Jefferson Jericho Blues

Songfacts®:

  • "Jefferson Jericho Blues" is written by Tom Petty, and is the first track on the Mojo album. As such, it's the first impression of an album representing the triumphant return of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, after an eight-year hiatus.

    While the song is mainly a playful blues ditty, there's some subtext here. The first verse is a clear reference to (US founding father) Thomas Jefferson and the historic allegations that he fathered bastard children with one of his slaves. Jericho is of course the Middle Eastern city whose history goes back to Bible times where the Old Testament has a rather spectacular battle with the city meeting its defeat at the hands of an Israeli leader named Joshua; the last line about bugles might be a reference to the horns Joshua's army blew in battle. What links the two ideas? The song "Joshua Fit the Battle (of Jericho)" is a traditional African American spiritual song, believed to have been composed by slaves in the first half of the nineteenth century. Slaves, slaves, and the blues, get it?
  • The official Tom Petty video of "Jefferson Jericho Blues" hosted at YouTube shows the band just jamming away in the studio without too much pretension. This emphasizes the fact that Petty had the intention to record the album live in the studio without overdubs from the beginning, according to his Rolling Stone interview.
  • The album Mojo takes its name from the African-American hoodoo faith. A "mojo" is originally a magic charm, typically a bag full of lucky charms and whatnot worn under the clothing. Remember when we mentioned Joshua and Jericho a taste back? Well, Joshua was the direct successor of Moses, and African-American hoodoo also has Moses as a central figure, treating him like a conjurer. Anyway, it's not to be confused with Mr. Mojo Risin.

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