Married Man’s A Fool

Ry Cooder read The Good Book on married life: the song was written by Blind Willie McTell

By Stephen Pate – If you don’t listen to the blues, you’re gonna get the blues. When Bob Dylan sang “I know no one can sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell” I thought he was putting us on.

Dylan, as always, had a hidden meaning in that title possibly referring to Blind Willie McTell’s  ”Married Man’s a Fool”, an obscure song by an obscure blues artist.

I didn’t know Blind Willie McTell but I knew the blues.  McTell’s “Statesboro Blues” was a classic but I didn’t understand how Dylan was so impressed by him.

Dylan, who went through a bitter divorce in the late 1970′s would have learned a thing or two about married life and “Married Man’s A Fool” can be connected to that appreciation.

Dylan played ”Married Man’s a Fool” on Theme Time Radio, on the 8th episode covering the theme of Weddings.  Ironically, Dylan played the drôle Ry Cooder version not the original one by Blind Willie McTell, despite writing “no one can sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell“.

Dylan recorded ”Blind Willie McTell” in 1983 during the Infidels sessions. “Blind Willie McTell“, which is partly based on St. James Infirmary Blues, did not get released until 1991 on The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3: Rare And Unreleased. Married Mans A Fool  photo Imagine writing so many great songs that Dylan can just throw away a classic.

Fool # 1

You might wonder: where is this story is going?  Avoiding the song “Married Man’s A Fool” I was blindsided by reality.  I would skip the needle past “Married Man’s A Fool” but I could not skip what was coming.

Part religion and part did-not-want-to hear the song also stopped me from learning the song was written by Blind Willie McTell. I thought it belonged to Ry Cooder who liked sly blues songs.

In 1973 when Ry Cooder released “Married Man’s a Fool” on the album Paradise And Lunch, Married Mans A Fool  photo I was a young married man with a wife and 2 children. I was deeply religious and held strong views on the “sanctity” of the marriage vows. You know the vow about until “death do you part.”

The song “Married Man’s a Fool” made me cringe in horror. A wife would never cheat and wander from home.

I didn’t think it could happen. I got the blues big time when I learned the sad truth of the song. “He said a man’s a fool to think that his wife love nobody else but him. She stick by you all your life, the chances is mighty slim.”

My blind ignorance only made the blues worse when four years later I learned the hard way with the end of marriage # 1. “Married Man’s A Fool” was the real blues, sad and funny all at once.

Sad and funny all at once

The blues is based on the blue note, or flattened 3rd to a major third, and a 12 bar pattern. The connotation of the word “blues” is melancholia, the ”personal woes in a world of harsh reality: a lost love, the cruelty of police officers, oppression at the hands of white folk, [and] hard times” Ewen, David (1957). Panorama of American Popular Music. Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-648360-1.

The Blues singer, however, transcends the pathos of his/her life with humor, ironic and raunchy. The blues singer has a twinkle in their eye and double meanings in their words. It’s a compensation mechanism, to deal with the blues.  Singing is a release.

“Those for whom ‘‘blues’’ signifies a mood of ‘‘sadness’’ and ‘‘gloom’’ may be surprised to know that a large proportion of blues songs are humorous.” wrote Edward Komara in  Encyclopedia of the Blues.

“The repertoires of the classic blues singers like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey were leavened with humorous lyrics, and country blues artists of the same period also made great play with satire and humorous lyrics…  Blues over the years has rendered humorous such themes as infidelity, poverty, and jail by the same means found in comic literature the world over.” (page 476)

Blind Willie McTell recorded “Married Man’s a Fool” in his last recording session September 1956, on the album Last Session Married Mans A Fool  photo.

He was giving marriage and fidelity a preposterous send-up with the Deacon of the church delivering a sermon based on the Good Book, chapter and verse.

Had a friend, Louie Brown, he was a deacon,
Just as wise as he could be.
Now I realize he could read the Good Book
Back from Revelations down to Genessee.
You know last Sunday morning we was over to the church,
My buddy wants to take him a stand,
And he looks out upon that whole congregation
The Good Book in his hand.
Now he cast his eye about, and then he looks over in the Amen Corner;
All the sisters commenced to shout. [What'd he say ?]
He said a man’s a fool to think that his wife love nobody else but him.
She stick by you all your life, the chances is mighty slim.”

If Dylan believed ”no one can sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell” he no doubt also recognized Blind Willie McTell knew the blues you get when your wife leaves you for another man.

 Fool # 2

I should have gone to Deacon Louie Brown’s church and paid better attention. I was a fool again when I caught wife # 2 making eyes at some handsome fellow in church. Cast your mind on that one. I guess she read the “good book” – “Now you read a little further, chapter twenty-three: She two-time you, brother, like she double-crossed me.”

After 23 years, I could see it coming and I knew the song well by then. “She stand by you all of your life, the chances is mighty slim.”

Learning From Blind Willie McTell

This time I don’t ramble and I don’t roam. And I never leave my woman alone. If something needs attention, it gets done.

“Read kinda careful, chapter twenty-six:  Back door slamming, you got to run and get it fixed.”

“Cause a married man’s a fool to think that his wife will love no body else but him.”

And there ain’t no one can teach you the blues like Blind Willie McTell.

Married Man’s A Fool – Lyrics

Had a friend, Louie Brown, he was a deacon,
Just as wise as he could be.
Now I realize he could read the Good Book
Back from Revelations down to Genessee.
You know last Sunday morning we was over to the church,
My buddy wants to take him a stand,
And he looks out upon that whole congregation
The Good Book in his hand.
Now he cast his eye about, and then he looks over in the Amen Corner;
All the sisters commenced to shout. [What'd he say ?]
He said a man’s a fool to think that his wife love nobody else but him.
She stick by you all your life, the chances is mighty slim.

Now you read the Good Book, chapter twenty-one:

Every married woman got to have a little fun.
Read on over chapter twenty-two:
It’s a sin to let that woman make a fool outta you.
Now you read a little further, chapter twenty-three:
She two-time you, brother, like she double-crossed me.
Read on back, over chapter ten:
She shimmy one time, she like to wobble again.
‘Cause a man’s a fool to think that his wife
Love nobody else but him, I mean, love nobody else but him.

Well, a man’s a fool to think that his wife
Love nobody else but him.
She stand by you all of your life, the chances is mighty slim.
Now you read on over twenty-fifth page:
Married woman’s loyalty is hard to engage.
Read kinda careful, chapter twenty-six:
Back door slamming, you got to run and get it fixed.
Read on out, chapter twenty-eight:
Who’s that back slidin’ out through your back gate?
I believe I’ll close on chapter twenty-nine:
Woman get tired of the same man all the time.
‘Cause a man’s a fool to think that his wife love nobody else but him.

Words and music copyright Blind Willie McTell. Featured image which is not directly related to the story content Creative Commons Some rights reserved by Austin Moody. Follow me on Twitter at @sdpate or on Facebook at NJN NetworkOyeTimes and IMA News Buzz.

By Stephen Pate, NJN Network

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