choir girls to sing me a song
05:14
Stick a jazz band on my hearse wagon
05:20
To raise hell as I go along
05:25
Now that's the end of my story
07:32
Let's have another round of booze
07:42
And if anyone should ask you
07:48
Just tell them I got
07:55
the St. James Infirmary
08:00
blues
08:15
(Applause)
08:29

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Silk Road Ensemble - Musical explorers
With an eclectic repertoire spanning classical, improvisational and folk traditions from around the globe, the Silk Road Ensemble spins unique sounds that celebrate cultural solidarity.

Why you should listen

Inspired by the exchange of ideas and traditions along the historical Silk Road, cellist Yo-Yo Ma established Silkroad in 1998 to explore how the arts can advance global understanding. Since 2000, the Silk Road Ensemble has been at the core of Silkroad's work. Representing a global array of cultures, the Ensemble models new forms of cultural exchange through performances, workshops and residencies. The artists of the Ensemble draw on the rich tapestry of traditions from around the world that make up our many-layered contemporary identities, weaving together the foreign and familiar to create a new musical language.

The Ensemble performs throughout the world and has recorded six albums. "St. James Infirmary Blues" appears on its new album, Sing Me Home, which was developed and recorded alongside the new documentary feature The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble from Oscar-winning director Morgan Neville.

Silk Road Ensemble is: 

Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz (bass)
Johnny Gandelsman (violin)
Joseph Gramley (percussion)
Karen Ouzounian (cello)
Kojiro Umezaki (shakuhachi)
Michael Ward-Bergeman (accordion)
Reylon Yount (yangqin)
Evan Ziporyn (clarinet)

Rhiannon Giddens - Musician
With a rich voice and an equally rich sense of history, Rhiannon Giddens animates American folk tradition with her electrifying song interpretations.

Why you should listen

Since 2005, singer, fiddler and banjo player Rhiannon Giddens has been energizing audiences with her fiery performances with Grammy-winning string band Carolina Chocolate Drops. She's interpreted fragments of Dylan with the New Basement Tapes (along with fellow group members Elvis Costello and Marcus Mumford).

Now Giddens is lending her formidable, classically trained voice -- and her socially conscious sensibility -- to the American songbook. Tomorrow Is My Turn, her 2015 album of standards, celebrates songs made famous by feminine legends of jazz, folk and country.

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