In 1961, Bob Dylan recorded “Fixin’ to Die” for his debut album, released the following year. The album liner notes indicate that it “was learned from an old recording by Bukka White”. However, Dylan’s arrangement uses a slightly different melody line and some new lyrics.
The Best Songs: Fixin’ To Die Blues by Bukka White aka Booker T Washington
“Fixin’ to Die” is song by American blues musician Bukka White. It is performed in the Delta blues style with White’s vocal and guitar accompanied by washboard rhythm. White recorded it in Chicago on May 8, 1940, for record producer Lester Melrose. The song was written just days before, along with eleven others, at Melrose’s urging.
White was resuming his recording career, which had been interrupted by his incarceration for two and one-half years at the infamous Parchman Farm prison in Mississippi. While there, White witnessed the death of a friend and “got to wondering how a man feels when he dies”. His lyrics reflect his thoughts about his children and wife:
I’m looking funny in my eyes, an’ I b’lieve I’m fixin’ to die (2×) I know I was born to die, but I hate to leave my children cryin’ … So many nights at the fireside, how my children’s mother would cry (2×) ‘Cause I ain’t told their mother I had to say good-bye