I love to hear old songs that are about something besides love. The love songs are great, and timeless, of course. But it’s more thrilling to hear about real, dark sides of life. We know that the 30′s and 40′s were just as awash in sex, drugs and alcohol as any other time, but we don’t expect the entertainment of the time to be honest about those things. What today would be a hookup song, would be disguised as something about love. We think that writing openly and truthfully about suffering, addiction, and sexuality was invented sometime in the 60′s. But that’s a misconception. There were plenty of bawdy drinking songs, and sad paeans to ruinous addiction in the old days. They just used more euphemistic language. It was especially true of what was then known as ‘race music’ -blues and jazz recordings by black artists could get away with a level of honesty that mainstream white artists couldn’t dream of. This song isn’t particularly racy, but it’s not wholesome either. It’s a slice of life in a neighborhood bar, written in 1933 by Wesley Wilson for Bessie Smith. Smith, and later Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, sings about getting comfy at the bar, listening to music and drowning in her sin. (Of course, Billie Holiday’s sin was a lot worse that a bottle of beer, or even gin.) In ’33 it wasn’t exactly respectable for a lady to eat dinner alone at a corner bar, unless it was up in Harlem. The song is a window on a specific time and place, life in 30′s Harlem, its own society.