Saturday, September 26, 2009

St. James Infirmary

Here's one of those moments of synchronicity. A couple of days ago I commented on British and Australian actors using American accents for American television programs. I mentioned actor Hugh Laurie.

Laurie was on the Jay Leno Show Friday night, using his real accent. Leno has a feature called "Earn That Plug" for actors who are there to plug a movie or TV show. The actor has to do something to pay Leno for letting him advertise his project. Laurie played the piano and sang a shortened version of "St. James Infirmary," an old folk song which morphed into a blues song and then a standard.

Here are three great versions by three different acts. Cab Calloway did a popular version in the 1930s.

A more modern version is by Dr. John and Eric Clapton from the mid-1990s, who give it a treatment with Clapton's smoking guitar work. The New Orleans treatment by Louis Armstrong lifts this version above the others, in my opinion. But it's a great song, and each of these versions is terrific.

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