Tag Archive | portait

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.