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The Sky Is Crying (Elmore James)

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The Sky Is Crying (Elmore James)

It has been more than half a century since Elmore James bent over to pull up his socks before going out to play in an Chicago nightclub . . . and went face down on to the floor with his third and final heart attack. Although he was not widely known, the world lost a good one who left an immense legacy. Elmore James is a giant of the blues. His work as a songwriter, singer and guitarist put him near the top of the short list of greats. The songs he wrote and revived - “Dust My Broom”, “Cry For Me Baby” and “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” - are revered as blues standards. He recorded “The Sky Is Crying” in 1959, and it would go on to become another classic of the blues.

The Sky Is Crying

"The Sky Is Crying" is a slow-tempo twelve-bar blues notated in 12/8 time in the key of C. An impromptu song inspired by a Chicago downpour during the recording session, it features James' slide guitar work and vocals. James' unique slide guitar sound on the recording has generated some debate. Accompanying James is his longtime backing band, the Broomdusters: J. T. Brown on saxophone, Johnny Jones on piano, Odie Payne on drums, and Homesick James on bass.

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Elmore James & The Broomdusters

 

In 1959, enterpreneur from N.Y., BobbyRobinson was searching up talent in Chicago for his record company when he saw a cardboard sign on a club announcing "Elmore James Here Tonight". Robinson went in to ask if this were the Elmore James and even asked James to play "Dust My Broom" to prove his identity. The song was a good luck charm again for James, because Robinson wanted to record him.

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Bobby Robinson

 

The following day, James and his band met to rehearse in a band member's apartment. Robinson remembered that the landlady was cooking in the back while outside the rain was pouring down in buckets. Robinson was there when James spontaneously wrote "The Sky Is Crying". Robinson was so impressed that he called around for a studio and the song was recorded that very night.

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Elmore James

 

James, who started his recording career as an electric musician fronting a full band, opted for a loud, full sound seemingly before his peers. Though B. B. King integrated horns into his band, King was influenced by the uptown swing, even jazz, of musicians like Louis Jordan. For King, a full band lent polish to his sound, smoothing out the rough edges and filling out the gaps between just guitar and bassist and drummer.

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Sky is crying, single 1959

 

With James, it's hard not to believe sometimes that he wanted to front a band simply because a band with horns and piano could -- in his case, would -- be louder than a band without. As with the amps he customized so that he could wring more distortion and feedback from them (decades ahead of Spinal Tap), James's band actually intensified the rough edges of its leader's own cacophonous slide and sandpaper-on-gravel voice. Before Willie Dixon's poppy neoprimitivism shaped the Chess sound and while B. B. King used a band to echo jump and swing and jazz, James made the virtually unprecedented move of expanding to increase the hard force of his music.

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Elmore James

 

Though Elmore James is considered the “King of the Slide Guitar”, his influence reached to non-slide players as well. What’s interesting about “The Sky Is Crying” is that it became a signature tune for two other notable non-slide guitarists, Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

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Stevie Ray Vaughan plays The Sky Is Crying

 

Stevie Ray Vaughan almost single-handedly brought blues to the mainstream in the 1980’s and 90’s with over a dozen Billboard singles and four Grammy awards. He was an astute student of the blues and built his vocal and guitar sounds around many of the Texas players he grew up with, like W.C. Clark and Larry Davis. An undeniable influence was Albert King—especially his crisp staccato and elegant phrasing. Stevie Ray recorded “The Sky Is Crying” in 1985, but it wasn’t released until 1991, a year after he died. Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert King did a wonderful recording session together in 1983, which was also filmed and they was blazing through “The Sky Is Crying”.

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Elmore James’s blues standards helped bridge blues and rock 'n' roll. No less a personage than Little Richard, the self-proclaimed inventor of rock 'n' roll, admitted that, when he was starting out, there were only two musicians he knew of doing real rock: himself and Elmore James. Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones recounted how, when he first heard Elmore James, "it was like the earth shuddered and stopped on its axis". No wonder, then, that Stones bassist Bill Wyman has said that James was likely the single most important reason for the formation of the Rolling Stones. And no less than Rod Stewart has said that Elmore James was a major influence on his singing style.

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Johnny Winter plays The Sky Is Crying

 

“The Sky Is Crying”, listed as "Elmo James and His Broomdusters", reached number 15 on Billboard magazine's Hot R&B Sides chart in 1960, making it James' last chart showing before his death in 1963. In 1991, the song was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in the "Classics of Blues Recordings" category.

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Elmore James

 

Elmore James - The Sky Is Crying, lyrics


The sky is crying, look at the tears roll down the street
The sky is crying, look at the tears roll down the street
I'm waiting in tears looking for my baby, and I wonder where can she be?

I saw my baby one morning, and she was walking on down the street
I saw my baby one morning, yes she was walking on down the street
Made me feel so good until my poor heart would skip a beat

I got a bad feeling, my baby, my baby don't love me no more
I got a bad feeling, my baby don't love me no more
Now the sky's been crying, the tears rolling down my door

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Sky Is Crying

 

 

 

Stevie Ray Vaughan & Albert King - The Sky is Crying

Last Updated (Friday, 24 November 2017 16:30)

 

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