Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon conjured up their musical magic back in 1954, but it’s no less powerful today, luring 65 percent of the votes cast ahead of I Wanna be Down by Brandy, 17 percent, July in Mississippi by Charlie Worsham, 14 percent, and Misery Business by Paramore, 4 percent, in the latest round of voting.
The Playlist salutes the significance of Mississippi music during our state’s bicentennial celebration. Songs selected in previous rounds of voting include Mississippi River by Paul Davis, Misty Blue by Dorothy Moore, Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis Presley, Hello Darlin’ by Conway Twitty, Stand by Your Man by Tammy Wynette, Great Balls of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis, Come Monday by Jimmy Buffett, Ode to Billie Joe by Bobbie Gentry, The Thrill is Gone by B.B. King and Cross Road Blues by Robert Johnson.
Next up, four new nominees: Chain Gang by Sam Cooke, Down in the Delta by the Cedric Burnside Project, Mississippi Turnpike by Shelly Fairchild and Mississippi, You’re on my Mind by Jesse Winchester.
You can listen to the new entries and vote for your favorite on mississippitoday.org. You also can vote on our Twitter account. Every two weeks through the fall, a fresh ballot of four new nominees will be published.
To be nominated, songs must be about Mississippi or performed by Mississippi artists. All of the contenders were selected by Mississippi music experts, Mississippi Today and The ‘Sip magazine.
Contenders in Round 12
• Chain Gang. You Send Me. A Change is Gonna Come. Cupid. Another Saturday Night. Twistin’ the Night Away. Selecting one favorite from Sam Cooke’s canon is difficult, but we’ll go with Chain Gang, released by the Clarksdale native on July 26, 1960. It became Cooke’s second-biggest American hit after You Send Me from 1957. The song was inspired after a chance meeting with an actual chain gang of prisoners on a highway while Cooke was on tour. Cooke, known as the King of Soul, had 30 U.S. Top 40 hits between 1957 and 1964, plus three more after his death in 1964.
• Down in the Delta appears on the 2016 Grammy-nominated Descendants of Hill Country, the fourth album by the Cedric Burnside Project. The group is led by drummer Cedric Burnside, the grandson of Hill Country blues legend R.L. Burnside. Born in Memphis and raised in Holly Springs, Cedric Burnside grew up a musical prodigy and began touring with his grandfather at age 13. Down in the Delta, like the other songs on the award-winning album, has raw blues reminiscent of the music Cedric grew up hearing and playing.
• The bluesy, up-tempo Mississippi Turnpike is Clinton native Shelly Fairchild’s newest single from her album Buffalo, released earlier this year. Fairchild’s debut album, Ride, premiered in early 2005. Her single You Don’t Lie Here Anymore peaked at No. 35 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Songs charts. Even though she was dropped from the Columbia Records label later that year, Fairchild has become a staple on the Nashville music scene. She has toured as a back-up singer and opening act for country star Martina McBride and continues to perform solo shows, while her crowd-funded Buffalo makes its mark in multiple genres.
• James Ridout “Jesse” Winchester Jr., raised in North Mississippi, began his career as a musician and songwriter in the late 1960s after moving to Canada to avoid military service during the Vietnam War. Winchester eventually became a Canadian citizen. Ironically, Mississippi, You’re on My Mind, which recounts Winchester’s time in the state he left, is one of his best-known recordings. Because he was unable to tour in the United States, Winchester was more prominent here as a songwriter with works recorded by artists including Elvis Costello, Jimmy Buffett, Joan Baez, Anne Murray, Reba McEntire, the Everly Brothers, Lyle Lovett and Emmylou Harris. After being granted amnesty in the United States, Winchester settled in Virginia in 2002. He continued to perform until his death in 2014.