Buck had a post a few days ago featuring a couple of songs written and performed by British folk rock singer Richard Thompson. One of these Thompson songs was "1952 Vincent Black Lightning."
This song, on a great CD by a different artist and given to me by my wife on my birthday several years ago, has become a favorite of mine. Although I'm not a motorcycle nut and have ridden them very little, I understand the appeal. (I'm thinking of motorcycle movies and TV shows now: The Wild One with Brando making a case for being a rebel while riding a Triumph, and Michael Parks' Then Came Bronson in which his pacifist character rides a Harley Sportster on his search for the meaning of Life.)
Thompson's song captures that appeal. Here's a pic of the special bike this song is about.
Buck whose current motorcycle is one he lovingly calls Ms. Zusuki (I think that's right--Buck, if I got her name wrong I apologize). You could also check out Dave Wade's blog. Dave has a video from Jay Leno's Garage where Leno talks about and rides a Black Shadow--a bike that looks like the Lightning (but was quite a bit faster I believe) and was also made by the Vincent Company.
Thompson wrote "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" in 1991 and it appeared on his album "Rumor and Sigh" (along with the other song Buck posted, "I Misunderstood") in that same year.
The following paragraph is what happens to me when I do research for a post. I get lost in all of the fun stuff I remember or run across as I go through the process. I go off on about a hundred tangents. Does anybody else have this problem? Anyway, Thompson's song is written in the form of a traditional ballad. Here's some information on the traditional ballad if you want to take time to read it. When I taught a sophomore general education Poetry course we always read a ballad, and most of the time I could easily "sell" the assignment to the class by mentioning that ballads usually involved sex and murder. Heh. Teachers are probably worse than ad copywriters in terms of what they might use to arouse just a little bit of interest in a class. The ballads we read over the years were "Sir Patrick Spens," "Lord Randall," and the famous "Barbara Allen."
I sometimes tried to supplement things a bit by adding U.S. written ballads by American folksingers. I often used "Banks of the Ohio," and "Otto Wood," the latter written by Walter Smith of the Carolina Buddies. I think I had the Baez version of "Ohio" and I'm certain I used Doc Watson's version of "Otto Wood," which isn't available on youtube. This ballad is an example of the type that is based on a real person or event(s). The notorious bandit and killer Otto Wood is such an interesting a character, I may do another post about him later. His funeral drew 60,000 people according to the liner notes on Doc's album!
Now back to the ballad in question, Del McCoury's bluegrass take on Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning." Except for the bluegrass approach and one signicant word change (Box Hill is changed to Knoxville), McCoury left Thompson's song as it was written. Thompson apparently liked McCoury's take on the song since he makes a positive reference to it on his website. BTW, this youtube version includes another song which you don't necessarily have to listen to. I chose this take of "Black Lightning," however, because it's the best one available on youtube and is a professionally shot video of a live performance.
Like I said earlier, I get carried away in my research. I spent an hour last night looking at a site featuring traditional music. It's Gadaya and this guy is amazing. He's not a great singer, but he has a deep love of old traditional music (which you can tell from his performances and judge from the long list of old tunes he plays on his youtube channel) and he plays so many instruments (and plays them all very well). This one is for my friend Ed, who plays a mean banjo. This is a clawhammer style banjo rendition of "1952 Vincent Black Lightning." Strange, I know. But I like it.