The guest DJ’s for the Death Card are Catherine Chapman and Valerie Sylvester! Thanks, Ladies.
From Valerie: Long White Cadillac – the Blasters
I chose this song for the Death card because of the urgency, the mystery, the imagery, the feeling of being propelled into unknown circumstances, and the idea of “summing up” or mulling over the events of your life–just as you’re leaving it.
It helps to know that this song is dedicated to country music legend Hank Williams, who died in the back seat of his new Cadillac sometime between the last day of December and the first day of January 1952-53. Even if you don’t know the back story about Hank Williams’ death (the circumstances are murky, involving alcohol, extremely cold weather, heart problems and a “Dr. Feelgood” type prescribing too many drugs), and even though the actual Cadillac was baby blue instead of white, the song still works.
It’s a midnight wail, a death-rattle cry, an elegy. The guitars set the pace, with a propulsive beat that rushes forward with the rhythm of a train careering on its tracks. It echoes the forward movement of that ethereal white transport moving through the dark, dark night. The imagery (“Night wolves moan/The winter hills are black”, and “Train whistle cries/Lost on its own track”) amplifies the mood and lets us know we’re entering an alternate realm. The singer (Dave Alvin), stretches out the syllables, twisting them into a plaintive howl of regret, confusion, resignation and ultimately, understanding, as he channels the spirit of Hank Williams on his final journey: “Headlights shine/Highway fades to black/It’s my last ride/I’m never coming back/In a long white Cadillac.”
Catherine Chapman chose Death Letter from the White Stripes:
We often say the Death card in tarot doesn’t really mean physical death, that it means a transformation of some kind. But sometimes it does mean actual death, and this song perfectly explores the angst in losing someone close to you. Worst of all, someone you lose unexpectedly and aren’t prepared for the loss. They’re never coming back, there’s no time to say “I’m sorry”, or “I love you”, “please forgive me”. Sometimes it’s just too darn late, which adds to the tragedy. For me, this song reminds us that time is precious and even as tarot readers, when the end comes (including the ending of anything, not just someone), we’ll likely be as unprepared for it as the next person. Written by Son House back in the 1930’s, this blues classic has been covered and copied many times. This version by the White Stripes is my favourite with its stripped down but edgy sound perfectly relaying the angst in the lyrics. And of course, it showcases some mean slide guitar work. Lyrical wisdom and slide guitar all in one song. Now, who can resist that?