"The Old Black Hen" as written by and Jason Molina....
Old Black Hen is that you again
Singing the Bad Luck Lullaby
Come right on in, it's midnight again
Time for the Bad Luck Lullaby
You know the one it's the same one you sung
When you wrote down the Revelations
Now sing it over the cradle of the child who's born next
Leave all the truth in so they know what comes next
Leave in the true love that they'll never find
Show how we're looking for it all of our lives
When I saw the Banner hanging over my door
I already knew who the party was for
All of my pain found a partner in that room
And the devil's tail swayed with the tune
Make that Black Record
Roll the tapes all night long
Make that Black Record
And we'll all sing along
Look down the long street
And see who's that crying
Tell them that every day I lived
I was trying to sing the Blues
The way I find them


Lyrics submitted by Mopnugget, edited by embassyrow

"The Old Black Hen" as written by Jason Molina

Lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

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The Old Black Hen song meanings
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  • +1
    My InterpretationThe Old Black Hen would seem to be a symbol of Jason's depression/melancholy, like Churchill's Black Dog it was an old familiar which moved metaphorically with the man, but the hen also seems to have been passed down from generation to generation since time immemorial. Dogs have long been a symbol of loyalty, and in many cultures they are associated with death and the underworld, but universally canines are a totem animal which acts as an intermediary between the natural world and that of man so to embody one's dark feelings with the animal is in a way to use it to navigate the threshold between the two opposing worlds. Hens on the other hand have been used much less often as symbols of this kind, but one ancient usage of black hens involved the sprinkling of grain on the ground which a diviner would allow the bird to eat and then interpret the pattern left by the remaining grain. In relation to the song, the importance of this symbolism perhaps lies in the way that the hen predicts the future in a way with its Bad Luck Lullaby which could be dark, brooding thoughts of not only one's own demise, but of the fate shared by all life and all of creation– indicated by the lines:
    “Come right on in, it's midnight again
    time for the Bad Luck Lullaby
    you know the one it's the same one you sung
    when you wrote down the Revelations”

    An interesting thing about this is the way the song starts off with it being time for the lullaby for the individual, Jason perhaps, but it moves on to being the same song which was sung so long ago for the writer of Revelations, who was perhaps the hen itself singing through the words of the writer. So we move from the pain of the individual to that of ancient man who foresaw the end of all creation and back to the present time where the narrator is advising the hen to sing the lullaby to the next generation “so they know what comes next.” The final turning point is where the narrative goes back to the individual who “saw the Banner hanging over” his door and “knew who the party was for-” all of his pain, the collective pain of countless generations whose worlds died with them.

    The Black Record mentioned toward the end of the song would seem to be a personal embodiment of the Bad Luck Lullaby, an existential cry expressing the pain of life. In the end Jason advised the listener to look to the future, the sadness of the stranger and tell them that he was doing his best to sing the Blues the way he found them. He had created a record which embodied the Bad Luck Lullaby which he carried alone since the time of his birth and that was the best he could do.

    “Look down the long street
    And see who's that crying
    Tell them that every day I lived
    I was trying to sing the Blues
    The way I find them”

    Original demo, recorded in Jason's home:
    youtube.com/…

    Cover from a tribute album for Jason Molina:
    youtube.com/…

    Original album version with a country singer:
    youtube.com/…
    Dante Sinton September 25, 2015   Link

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