St. James Infirmary Blues

At first I heard the St. James Infirmary Blues by Louis Armstrong in the fifties. But then, 20 years later, my own wife nearly died during giving birth to our second daughter. I was in the hospital in that night and the floor was covered with blood.

Café Blues
photo by frizztext: Café in New York with a Louis Armstrong portrait on the wall
“It was down in Old Joe’s barroom / On the corner by the square / The usual crowd was assembled / And big Joe McKinney was there… I went down to the St. James Infirmary / I saw my baby there / She’s laid out on a cold white table / So so cold, so white, so fair.”
St. James Hospital was a leper hospital in London. Written in England in the 18th century as “The Unfortunate Rake”, the ballad was sung both in the UK and the US.


  • Some cases of serious hospital situations, caring for a loved one, in your memories?
  • Yourself in a hospital, seriously ill, once – but now outside again, surviving?

Louis Armstrong’s version – with movie:

Joe Cocker’s version:

listen to an audio-file: Gypsy Jazz Version!

I like the Gypsy musician’s blog at

About frizztext

writer, photographer, guitarist

28 responses to “St. James Infirmary Blues

  1. You keep changing your template Frizz. One day, I’ll stop by and think you’ve moved. 😆


    • dear Eliz, I’ll try to stay open, have versatility, but the goal is not to change daily template, pattern, model, stencil, routine, stereotypes: like a rock in the ocean remains for me the wish: to create messages which can be understood in every nation. Sometimes photography is needed, sometimes certain words – but a good way more and more seems to be music. Armstrong always has a chance to reach the heart of everyone – from Moscow to Calcutta, Beijing to Rio de Janeiro, from Tokyo to Berlin: not Lance, the king of bicycles, with his drugs, not the man on the moon (Neil: maybe he wasn’t there and it was a big propaganda trick, filmed in London studios by Stanley Kubrick – so many journalists say in Europe); but Louis – he opens every heart – though he is already dead – R.I.P. P.S.: he thaught, he could watch us from heaven, if we talk about him: maybe he does …


  2. In my profession as a surgeon i saw a lot of bad things
    And you wonder why this all happened
    And there is no answer
    you can only accept what happend
    And you have to live with this reality


  3. In my flickr stream you can find some pictures with this theme
    For example:
    the end


  4. SimplySage

    My father-in-law nearly died last month from West Nile Virus. He was in the hospital, mostly ICU for one entire month. It was frightening and sad to watch him suffering as it progressed to encephalitis. He is home recovering with 24-hour home care, but is still very weak. Weak, yes, but so happy to still be with us. And we are very happy, too!


  5. Liked your rendition, but don’t be offended when I say that that Mr. Armstrong did it better. I love the way he takes sadness and goes past melodramatic to the sublime. It is a great great song. and always great to play.


    • thank you, Stephen, for your description: Louis Armstrong “…takes sadness and goes past melodramatic to the sublime…” – maybe the version of Joe Cocker is more pompous, bombastic – not really sad? Of course we do not praise my version – it was only a lifelong daily reminder for me, that we all can’t live forever – and that there will be a great sadness come to the very end …


  6. How terrifying to have experienced that. Your wife recovered and the child was okay, I hope? I enjoyed this song–very sad, but compelling.


    • hi Naomi, 2 of 10,000 have this complication (sudden Haemophilia: stats: one woman dies, the other survives), that suddenly the blood keeps flowing; they poured many liters in – and they came out again for two hours (still remained: lifelong liver complications) she stayed infected by the blood transfusions; baby O.K., the baby is grown up: an architect now, aged nearly 40, two sons – but since then we all know: it all can end in minutes…


  7. Amy

    Sorry to hear what your wife had to go through…
    Enjoy the best of by Frizzguitar. Thank you!!


  8. veraersilia


    Some cases of serious hospital situations, caring for a loved one, in your memories?

    Yourself in a hospital, seriously ill, once – but now outside again, surviving?

    YES to both, but I am not ready to talk about either event in a public forum.


  9. veraersilia

    And Frizz, please stay versatile so we have to catch you on the wing.My very best to your family !! 🙂 v.


  10. Your rendition is beautiful.
    Some stories are too sad to tell. I’m hoping all went well in the end for you and yours.


  11. My husband love Louis Armstrong. He plays his trumpet and corne with him on many occasions. He always plays and sings it to me when he plays his clarinet. I love the song. I want to have a New Orleans funeral. I think they have thr gith idea about death. Thanks for posting the videos … myhusband had never seen the first one … and … he is all over the You Tube looking for JAzzz. I wish we would see more musicians playing JAzz. Thanks for keeping it alive. Love this post.


  12. Sounds like it was a frightening experience for you.
    I’ve had nightmare experiences in a hospital within the last 3 years. Too many times in the hospital and too many surgeries for me. The last time in the hospital, I was in very bad shape and in excruciating pain all over my body, but they could not figure out what was wrong. I was debilitated and nonfunctional and was still sent home and told by doctors they couldn’t do any more for me. Later, I found alternative treatments that is helping to figure out what is wrong. The treatments are helping and I’m gradually improving. I’m better off now than if I hadn’t fortunately found the alternative treatments. These practitioners truly care about helping me. iI still have a long way to go. I’ve posted about some of this in another blog of mine, hopefully to heighten awareness.


  13. That hospital episode sounds terrifying Frizz. I have too many horrid memories of hospitals involving loved ones. I would rather listen to your lovely music 🙂


  14. to escape from fear and sorrows via music: I can understand you, Madhu!


  15. Pingback: Hospital Impressions | Flickr Comments

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  17. Pingback: St. James Infirmary | Every Day Another Story

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