Tag Archives: Appalachia

Ralph Stanley and “O Death”

ralph-stanley

In a 2008 interview, Ralph Stanley recalled his participation in the soundtrack of the film O brother, where art thou?, which brought him a level of international recognition that he had never dreamed ofparticularly for his haunting rendition of the traditional Appalachian spiritual O Death.

T-Bone Burnett had several auditions for that song. He wanted it in the Dock Boggs style. So I got my banjo and learned it the way he did it…I went down with my banjo to Nashville and I said, “T-Bone, let me sing it the way I want to sing it,” and I laid my banjo down and sung it a cappella. After two or three verses, he stopped me and said, “That’s it.”

Quoted in “Old-time man” by Don Harrison (Virginia living June 2008, pp. 54–57).

Today would have been Ralph Stanley’s 90th birthday! Below, a performance from later in his career. (Can anyone tell us the place and date? We wonder if it’s his performance for the 2006 National Medal of Arts ceremony.)

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Digital Library of Appalachia

Produced by the Appalachian College Association, the Digital Library of Appalachia provides online access to archival and historical materials related to the culture of the southern and central Appalachian region. The database’s contents are drawn from special collections of Appalachian College Association member libraries.

Above, the Bog Trotters Band in Galax, Virginia, in 1937. Below, the legendary Roscoe Holcomb at home in Kentucky.

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Filed under North America, Resources, World music