With a high-falutin' MacArthur genius grant backing up his down-home folk wisdom, Corey Harris is an eclectic Rasta-blues scholar for our time. The former schoolteacher and street musician recently commented on five of his favorite lyrics from his nine-LP career.
From "Frankie Doris" on the LP Downhome Sophisticate: I gonna take my taxes/buy me some axes / drive my car up to chocolate city / go to the White House/make it my house / you know my people built it for free ... "I wrote this song about a childhood friend of my mother's. Chocolate City is also known as Washington, D.C."
From "If You Leave Me Baby" on Fish Ain't Biting: If you leave me baby / I won't say you did me wrong / every shut eye ain't sleep / every goodbye ain't gone ... "Speaks for itself. Love ain't easy."
From "The Conquering Lion" on Blu Black: Remember Mussolini and the Vatican too / the sufferation they put Ethiopia through / airplanes overhead dropping mustard gas / how many innocent people done pass away / no evil in their hearts / war and bloodshed they never want to take part / little children where their lives never even start / and the elders and the patriots / for the Motherland/they could never give enough / just like Adowa/and then the heathen bit the dust / Rastafari say they gonna bust ... "A Rasta anthem honoring the sacrifices Ethiopians made to remain free."
From "Lynch Blues" on Greens from the Garden: Some like apples / they like cherry from the tree / but the fruit they like down home / gonna be the death of me ... "My folks told me about an uncle who was lynched in Arkansas long before I was born. I wrote this for him."
From "Belly of the Beast" on Father Sun Mother Earth: Took the land / from the people / took the people / from the land / see the red man hold out his hand / now he fighting hard as he can / see the Black man / from the East / he been sailing in the belly of a beast / living in the belly of the beast / weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth / from the west unto the east / living in the belly of the beast
"This song is a tribute to the ancestors who never stopped fighting."
Corey Harris and the Rasta Blues Experience appear with harmonic virtuoso Phil Wiggins and Detroit's Thornetta Davis at Callahan's in Auburn Hills on Saturday, March 17. Shows at 5:30 p.m. and 9:30, $30 either show, $50 for both. The shows are being taped for an American Music Research Foundation presentation on PBS. Callahan's Music Hall is at 2105 South Blvd., Auburn Hills, 248-858-9508, atcallahans.com.