Alabama Song

Jim Morrison with a little girl
Jim Morrison with a little girl

The poem “Alabama Song” (also known as “Moon of Alabama,” “Moon over Alabama,” or “Whisky Bar”) was first written in German by Bertolt Brecht, then translated into English by Elisabeth Hauptmann in 1925. Kurt Weill set it to music for the 1927 musical play Mahagonny-Songspiel. The song was finally included in their 1930 opera Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny). It is sung in Act I by alcoholic prostitutes, they are craving first for a ‘whiskey bar,’ then for a ‘little boy’ (in the 1930’s, this designated a bottle format), and finally for a ‘little dollar:’

Alabama Song
lyrics by Bertolt Brecht, music by Kurt Weill

Oh, show us the way to the next whiskey bar!
Oh don’t ask why,
Oh don’t ask why!
For we must find the next whiskey bar
For if we don’t find the next whiskey bar,
I tell you we must die,
I tell you we must die,
I tell you, I tell you,
I tell you we must die!

Oh moon of Alabama
We now must say goodbye
We’ve lost our good old mama
And must have whiskey
Oh, you know why.

Oh moon of Alabama
We now must say goodbye
We’ve lost our good old mama
And must have whiskey
Oh, you know why.

Oh show us the way to the next little boy!
Oh don’t ask why,
Oh don’t ask why!
For we must find the next little boy
For if we don’t find the next little boy,
I tell you we must die,
I tell you we must die,
I tell you, I tell you,
I tell you we must die!

Oh moon of Alabama
We now must say goodbye
We’ve lost our good old mama
And must have boys
Oh, you know why.

Oh moon of Alabama
We now must say goodbye
We’ve lost our good old mama
And must have boys
Oh, you know why.

Oh show us the way to the next little dollar!
Oh don’t ask why,
Oh don’t ask why!
For we must find the next little dollar
For if we don’t find the next little dollar,
I tell you we must die,
I tell you we must die,
I tell you, I tell you,
I tell you we must die!

Oh moon of Alabama
We now must say goodbye
We’ve lost our good old mama
And must have dollars
Oh, you know why.

Oh moon of Alabama
We now must say goodbye
We’ve lost our good old mama
And must have dollars
Oh, you know why.

One can hear on Youtube the 1930 recording of the song (without the third part), with Lotte Lenya as lead singer.

There are other versions with ‘pretty boy’ instead of ‘little boy.’

The song was adapted in 1966 by the rock group The Doors in their first album. Their singer Jim Morrison, a poet fond of whisky and cognac, must have been attracted by such a song. He altered the lyrics, changing ‘little boy’ into ‘little girl’ (maybe he did not know the meaning of ‘little boy’ as a bottle format); he also omitted the third part about the ‘little dollar.’ Here are the lyrics (from AZlyrics):

Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)

Well, show me the way
To the next whisky bar
Oh, don’t ask why
Oh, don’t ask why

Show me the way
To the next whisky bar
Oh, don’t ask why
Oh, don’t ask why

For if we don’t find
The next whisky bar
I tell you we must die
I tell you we must die
I tell you, I tell you
I tell you we must die

Oh, moon of Alabama
We now must say goodbye
We’ve lost our good old mama
And must have whisky, oh, you know why

Oh, moon of Alabama
We now must say goodbye
We’ve lost our good old mama
And must have whisky, oh, you know why

Well, show me the way
To the next little girl
Oh, don’t ask why
Oh, don’t ask why

Show me the way
To the next little girl
Oh, don’t ask why
Oh, don’t ask why

For if we don’t find
The next little girl
I tell you we must die
I tell you we must die
I tell you, I tell you
I tell you we must die

Oh, moon of Alabama
We now must say goodbye
We’ve lost our good old mama
And must have whisky, oh, you know why

One can hear the song on the band’s YouTube channel:

David Bowie, a Brecht fan, incorporated the song into his 1978 World Tour. As in the version by The Doors, he said ‘little girl’ instead of ‘little boy.’ He included all three parts of the song, but the third part with the ‘little dollar’ becomes here the second one, the third one being the one with the ‘little girl.’ The song can be heard on YouTube:

Part of this post was included in a post published on Agapeta, 2015/09/05.

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