O Death (for Ralph Stanley 1927-2016)

ralph photo s

some say yes
some say no

some welcome Death
some invite it
some force it to stay

some say wait
I’m not ready

some laugh at Death
some curse it

some are too surprised
to speak

is Death cold
or is it hotter
than Hell
or is it on
the borderline
hovering
between freezing
and melting

does Death have hands

does it embrace
or punch
does it strangle or
does it cradle

does it bathe
in darkness or
does it bathe
in light

is it a prayer

is it a question

what is this
that I can’t see

O
death

Ralph Stanley, who died last week at the age of 89, was a performer of traditional mountain music with a unique and powerful voice.  His popularity soared after his version of “O Death” was included in the film “O Brother Where Art Thou”.  Hearing him sing it will, to paraphrase Carole King, chill your soul right down to the marrow.  But his legacy reaches far beyond one song: using both his voice and his own banjo style, he helped nourish new generations of musicians to preserve the music of the Appalachian region, a singular blend of the songs of its many ancestors.

You can read the words to “O Death” and hear Ralph Stanley perform it here.

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About memadtwo

For more madness, follow me on Instagram @h_zimel

18 responses to “O Death (for Ralph Stanley 1927-2016)”

  1. Jodi says :

    so haunting and though provoking

    Liked by 1 person

  2. kirkistan says :

    Great image. I’m a fan of the late Ralph Stanley. Thank you for this, Kerfe.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. memadtwo says :

    Love him so much. “O Brother Where Art Thou” is one of my favorite movies of all time. Love your poem and the sketch really catches him. I think he had a great life.

    Like

  4. colorpencil2014 says :

    Hearing him singing ‘Oh Death” is blue grass to the core…his wailing voice, so simple so haunting, so full of pain! A wonderful tribute to a remarkable performer !

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lynz Real Cooking says :

    Wow the words are so thoughtful!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. davisbrotherlylove says :

    Thanks for posting Kerfe. Old Timey music (the precursor to Bluegrass) is one of my favorite kinds of music.
    j

    Liked by 1 person

  7. merrildsmith says :

    Great tribute. He was a treasure.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Charlie O'Shields (doodlewash) says :

    Amazing portrait and tribute to the man! Really well done, Kerfe.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. artandmoondreams says :

    A beautiful portrait and wonderful tribute. Really enjoyed the video of his performance, thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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