“Cock-a-doodle Blues”

Lyrics

[sung by T.R.]
Now when I was a lad just out of the shell
I thought that life was a bottomless well
But as time went on and the years flew by
I learned a class, that the well runs dry

You can start out life with a cock-a-doodle-doo
But you still wind up as a chicken stew
Just swimmin’ in gravy
carrots and collards
Old man Lardpork
Gummin’ on my gumbo
That’s why I’m singin’
The cock-a-doodle-doodle-doodle-doodle blues

Now I love you gals a great big bunch
But I won’t wind up as Lardpork’s lunch
I love you all, but it’s plain to see
I better leave ya now or it’s fricassee

Swimmin’ in gravy
carrots and collards
Old man Lardpork
Gnawin’ on my knee bones
That’s why I’m singin’
The cock-a-doodle-doodle-doodle-doodle blues

[spoken] Oh, Henny, the stories we could tell.

I remember the days when you and me
Could keep on dancin’ till half past three
We’d allemande left, we’d allemande right
We’d swing our partners half the night

Just to make sure that nothin’ was missin’
We’d cuddle all up for a little kissin’
I remember it all, I have to say
I remember it all like yesterday

[a hen, spoken] It was yesterday, you old faker.
[T.R.] Oo, so it was, by golly.

So, gals, I’ve come for to say goodbye
With a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye
I love you all, but it’s plain to see
I better leave ya now or it’s fricassee

Swimmin’ in gravy
[hens echo] Swimmin’ in gravy
Carrots and collards
[hens] Carrots and collards
Old man Lardpork
Wishin’ on my wishbone
That’s why I’m singin’
[hens] That’s why he’s singin’
The cock-a-doodle-doodle-doodle-doodle blues
[hens] The cock-a-doodle-doodle-doodle-doodle blues
The cock-a-doodle-doodle-doodle-doodle blues

 

Music by Jack Elliott, lyrics by Jerry Juhl

*Underlined words are my best guess at deciphering the lyrics, but I need your help to finish them. Comment with your own best guess, and we’ll complete the puzzle together like we did with The Tale of the Bunny Picnic.


“Cock-a-doodle Blues” from The Muppet Musicians of Bremen

This song comes when old T.R., like the rest of his buddies, has to run from his master who now perceives him as too old to be useful and tries to kill him. This is T.R.’s goodbye to all the hens he’s known and loved at home. They are are sad to see him go but still don’t let him get away with being too dreamy for the fun old days of dancing and kissing until the wee hours—”It was yesterday, you old faker.”

Despite being an up-tempo, square-danceable number, this song definitely has a melancholy thread. I don’t know if T.R. also sees himself as useless now in his old age, but “the well runs dry” speaks of feeling used up. But is it T.R. himself that’s used up? “You can start out life with a cock-a-doodle-doo/ but you still wind up as a chicken stew” says to me that what has really run dry is the audacious confidence of youth.

When you’re young, beautiful, and useful, it feels like you have infinite chances and possibilities. But at the end, when the world now sees you as dried up, it will will squeeze any last usefulness it can from you—even your life itself. If T.R. had been allowed to stay until the natural end of his life, his beloved hens might’ve given him hospice care, but Lardpork never would. To the master in power, T.R. is not a sentient, worthwhile being, full of history and dignity; he is a broken tool.

T.R. knows that an appeal for compassion or a demand for his rights would be useless. Trapped in a dangerous situation that cannot end well, his only option is to leave. At this point, he hasn’t met his new friends and has no plan for what he’ll do next. All he has is a conviction that what’s left of his life is still precious, even if to no one but himself.

So to all those who dare to see their own worth, to leave dangerous partners or parents or jobs, T.R. stands for Tenacious Rooster.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s