*This is not a video I put together. It was found on Youtube. The lyric scroll has a few typos & the wrong words in a spot, but the charcoal on paper rendering charmed me. It’s similar to the Bojangles that my mind saw as a young child.
I was a young kid when this song, written by Jerry Jeff Walker, was released by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in 1970. I can still remember how the lyrics painted for me a vivid picture of the story. I saw the tattered Mr. Bojangles, weathered wrinkled skin, over sized clothes dirty and worn; a frazzled piece of rope holding up his britches.
I saw the dreary cells of the county jail that were home to Bojangles more often than not.
I saw his scruffy dog and snapshots of 15 years of travel – little town to little town, his dog by his side, then waiting patiently for his friend by the stage or outside the honky tonk door. I saw his dog sit without judgement or despair beside Bojangles like a statue, when Bojangles was passed out cold from too much drink. Moving only to utter a menacing growl should anyone come close.
As my house knew a bit about booze, I saw Mr. Bojangles in a drunken stupor for weeks after his beloved companion died. 24 hours cycles of drink and fitful sleep procured anywhere his body fell. No dancing, no food – just a dank, dark grief that no perscription of moonshine or fire water would heal.
Then I saw, to his broken heart’s relief, Bojangles waking up one afternoon to a hunger for sustenance; his dance coming first with a cup of soup and a bit of bread soon after. I saw Bojangles pull himself up, brush off his rags, straightened his dusty hat and gingerly soft-step down the street to the honkytonk.
I saw the cycle, sans his best friend, begin again.