O Death Lyrics – Ralph Stanley

Ralph Stanley

Ralph Edmund Stanley (February 25, 1927 – June 23, 2016), also known as Dr. Ralph Stanley, was an American bluegrass artist, known for his distinctive singing and banjo playing. Stanley began playing music in 1946, originally with his brother Carter as part of The Stanley Brothers, and most often as the leader of his band, The Clinch Mountain Boys.

He was part of the first generation of bluegrass musicians and was inducted into both the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor and the Grand Ole Opry.

O Death Lyrics - Ralph Stanley

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Stanley’s work was featured in the very popular 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, in which he sings the Appalachian dirge “O Death.” The soundtrack’s producer was T-Bone Burnett. Stanley said the following about working with Burnett:

T-Bone Burnett had several auditions for that song. He wanted it in the Dock Boggs style. So I got my banjo and learned it the way he did it. You see, I had recorded “O Death” three times, done it with Carter. So I went down with my banjo to Nashville and I said, “T-Bone, let me sing it the way I want to sing it,” and I laid my banjo down and sung it a cappella. After two or three verses, he stopped me and said, “That’s it.”[5]

With that song, Stanley won a 2002 Grammy Award in the category of Best Male Country Vocal Performance. “That put the icing on the cake for me,” he said. “It put me in a different category.”[5]

O Death Lyrics - Ralph Stanley
Ooh death
Whooooah death
Won’t you spare me over ‘til a another year?
Well what is this that I cant see
With ice cold hands taking hold of me
Well I am death none can excel
I’ll open the door to heaven or hell
Whoa death someone would pray
Could you wait to call me another day
The children prayed the preacher preached
Time and mercy is out of your reach
I’ll fix your feet so you can’t walk
I’ll lock your jaw so you can’t talk
I’ll close your eyes so you cant see
This very hour come and go with me
Death I come to take the soul
Leave the body and leave it cold
To drop the flesh up off the frame
Dirt and worm both have a claim
Ooh death
Whooooah death
Won’t you spare me over ‘til a another year?
My mother came to my bed
Placed a cold towel up on my head
My head is warm my feet are cold
Death is moving upon my soul
Oh death how you treating me
You closed my eyes so I can’t see
Well you hurting my body you make cold
You run my life right out of my soul
Oh death please consider my age
Please don’t take me at this stage
My wealth is all at your command
If you will move your icy hands
Oh the young, the rich, or poor
How will like me no (?)
No wealth no land no silver or gold
Nothing satisfies me but your soul
Ooh death
Whooooah death
Won’t you spare me over ‘til a another year?
Won’t you spare me over ‘til a another year?
Won’t you spare me over ‘til a another year?

O Death Lyrics - Ralph Stanley

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