“The funniest man I ever saw and the saddest man I ever knew.” – W.C. Fields
Bert Williams is a forgotten genius. In the early 1900s, he was one of the most popular singers and comedians in the world. Listen to “Nobody,” his signature song, released on a wax cylinder recording in 1906 Columbia Cylinder Recording for proof. While Willimas was African America, he would perform in blackface, often the only way black performers were allowed to perform on stage during the Vaudeville era.
LINK TO BERT WILLIAMS @ THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
When life seems full of clouds and rain,
And I am filled with naught but pain,
Who soothes my thumping, bumping brain?
When winter comes with snow and sleet,
And me with hunger and cold feet,
Who says, “Here’s two bits, go and eat”?
I ain’t never done nothin’ to Nobody.
I ain’t never got nothin’ from Nobody, no time.
And, until I get somethin’ from somebody sometime,
I don’t intend to do nothin’ for Nobody, no time.
When summer comes all cool and clear
And my friends see me drawing near
Who says “Come in, have some beer”
When I was in that railroad wreck
And thought I’d cashed in my last check
Who took the engine off my neck?
[pause] Not a soul
I ain’t never done nothin’ to nobody
I ain’t never done nothin’ to nobody, no time
Until I get somethin’ from somebody sometime
I’ll never do nothin’ for nobody, no time
by Red Cell