Crime Song Wednesday: Never Going Back to Memphis by Shemekia Copeland

This is the first installment of what will be a weekly column that focuses on crime songs.

It’s simple really. Regardless of genre there are a lot of songs about crime. And a lot of these songs are great crime fiction in their own right. So what I want to do is take a closer look at one song each week and see how it holds up as a piece of crime fiction. Maybe we can all be exposed to some new music along the way.

For each song we will post the lyrics and a clip of the song.

The basic questions will be What’s your opinion and is it successful as a crime story?

It would have been easy to kick this off with a Springsteen song (and we all know that we’ll see some Springsteen here) but instead I wanted to pick something that was perhaps a bit more unknown. This weeks installment looks at the great blues singer Shemekia Copeland and her song “Never Going Back to Memphis”.

After the jump check out a video clip of the song and the lyrics.

I think that the song evokes a certain charged imagery with a hard-boiled language . The tension is high and you are right there with her as she’s hiding out from the cops. The whole song really is pared down to its essential elements like any good hardboiled tale should be.

How about you, what do you think?

Never Going Back to Memphis by Shemekia Copeland

Walked across the room
In a neon light
Dark pair of shades
Blocking out the night

Smoke ring blowing
White Owl Panatella
There wasn’t a thing
That man couldn’t sell you

He kept a .45 in a Crown Royal bag
Wiped the fingerprints off
Handed me the rag

I’m never going back to Memphis
I’m never going back to Memphis

Little while later
Sirens started screaming
Felt like a nightmare
But you know I wasn’t dreaming

Cops walked in
Dog pulling on a chain
Looking for a woman
Ran in from the rain

They sat out front eating fried chicken
While I shivered in a shed
Out behind the kitchen

I’m never going back to Memphis
I’m never going back to Memphis

Don’t ask when
‘Cause I’m never going back to Memphis again

The river is rising
Sky’s getting darker
My mind keeps playing
Some old Junior Parker

Three days waiting
All alone by the tracks
Lying to myself
That man’s coming back

Said he’d come around
Unless he was dead
Guess he took another woman
Or a bullet in the head

I’m never going back to Memphis
I’m never going back to Memphis

Don’t ask when
‘Cause I’m never going back to Memphis again

Never going back
To Memphis again
Too much trouble
You can get in

Never going back
To Memphis again
Never going back
To Memphis again

If you want to suggest a song for future inclusion then drop me a line.

Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

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About Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

One thought on “Crime Song Wednesday: Never Going Back to Memphis by Shemekia Copeland

  1. I just heard this song on a cable TV music channel, and had to find the lyrics. This is just so damned cool.

    It reminds me of that song, “Can’t stop killing you”, by Kirsty MacColl.

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