The wild and the beautiful

Soul Time LPAs far as I know, Ronnie Self wrote only two songs that Jackie Wilson recorded. Both appear on Soul Time (1965), one of Jackie’s greatest LPs.

Let me say from the outset that I have always just assumed that the “Self” listed as songwriter is the Ronnie Self I describe in this post. Nothing I have read about Ronnie Self associates the songwriter with the Soul Time tunes, but he had a contract to write songs for Decca in the early 1960s, and Brunswick was a Decca subsidiary.

Both the hard-rocking “Mama of My Song” and the wistful “An Ocean I’ll Cry” are brilliant; theoretically, they are songs many artists would embrace. Yet I have never heard of anyone other than Jackie Wilson recording either of them, and most people have never heard of either or them. Sadly, that “most people” includes many Jackie Wilson fans.

Ronnie Self was a performer as well as a songwriter, and he is still revered among rockabilly aficionados, particularly in England. Dubbed “Mr. Frantic,” Self’s best known recording is probably “Bop-a-Lena.” I don’t think any performance video of him is available on the Web, but he was good enough to make at least one appearance on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand.

While Self’s alcoholism led to erratic and sometimes dangerous behavior that scarred his life both professionally and personally, he wrote great songs, including two big hits for country/pop star Brenda Lee, “Sweet Nothins” and “I’m Sorry.”

Ronnie Self

I’m mystified by the way the two Self compositions on Soul Time have escaped attention from those scrutinizing the Jackie Wilson canon. If for nothing else, the manic “Mama of My Song” should be forever remembered for the marvelous line, “You walk around on me, oh yeah, like I was your everyday shoes.”

And if there is one Jackie Wilson recording that always makes my personal favorites list, it has to be “An Ocean I’ll Cry,” which Our Hero sings soulfully yet simply. Yes, there are a few spoken words and some phrases crooned here and there, and Jackie being Jackie, there are syllables that multiply as we listen, such as “If you were the sky-y-y, I’d want to be your moo-oo-oon.” But there is nothing melodramatic about the way Jackie delivers the vocal. It’s straightforward and simply beautiful, a great lyric interpreted by a master singer’s technique.

I’ve provided the lyrics and links for the songs below, and if you are interested, you can join my Freshman English students in reading a rhetorical analysis of “An Ocean I’ll Cry” in an upcoming post by that title. Self’s words provide an effective tool for understanding the power of figurative language as well as magnificent material for Jackie Wilson.

“The Mama of My Song”
(Words and music by Ronnie Self)
Ah, yeah, yeah, baby, yeah, yeah . . .
Now, you’re the mama of my misery
You’re the mama of all my blues
You know, you walk around on me, oh yeah
Like I was your everyday shoes
Let me tell you, you’re the reason that I cry all night
You’re the reason these blues was born
You’re the mama of my misery
The mama that made a fool of me
Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re the mama of my song
Baby, I’m the daddy you used to love
I’m that daddy you said you don’t want no more
Looka here, girl, I’m that daddy that you hurt so
And you left me walking the floor
Aaah, you’re the reason that I cry all night
You’re the reason these blues were born
You’re the mama of my misery
The girl that left me in misery
Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re the mama of my song

Ah, yeah . . .
You’re the mama of my misery
You’re the mama of my blues
Let me tell you, you walk around on me, oh yeah
Like I was your everyday shoes
But, woman, you’re the reason that I cry all night
You’re the reason these blues was born
You’re the mama of my misery
The girl that left me in misery
Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re the mama of my song
Hey, baby, you’re the mama
Hey, baby, I’m the daddy . . .Ah, yeah . . .

“An Ocean I’ll Cry”
(Words and music by Ronnie Self)
If you were a poem, I’d want to be your rhyme
If you were a day, I’d want to be your sunshine
If you were a picture, I’d want to be your frame
If you were a rose, Honey, I’d want to be your rain

Tell me, tell me, what mountains to move
Do you want castles in the sky?
And if it’s hurting I must do
Then an ocean I’ll cry

If you were a queen, I’d want to be your throne
If you were a house, Honey, I’d want to make you my home
If you were the sky, I’d want to be your moon
If you were a song, Darling, I’d want to be your tune

Tell me, tell me, what mountains to move
Do you want castles in the sky?
And if it’s hurting I must do
Then an ocean I’ll cry

One thought on “The wild and the beautiful

  1. jackiesam

    I liked “The Mumma Of My Song” very much. Jackie could do it all. He really made me feel that song from the very start. As you know I love “An Ocean I’ll Cry” It is Jackie Wilson genius and perfection, making you hang off each word and line. Thanks for the lyrics too. Will have to give it a go on the guitar again:) Thanks again.

    Reply

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