Sunday, January 11, 2009


In Dickens' oirginal story, when Jacob Marley's ghost appeares he lays out for Scrooge what amounts to a sort of "theology" regarding to what happens to the spirits of the wicked when they die: because these spirits never 'wandered' out among their fellow men while alive, attempting to relieve human suffering, they are now consigned to wander the earth, witnessing human suffering but tortured by the realization that they are now unable to offer any assistance.

In "A Southern Christmas Carol," these ideas related directly to the audience through the song "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked." Here are the lyrics:

"There ain’t no rest for the wicked
Even when they’re dead!
There ain’t no rest for the wicked,
They’re doomed to wander instead!

"There ain’t no rest for the wicked!
They got no eternal home!
Weepin’ and wailin’ and gnashin’ their teeth,
The wicked are doomed to roam!

"You can lay ‘em in a coffin
And nail down the lid
But you just can’t keep a bad man down!
You can plant ‘em in the ground
But their spirit’s not there!
No, you just can’t keep a bad man down!

"Forced to wander
Weighed down by sin!
Moanin’ and groanin’
For the mess that they’re in!
Forced to wander
On the wings of the wind!
No, you just can’t keep a bad man down!

"There ain’t no rest for the wicked!
Ain’t no rest at all!
Ain’t no rest for the wicked!
The wicked are the weariest of all!"

When this song was first performed for Steve Hacker (the arranger and pianist for the show's original 2003 production), he remarked: "This sounds more like a Halloween song, than a Christmas song." And, indeed, that was the intention.

Southern culture has a long tradition of ghost stories. Especially in the African American and Cajun cultures of the Deep South, one finds religious and folk-magic traditions thay mingle such infleunces as evangical Christianity, Catholicism and voodoo. This mixture is found, particularly, in the area of New Orleans--the city that, more than any other, in the first decades of the twentieth century developed Jazz, the Blues and Dixieland Jazz.

The feel of "Ain't No Rest For the Wicked" is reminiscent of Louis Armstrong's early 1930's hit, "The Skeleton In the Closet" (pictured below.)

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