THE TITANIC (WASN'T IT SAD WHEN THAT GREAT SHIP WENT DOWN)
(as recorded by LESLEY RIDDLE) (1960s-'70s)


LESLEY RIDDLE

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Lyrics as recorded by Lesley Riddle, guitar/vocals, 1960s-'70s, released on "Step By Step: Lesley Riddle Meets the Carter Family" (ROUNDER CD 0299, 1993); transcribed by Manfred Helfert.
Born on June 13, 1905 in Burnsville, North Carolina, Lesley Riddles makes almost a representative figure for much of black men's experiences in the first half of the twentieth century....
Like most of his fellows Lesley Riddle didn't have much education and, in any case, manual labor of one kind or another pretty much defined the occupational horizon for any black man or woman. He began his lifelong occupation as a common laborer early....
An accident at the cement plant, one of his first workplaces, changed his life and may well have generated his most serious engagement with music.... His foot slipped as he was stepping across an auger used in the mixing process. The injury was so bad that he lost his right leg to the knee....

Like many black men, recall the long list of black musicians known as "Blind," Lesley Riddle began to concentrate on making music while he was recovering from his injury. Throughout the Twenties, the decade after his accident, he played and sang in small string bands..., at churches and neighborhood gatherings.... It was during this time he met A. P. Carter and went and lived, off and on, at the Carter family homestead. In 1937 he got married and, following the pattern of his generation, moved north in 1942 to Rochester, N. Y. in search of better and more stable work than was available in the South.

He continued playing music for a while after the move, mostly at the Pentecostal Church to which he belonged, although he may have occasionally played with Son House who was also in Rochester at the time. He sold his guitar in 1945 because he couldn't find anyone to make music with, or no longer wanted to. His being found and recorded depended on another set of coincidences and on Mike Seeger's determination.... After much searching, Seeger eventually located Riddle, persuaded him to begin to play again... and to make the recordings now available....

Lesley Riddle died on July 13, 1980.

Barry O'Connell, liner notes for "Step By Step: Lesley Riddle Meets the Carter Family" (ROUNDER CD 0299, 1993).

Check out VERNON DALHART's variant and a printed variant of the same song.

CHORUS:
Wasn't it sad when that great ship went down?
Wasn't it sad when that great ship went down?
Well, husbands and wives
And their children lost their lives.
Wasn't it sad when that great ship went down?
When they was buildin' the ship,
They said what they could do,
They would build a ship
That water couldn't break through.
God with the power in His hand
Showed the world it could not stand.
Wasn't it sad when that great ship went down?

Well, the ship had just left England
It was makin' for the shore,
Rich had declared they wouldn't
Ride with the poor.
They put the poor below,
They were the first ones had to go.
Wasn't it sad when that great ship went down?

You know, it was then awful,
With those people on the sea.
Said they were singin' "Nearer, my God, to Thee."
They were homeward bound,
Fifteen hundred had to drown.
Wasn't it sad when that great ship went down?

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