St. James Infirmary Blues
I went down to old Joe's bar room
On the corner by the square.
Well, the drinks were bein' served as usual,
And this motley crowd was there.
Well, on my left stood Joe McKinney
And his eyes were bloodshot red.
When he told me that sad story,
These were the words he said:
I went down to the St. James infirmary,
I saw my baby there,
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.
Yes, sixteen coal black horses
To pull that rubber tied hack.
Well, it's seventeen miles to the graveyard
But my baby's never comin' back.
Well, now you've heard my story,
Well, have another round of booze
And if anyone should ever, ever ask you
I've got the St. James infirmary blues!
St. James Infirmary Blues, so famous in New Orleans, is actually a direct descendant of an old English pub song "The Unfortunate Rake" that recounts the death of a young gentleman from morally questionable causes. The St. James Hospital was a London leprosy hospital, at least until King Henry VIII torn it down to build St. James Palace.
There are almost as many singers of St. James Infirmary as there are versions of the lyrics. But all the versions end with death, the inevitable trip to the graveyard, and those stately coal black horses.