The Medicine Man

Album: Good To Be (2021)
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Songfacts®:

  • Keb' Mo' wrote this pandemic-themed tune, featuring Old Crow Medicine Show, while he was staying with his family in California during the coronavirus lockdown. He watched several TV interviews of Dr. Anthony Fauci discussing the virus and it sparked an idea for a song about coming down with Covid-19 and waiting on "The Medicine Man" for a vaccine.

    In a 2022 Songfacts interview with Mo', he said the song idea came to him in the middle of the night, and he hammered it out the next day. "I got up in the morning and did a demo and sent it to Ketch [Secor], the leader of The Old Crow Medicine Show, who I'd been talking to," he explained. "Over the years, we'd been talking about the possibility of doing a collaboration, and when I sent it to him, the light went on and he said, 'That's it! Let's do it.'"
  • Around the time he wrote this in December 2020, the first round of vaccines was being rolled out. In the lyrics, he reminds folks that they need to wait their turn for a dose because there are others who need it most (like the elderly and immunocompromised people).
  • Secor had been bugging Keb' to do some live shows with him for a couple years to no avail, so he was excited when he received the demo. He said, "The song shook me up and I wrote back to him that night in December, 'We got to rush this out soon. Real soon.' Old Crow jumped right into gear, recording Keb's powerful song of the times within days of the ink drying. It was a joy. It felt dutiful, meet and right, urgent, essential. And harmonious."
  • Although Mo' paints a dire picture of a time when "the whole damn world is singing the blues," as folks are getting sick and dying of Covid all around him, he delivers the message with good humor and determines to keep loving and living while he pins his hopes on a vaccine.

    Mo' believes it's important to approach serious issues with a sense of optimism because people will be more receptive to the message. He told Songfacts he admired TV sex therapist Dr. Ruth for the way she handled her subject matter and adopted the same approach. He said: "She was the first one to get on public media and talk about sex. She talked about it in a way that was like your grandmother. She talked about everything. She had that beautiful bedside manner and people wanted to hear about it, but they didn't want to hear about it in a nasty way. They wanted to hear about it in a loving way. So, I think people want to hear about these issues, but they don't want it shoved down their throats."
  • Mo' also said the rap group N.W.A were masters at balancing anger and humor in their delivery. "I think Straight Outta Compton is a freakin' masterpiece, and they did it with anger, but there was humor, too," he said. "You can do that. It's possible to have a discussion about sensitive subjects and not just piss everybody off. Instead, you can encourage people to talk about it and not blame anyone."
  • In the lyrics, Mo' references then-President Donald Trump losing the 2020 US presidential election to Joe Biden, and Trump's claims of election fraud to stay in office ("President lost but he don't wanna go").
  • By the time this was released as a single, Mo' didn't have to wait on the Medicine Man anymore. Just a day earlier, the 69-year-old got his first Covid-19 vaccination.

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