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“Working in the Coal Mine – Lee Dorsey”

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COAL MINING IS DEADLY!

Working in the Coal Mine” is a song with music and lyrics by the American musician and record producer Allen Toussaint. It was an international hit for Lee Dorsey in 1966, and has been recorded by other musicians including Devo in 1981.

Lee Dorsey

After Toussaint returned to New Orleans from the US Army, in which he served from 1963 to 1965, he formed a production company, Sansu (also known as “Tou-Sea Productions”), with partner Marshall Sehorn. He produced a number of singles performed by Lee Dorsey in 1965 and 1966, including “Ride Your Pony” and “Working in the Coal Mine”.[1]

Written and arranged by Toussaint, the song concerns the suffering of a man who rises before 5 o’clock each morning in order to work in a coal mine, five days a week, where the conditions are very harsh and dangerous, but which offers the only prospect of paid employment. The singer repeatedly asks the Lord, “How long can this go on?” and complains that when the weekend arrives, he’s too exhausted to have any fun. In the instrumental section, as in the song’s fade, he says: “Lord, I’m so tired / How long can this go on?” The song features the sound of a pickaxe clinking, as if the musicians were working in a mine. The musicians were the Sansu studio band, including guitarist Roy Montrell, drummer Albert “June” Gardner, and bassist Chuck Badie.[2][3]

It was a hit for Lee Dorsey, released on Amy Records (catalogue number 958), and entered the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 on July 23, 1966, eventually peaking at #8, while reaching #5 on the Billboard R&B chart.[4] It also reached #8 on the UK Singles Chart.[5]

Toussaint said that neither he nor Dorsey had ever been down a coal mine: “We didn’t know anything about a coal mine”. He said of Dorsey: “He was very good to work with. Very inspiring because he had such a happiness about him. He loved what he was doing when he was singing. He was a body and fender man when he wasn’t singing and even at his peak, when he would come off the road at the end of a successful tour, he would go and get into his grease clothes, his dirty work gear and go and work on cars. Straightening out fenders and painting bodywork. But really it was his finest hour when he was singing. He was a very good person for me to work with and he totally trusted me every step of the way.”[6]

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“Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On)”

Lee Dorsey

Dorsey’s songs have been covered by artists as diverse as Petula Clark and Johnny Hallyday (“Ya Ya Twist”, a 1962 French version of “Ya Ya”) and Devo(“Working in the Coal Mine”). “Ya Ya” was covered on John Lennon’s Rock ‘n’ Roll album. “Get Out of My Life, Woman” (1966) was performed often by the Byrds (who based their instrumental “Captain Soul” on it), the Jerry Garcia Band, also predated the boom bap beat of the 90s Hip Hop; and Robert Palmerhad a hit with “Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley”. His version of the Allen Toussaint song “Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On)” is referenced in the Beastie Boys’ song “Sure Shot”, with the lyric “Everything I do is funky like Lee Dorsey.” “Ya Ya” was spoken by Cheech Marin in Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie, as he was waiting for his girlfriend.

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“Ya Ya- Lee Dorsey-original song-1961”

“Ya Ya” is a song by Lee Dorsey. The song was written by Lee Dorsey, Clarence Lewis, Morgan Robinson and Morris Levy. Levy’s participation in the writing has been previously called into question. In fact, the Flashback release of the single (image) lists only Dorsey and Lewis as writers, as do the liner notes to the American Graffiti soundtrack.

The song was inspired by a children’s nursery rhyme.

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