10. Toby

DELIA’S GONE – MURDER BALLADS & OTHER SONGS OF LOVE & DEATH – a video album TRACK # 10. TOBY By Brien Lavene Arranged and adapted by Marc Nerenberg Brien Lavene was a war resistor during the Viet Nam war,…

10. Toby

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DELIA’S GONE – MURDER BALLADS & OTHER SONGS OF LOVE & DEATH – a video album
TRACK # 10. TOBY
By Brien Lavene
Arranged and adapted by Marc Nerenberg

Brien Lavene was a war resistor during the Viet Nam war, who ended up in Montreal, like so many other young men of his generation. He became part of a thriving community of war resistors who gravitated to a war resistor resource centre on the second floor of the building of a socially conscious youth organization called “The Yellow Door”. It was in that era that the basement of that building became “The Yellow Door Coffeehouse”, a folk music venue that is still there, and which had a large population, in those days, of war resisting musicians. That was where I met Brien, and we became friends, and also where I heard him sing this song when he just written it. When the “draft dodger amnesty” came a few years later, Brien was one of the many who returned home, and that’s about when I learned his song and kind of developed my own way of playing and interpreting it. Brien came back to Montreal once, to perform at the 10th Anniversary celebration of The Yellow Door Coffeehouse. I also performed at that, and I played this song. That was the only time Brien ever heard me sing it, and he told me afterwards that he liked what I had done with it. That was the last time I ever saw or spoke to Brien, and I learned of his death a few years ago. At that point, I took up singing this song again, and over time, my arrangement continued to evolve musically, becoming somewhat darker and melancholic. Then, bass player, Jimmy Dobbins, who lives in California, who used to play with both Brien and I back in the day, in Montreal, sent me some lyrics from an unfinished song of Brien’s that he remembered – and those lyrics have now become part of my version of this song.

LYRICS:
Well, there was real live action in that barroom.
There was real hard money in the pot,
When they found old Toby with that fifth ace, up his sleeve,
And they shot him through the head, bless his heart.

And it was dealing he lived. And it was dealing he died.
Yeah it was dealing he lived. And it was dealing Toby died.

But I ain’t gonna be no pauper when I die.
Oh, I might stoop to sin – but I don’t lie.
And I ain’t gonna be no back street walker, no I ain’t.
And I ain’t gonna be no pauper when I die.

Yeah, with one roll of the dice I could be finished.
But I never try to play above my style.
Yet I could stand on any corner here, in this old town of yours,
And pick out every sucker for a mile.

When I was young, I knew this gambling man called Toby.
Toby said he was the very best around.
He said, “Kid, you stick with me, you’ll learn this gambler’s trade,
And the hottest spots to make your deal go down.”

And it was dealing he lived. And it was dealing he died.
Yeah, it was dealing he lived. But it was dealing Toby died.

Now, Toby dragged me halfway ‘cross the country.
He said to stay too long one place was bucking the odds.
And he always knew the very best of bordellos.
In a game of stud, he showed the confidence of the gods.

From Little Rock, we hitched a train to Memphis
Toby knowed a club near Beale where we could score.
And them high yaller women sure was appealing.
You could hear the bones – rolling ’cross the floor.

Well, we set up at a table in the corner,
To commence another Saturday gambling show.
And the blues band was singing about a mojo.
There was a yell, and then I heard the forty-four.

And that’s when dealing he lived. That’s when dealing he died.
That’s when dealing he lived. That’s when dealing Toby died.

Yeah, there was real live action in that barroom.
There was real hard money in that pot,
When they caught old Toby with that fifth ace up his sleeve,
And they shot him through the head, bless his heart.

But I ain’t gonna be no pauper when I die.
Oh, I might stoop to sin – but I don’t lie.
And I ain’t gonna be no back street walker, no I ain’t.
And I ain’t gonna be no pauper when I die.

Arrangement and adaptation © 2019 Marc Nerenberg

Audio album on CD Baby, iTunes, Spotify and many other of your favourite places to buy, stream or steal music.

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