O Death – An Appalachian Dirge for Memorial Day

Ralph Edmond Stanley was born, grew up, and lives today in rural southwestern Virginia—”in a little town called McClure at a place called Big Spraddle, just up the holler” from where he moved in 1936 and has lived ever since. He is known in the world of bluegrass by the popular title, “Dr. Ralph Stanley.” Stanley’s work was featured in the 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou? in which he sings the Appalachian dirge “O Death.”

With that song, Stanley won a 2002 Grammy award.

O, Death
O, Death
Won’t you spare me over til another year
Well what is this that I can’t see
With ice cold hands takin’ hold of me
Well I am death, none can excel
I’ll open the door to heaven or hell
Whoa, death someone would pray
Could you wait to call me another day
The children prayed, the preacher preached
Time and mercy is out of your reach
I’ll fix your feet til you cant walk
I’ll lock your jaw til you cant talk
I’ll close your eyes so you can’t see
This very air, come and go with me
I’m death I come to take the soul
Leave the body and leave it cold
To draw up the flesh off of the frame
Dirt and worm both have a claim
O, Death
O, Death
Won’t you spare me over til another year
My mother came to my bed
Placed a cold towel upon my head
My head is warm my feet are cold
Death is a-movin upon my soul
Oh, death how you’re treatin’ me
You’ve close my eyes so I can’t see
Well you’re hurtin’ my body
You make me cold
You run my life right outta my soul
Oh death please consider my age
Please don’t take me at this stage
My wealth is all at your command
If you will move your icy hand
Oh the young, the rich or poor
Hunger like me you know
No wealth, no ruin, no silver no gold
Nothing satisfies me but your soul
O, death
O, death
Wont you spare me over til another year
Wont you spare me over til another year
Wont you spare me over til another year

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