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Singin' the Broke Tooth Blues

If you're a fan of the blues, you probably know that they now have little mainstream appeal. Observers say the blues are now passé, past their prime, out of date. How can that be? Are pain, betrayal, broken hearts and discouragement out of date?

The blues came out of the rural black community in the late 1800's and early 1900's as field hollers and work songs. They were about the downtrodden, misery soaked side of life and they cried out about scorned love, cheating lovers, murder, injustice and just about all forms of pain known to the human experience. Some of the pioneers had colorful names like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Leadbelly and Muddy Waters.

But white, yellow, brown and red folks experienced pain too, and it wasn't long before there were blues singers of all colors. One current white notable blues man is known as Howling Wolf. His voice has been described as "like crude oil and gravel being fed through a meat grinder, then broadcast through a megaphone."

What brought the blues to mind was a trip to see the dentist last week because of a broken tooth. That's a subject of some pain, anxiety, disappointment and -- expense. It turned out the dental assistant was a young lady named, Nicole, who sings in a blues band. As far as I can tell, there has never been a blues song written on the subject of a broken tooth. Well, what can you do when your mouth is propped open, stuffed with cotton pads, you've been jabbed with needles, the grinders are grinding and tubes are sucking your slobber? The sound is not exactly a symphony -- it's a new variety of the blues. So the imagination gropes for a tune and the words to express what is happening. The tune is "Abilene," not exactly a blues tune, but it will do. And the words (drug induced) come out in the blues' standard four line, four stanza form like this:


Broke tooth blues, broke tooth blues

I gotta bad case of the broke tooth blues.

Pain runnin' down to my sorry shoes

It's broke tooth blues, broke tooth blues.

Feel that drill, ain't no thrill

Expect that bit to punch out o' my grill.

Don't put in no bolts or screws,

Leave the hardware out o' my broke tooth blues.

Broken tooth, broken heart,

It feels like I'm fallin' apart.

Hear me moan, hear me wail,

While I'm spitting chips into a pail.

Can you feel my pain, feel my pain,

Just been hit by a roarin' train.

When it's done, give me a pill

Then wipe my mouth and send the bill.

What did you expect? You knew the blues wouldn't be the Blue Danube -- it's more like muddy waters.