Rest in Peace, Mose.
A reprint from 2013.
Mose Allison was born in Tippo, MS. You can hear it in his voice, but how did he get so hip? It must have been the city. He moved to New York in 1958 and played and toured for 65 years. The joke has always been that he’s played everywhere. Greg Brown once sang, As I set up, I am proud to be here, Because once last November, Mose Allison played here. In Minneapolis alone, I think I must have seen him at four or five different venues, from the Guthrie Theater to that happy-hour dive in the basement on Hennepin Avenue. 65 years! Bob, you still have a ways to go.
Everybody Cryin’ Mercy
His mustache and early gray hair always marked him as a dapper guy who most likely drove an MG and knew about abstract art. He probably did, but it didn’t seem to match that southern drawl. In my early years of listening to him, I don’t think I understood who or what he was. So many assumptions. What was true was that he was a southern gentleman, who played constantly and unlike anyone else. And what about that voice? Who could be hipper or more aware of the weird moments and strange relationships that are everywhere, if you were awake to them? His piano style is a combination of down home funk and sophistication that provides a foundation fluid enough for his unmatched lyrics.
Ask Me Nice
Those lyrics go to the heart of the philosophical matter and speak the truth with unique wit and social criticism. Any lyrics to the songs that he played, but didn’t write, effortlessly became all his. No one could deliver them like he could – Drinkin’ and gamblin/ stayin’ out all night/ I’m just livin’ in a fool’s paradise. Or, Ain’t got no Basie with Lester/ I ain’t got nothing but the blues.
And what about his lyrics?
I don’t worry ‘bout a thing/ ‘cause I know nothin’s gonna to be all right. Your mind is on vacation and your mouth is working overtime. If you’re going to the city/ you better have some cash. One of these days, you know/ I’ve got to go back home/
I’m gonna sit out on my front porch/ and compose a poem. If you live/ your time will come . And –
I’m back on the corner/I’m right back on the corner/I’ve been in this condition so many times before. I don’t have no trouble livin’/It’s just dyin’ that bothers me. You’re uptight/ It ain’t right/ Well, tell me something that I don’t know.
I’m sitting over here on Parchman farm/ Ain’t never done no man no harm.
Stop this game, deal me out/I know too well what it’s all about/I know too well that it had to be/ Stop this game, you know it’s ruining me.
Your molecular structure, baby, ooowie!!!