Monday, March 16, 2009

Coffee: Ballads and Blues

America's popular music composers have saturated the lyrics with coffee references - some romantic and optimistic, some forlorn, and one clearly a lesson in geo-politics and economics, commenting on our long and indelicate history with Brazil and her coffee. This song is best remembered as it was performed by Frank Sinatra, circa 1942 (lyrics by Bob Hilliard and Dick Miles):

Way down among Brazilians
Coffee beans grow by the millions
So they've got to find those extra cups to fill.
They've hot an awful lot of coffee in Brazil.
The politician's daughter
Was accused of drinking water

And was fined a great big fifty dollar bill.
They've got an awful lot of coffee in Brazil.

Clara Smith (born Spartanburg, SC, 1894-1935)
Clara Smith, an early blues singer, was not as widely recognized as Bessie Smith (no relation) but recorded many hits for the Columbia label with stars like Louis Armstrong and Freddie Jenkins. Her she creates a sensual metaphor about her lost lover, using the old fashioned coffee mill of that time. This song was written by Fats Waller, sometime between 1922 and 1926, and recorded by Clara Smith:

"Ain't Got Nobody to Grind My Coffee"
Once I had a loving daddy
Just as good as he could be

But I haven't got a daddy

He's done gone away from me.
And since he left me behind
Here's what's on my mind, I find:

Ain't got nobody to grind my coffee in the morning
Ain't got nobody to serve my breakfast in bed
My daddy went away
A week ago today
How'm I gonna find a-
Nother coffee grinder
Who could do my grinding like my sweet man could?

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