Papa Legba, Come On And Open The Gate…

talking heads

Amazingly, even today, while traveling in and around the Mississippi Delta, you’ll still hear fabled tales of the old bluesmen selling their souls at the crossroads in exchange for supernatural musical gifts. Whereas the Robert Johnson tale has become the most widely known (to the point of ad nauseam), it is in fact more of a composite story, derived from old African American folk traditions that found its way to the Americas centuries ago embedding itself into our cultural fabric.

Stateside, these themes morphed, and the sale of one’s soul at the “crossroads”, due to Christianity’s influence, was to be made with Satan, or the devil. If traced back to its roots though you’ll find it more likely that such a deal – if there was one to be made – would have been conducted with Papa Legba, the spiritual intermediary between our world and the next. Known by many a name in Voodoo, Voudou, Santeria, etc, Legba was a gatekeeper said to grant access to the spirit world.

All Hoodoo aside, “Papa Legba” also happens to be a track from one of the more underrated Talking Heads albums, True Stories, itself the audio counterpart to the 1986 David Byrne film of the same name. If you’ve only heard the Heads version, you must check out the swampy Pops Staples cover of the track from the film (mp3 below). Also, Widespread Panic used to do an insanely cool live version of Legba that’s absolutely worth hunting down if you’re interested in a southern fried re-imagining of the track. Trust me.

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Pops Staples :: Papa Legba (From David Byrne’s film “True Stories”)


MP3: Talking Heads :: Papa Legba
MP3: Talking Heads :: Papa Legba (Pops Staples Vocal Version)
Amazon: Talking Heads – True Stories

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5 thoughts on “Papa Legba, Come On And Open The Gate…

  1. widespread STILL does this song and its a good one. wasn’t aware of the pops staples version (another big widespread influence, they have put “hope in a hopeless world” and “none of us are free” on studio albums).

    i’m sorry, the talking heads’ influence on modern rock grows everyday. does another band from that era sound nearly as fresh and modern?

  2. Hi my name is lashunda. I’m an alabama native and a diehard fan of aquarium drunkard. I’ve come to really appreciate and enjoy the range presented in each post and followed the growth of your site since the beginning. Unfortunately this post isn’t just for praise. See my hard drive crashed awhile ago and foolish me neglected to back up any of the files. So a lot of the more precious and rare (live, bsides, rarities, demos, etc.) things i discovered on this site are no more. That’s where you come in. I was really hoping if you could do some sort of commemorative posts to maybe not only help me but give newcomers a look into the depth of your archives. I don’t know how much of any of my requests you actually still have but i’m crossing my fingers its all. Feel free to stretch this out over a year or a month. You could make them just 24 hour downloads or maybe a special friday grab bag. However you choose to do it would be your choice. I’d be grateful for whatever help you could give me.
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    Luna-Here She Comes Now
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    Gram Parsons-WLIA NY ’73
    Robert Pollard-Finest Joke (demo)
    Robert Pollard-White Skin (demo)
    Jerry Jeff Walker-London Homesick Blues
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    Bob Dylan-Freewheelin’ Outtakes
    Bob Dylan-Blonde on Blonde Outtakes
    Dream Syndicate-When You Smile (demo)
    Magnolia Elec. Co.-North Star Blues Session
    Patterson Hood-Heavy and Hanging
    Drive-By Truckers-Puttin’ People On The Moon (Rehearsal)
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  3. Ha … as I was reading down the page, I was wondering if you were going to slide a little props to ye olde Panic.

  4. if you want to stream a panic version of legba from new orleans 1999, then go here:

    then click the ’99 link at top of page

    then go to 10-31-99

    legba is the second track after todd read us some david byrne “true stories”

    sound quality is meh in UNO, but i always loved legba as a show opener in dirty orleans

    while you are on that stream, check out jojo’s work on “won’t get fooled again”

    just skip tracks ahead to it.

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