With the thermometer hitting record single digits here in Southwest Virginia, the weatherman threatening negative double-digits overnight, and a Facebook conversation getting me thinking of Robert W. Service, I went looking for my old LP of Debby McClatchy singing a couple of his poems set to banjo tunes. (It’s “Lady Luck,” out of print, but she will sell you a copy at her website.)
Haven’t found a YouTube clip of her performing the poem, but stumbled on these instead. Light a fire and enjoy…
Johnny Cash – Cremation of Sam McGee:
And if that’s not enough irony for you, here’s a version by Hank (ahem) Snow..
And a dramatized reading, with plenty of Klondike atmosphere:
Want to read along? Here’s the text:
I also found a Project Gutenberg copy of the first tattered leather-bound 1909 collection of Robert Service poems I ever owned,
“Ballads of a Cheechako.”.
It does not have Sam McGee, but it does have the “Ballad of Blasphemous Bill,” almost a sequel, which I recommend highly.
I took a contract to bury the body of blasphemous Bill MacKie,
Whenever, wherever or whatsoever the manner of death he die—
Whether he die in the light o’ day or under the peak-faced moon;
In cabin or dance-hall, camp or dive, mucklucks or patent shoon;
On velvet tundra or virgin peak, by glacier, drift or draw;
In muskeg hollow or canyon gloom, by avalanche, fang or claw;
By battle, murder or sudden wealth, by pestilence, hooch or lead—
I swore on the Book I would follow and look till I found my tombless dead.