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St James Infirmary Blues - Chords, Lyrics and Origins

Origins

An interesting mixture of jazz, blues and folk, St James Infirmary Blues was seemingly based on the British folk song, 'The Unfortunate Rake'.  The best known recording is by Louis Armstrong, though there is an earlier recording by Fess Williams.  Tom Jones and Jules Holland have also recorded it recently.  See the YouTube video that has been embedded on this page for a lesson about how to play St James Infirmary Blues on the guitar.

Chords

   Am7                       E7            Am7
I went down to St. James Infirmary   

Am7           F       E7
To see my baby there;


                Am7         E7                Am7
She was lying on a long white table,

      Am7         F9          E7
So sweet, so cool, so fair.



 Am7            E7         Am7

Went up to see the doctor,

Am7             F             E7
"She's very low," he said;


           Am7     E7         Am7
Went back to see my baby -

           Am7           F9                E7
Good God! She's lying there dead.

Lyrics

I went down to St. James Infirmary
To see my baby there;
She was lying on a long white table,
So sweet, so cool, so fair.

Went up to see the doctor,
"She's very low," he said;
Went back to see my baby - 
Good God! She's lying there dead.

I went down to old Joe's barroom,
On the corner by the square.
They were serving the drinks as usual,
And the usual crowd was there.

On my left stood old Joe McKennedy,
And his eyes were bloodshot red;
He turned to the crowd around him,
These are the words he said:

"Let her go, let her go, God bless her;
Wherever she may be;
She may search the wide world over,
And never find a better man than me.

Oh, when I die, please bury me
In my ten dollar Stetson hat;
Put a twenty-dollar gold piece on my watch chain
So my friends'll know I died standin' pat.

Get six gamblers to carry my coffin,
Six chorus girls to sing me a song;
Put a twenty-piece jazz band on my tail gate
To raise Hell as we go along."

Now that's the end of my story -
Let's have another round of booze,
And if anyone should ask you just tell them
I've got the St. James Infirmary blues.

Other American Folk Songs
Other Traditional Folk Songs