Friday, August 20, 2010
The Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
There's a superstition, stemming from ancient folklore, about "seventh sons" being especially magickally powerful and lucky, and about the "seventh son of a seventh son" being even more gifted with supernatural abilities.
These abilities, depending on the culture, are sometimes alternately described as Christ-like or Satanic. Some attribute the concept of the seventh son to Ireland, but the meme turns up in many parts of the world. In Latin America, for instance, it's widely believed that the seventh son of a seventh son will be a werewolf. In Romania, it was once believed that vampires were often seventh sons of seventh sons.
Bluesman Willie Dixon wrote "The Seventh Son", a brilliant song based on the idea. Said Dixon in an interview late in his life, "The seventh son is part of the scriptures of the Bible. 'The seventh son of the seventh son born on the seventh hour of the seventh day of the seventh month.' I was born in the seventh month and I was the seventh child of my family."
Despite Dixon's claim, there are no clear-cut references in the Bible to a seventh son being a superman, although 1 Chronicles 2:15 does mention in passing that David was Jesse's seventh son: "And Jesse became the father of Eliab his first-born, then Abinadab the second, Shimea the third, Nethanel the fourth, Raddai the fifth, Ozem the sixth, David the seventh." It could be argued that David was something of a superman, defeating Goliath and becoming a King against all odds. David is a very important figure in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.
Willie Mabon recorded "The Seventh Son" for Chess Records in 1955. Jazz hipster Mose Allison did a great version. According to some sources, Bill Haley has also recorded it, and I'd love to hear it.
Johnny Rivers built a reputation in the 1960s for recording swinging and swaggering Americana numbers such as "Love Me While You Can", "It Wouldn't Happen With Me", "Maybelline", "Whisky a Go-Go", "One Man Woman", "Memphis", "A Man Can Cry", "High Heel Sneakers", "Walking the Dog" and "Cupid". Dixon's peculiar piece of paranormal machismo was right up Johnny's alley, and many (like me) believe the Johnny Rivers version to be the crowning glory of his career.
Country-folk weirdo Roger Miller recorded his hit song "Dang Me" in 1964, with the couplet "I'm the seventh out of seven sons/My pappy was a pistol, I'm a son of a gun".
(Interestingly, Johnny Rivers covered that too.)
1940s/1950s pop crooner Perry Como was a seventh son of a seventh son. While Mr. Como was very suave in his own way and recorded some awesome tunes (like "Glendora", "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes", "For the Good Times", "Hot Diggity", "Magic Moments" and "Papa Loves Mambo"), we know of no reports of him possessing messianic qualities.
He did, however, set a world's record for the first-ever live concert radio broadcast from a moving plane. In the photo at top, Como and the Lloyd Shaffer Orchestra are broadcasting live from an airborne TWA Constellation on April 5, 1946.