JB Lenoir

JB Lenoir

5 March 1929 – 29 April 1967
“Born Dead”
JB Lenoir
(photo from All About Jazz site)
We typically don't associate the blues with protest music (unless we expand the definition of blues to mean just that...and in some ways that would be an easy expansion). JB Lanoir was occasionally a blues protest musician.

Before moving to Chicago and its musical influences in 1949, JB Lanior had New Orleans's musical cauldron to simmer in. 

In the early 50s he wrote "Korean Blues." Bordering on a protest song, JB Lanior's high-pitched vocals fooled some to think it was a woman's. The song is a straightforward statement of concern about his future in Korea as well as his woman's future without him.

Lord I got my questionnaire, Uncle Sam's gonna send me away from here
 Lord I got my questionnaire, Uncle Sam's gonna send me away from here
 He said J. B. you know that I need you, Lord I need you in South Korea


Sweetheart please don't you worry, I just begin to fly in the air
weetheart please don't you worry, I just begin to fly in the air
Now the Chinese shoot me mdown, Lord I'll be in Korea somewhere

I just sittin' here wonderin', who you gonna let lay down in my bed
 I just sittin' here wonderin', who you gonna let lay down in my bed
 What hurt me so bad, think about some man has gone in your bed.
It was Lanoir's "Eisenhower Blues" that caused a bit of a rumpus. Parrot Records, his label at the time, had to re-record the song and substitute the lyrics "tax-paying" instead of "Eisenhower." Here's the "controversial" original:
Hey everybody, I was talkin' to you
 I ain't tellin' you jivin', this is the natural truth

I got them Eisenhower blues
Thinkin' about me and you, what on earth are we gonna do?

My money's gone, my fun is gone
The way things look, how can I be here long?

I got them Eisenhower blues
Thinkin' about me and you, what on earth are we gonna do?

Taken all my money, to pay the tax
I'm only givin' you people, the natural facts
I only tellin' you people, my belief
Because I am headed straight, on relief

I got them Eisenhower blues
Thinkin' about me and you, what on earth are we gonna do?

Ain't go a dime, ain't even got a cent
I don't even have no money, to pay my rent
My baby needs some clothes, she needs some shoes
Peoples I don't know what, I'm gonna do

I got them Eisenhower blues
Thinkin' about me and you, what on earth are we gonna do?

 

JB Lenoir

He continued to sporadically release music and before his death [following a poor treatment from a car accident's injuries] Lanoir released "Vietnam Blues." It is a song lost among the dozens of songs written during that time protesting that war. It is powerful and important, nonetheless.

Vietnam Vietnam, everybody cryin' about Vietnam
Vietnam Vietnam, everybody cryin' about Vietnam
The law all the days [?] killing me down in Mississippi, nobody seems to give a damn

Oh God if you can hear my prayer now, please help my brothers over in Vietnam
Oh God if you can hear my prayer now, please help my brothers over in Vietnam
The poor boys fightin', killin' and hidin' all in holes,
Maybe killin' their own brother, they do not know

Mister President you always cry about peace, but you must clean up your house before you leave
Oh how you cry about peace, but you must clean up your house before you leave
How can you tell the world how we need peace, and you still mistreat and killin' poor me.
In 1965, he performed in the annual American Folk Blues Festival that toured Europe with top acts that were more popular in Europe than in the performers own USA.

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