Don McLean - The Legend of Andrew McCrew

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The Legend of Andrew McCrew

There was a mummy at the fair, all crumpled in a folding chair
The people passed, but didn't care that the mummy was a man
So tell me if you can
 
Who are you? Who are you?
Where have you been, where are you going to?
Well, Andrew McCrew must have lost his way
'Cause though he died long ago he was buried today
 
Down on nightmare alley, where the shady people sway
A hobo came a-hikin' on a salty summer day
Well he hopped a freight in Dallas, and he rode out of sight
But on a turn he slipped, and he lost his grip
And he fell in-to the night
 
Who are you? Who are you?
Where have you been, where are you going to?
Well, Andrew McCrew must have lost his way
'Cause though he died long ago he was buried today
 
Well, Andrew had one leg of wood, the other leg was small
And when he fell off the train that night he found he had no legs at all
Well they found him in the thicket, and the undertaker came
And they mummified his body for a relative to claim
 
Who are you? Who are you?
Where have you been, where are you going to?
Well, Andrew McCrew must have lost his way
'Cause though he died long ago he was buried today
 
But no one came to claim him, until the carnival passed through
The carnies took him to their tent and they decided what to do
Well they dressed him in a worn-out tux and they put him on a stand
And millions saw the legend called the 'famous mummy man'
 
Who are you? Who are you?
Where have you been, where are you going to?
Well, Andrew McCrew must have lost his way
'Cause though he died long ago he was buried today
 
Well, what a way to live a life and what a way to die
Left to live a living death with no one left to cry
Petrified amazement, and wonder beyond words
A man who found more life in death than life gave him at birth
 
Who are you? Who are you?
Where have you been, where are you going to?
Well, Andrew McCrew must have lost his way
'Cause though he died long ago he was buried today
 
But what about the ones who live and wish that they could go
Whose lives are lost to living and performing for the show
Well at least you got the best of life until it got the best of you
So from all of us to what's left of you, Farewell Andrew McCrew.
 
Publicado por N.F.N.F. el Vie, 15/03/2019 - 04:11
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An article was publicized on February 17, 2019; on the first page of Metro, The Dallas Morning News, about "Andew McCrew", the main subject of this song, as follows:

How 'The Amazing Petrified Man' — the subject of a Don McLean song — was finally buried in Dallas.
Written by: Robert Wilonsky, City Columnist of Dallas News Daily

On an unseasonably warm Valentine's Day afternoon, I visited the final resting place of a man who became a carnival attraction in death.

"The Amazing Petrified Man," they called him, or "The Eighth Wonder of the World." The traveling corpse of a homeless man who eventually wound up in a Dallas basement and, finally, in this Great Trinity Forest cemetery far southeast of the city's center, a short walk from the Trinity River bluffs where some of Dallas' earliest settlers first stepped foot.

Until a few days ago, I knew nothing of the Anderson, or Andrew, McCrew buried in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery. I had never seen the Jet magazine story about him written in June 1973. Or heard the song "American Pie" singer-songwriter Don McLean wrote about him a year later, or read the entries about McCrew in such books as Modern Mummies: The Preservation of the Human Body in the Twentieth Centuryand The Mammoth Book of Tasteless and Outrageous Lists.

Then, two weeks ago, came a tweet: "Foggy morning hike in Dallas Great Trinity Forest to the grave of Andrew McCrew the mummified man immortalized by singer Don McClean [sic]," wrote accountant and Trinity protector Ben Sandifer. Later Sandifer told me he had heard the song on the radio recently, and went searching for its history and McCrew's final resting place. 

He was buried in a place Sandifer had walked many times, during his travels along the Trinity. 

"It's nice that on Valentine's Day, we can meet here to give a little love to Andrew McCrew," said the towering Sandifer, who was kind enough to show me the site. 

I still cannot believe we know so little about this tale, about how horribly a black man's corpse had been mistreated — for show, for amusement, for a few cents a giggle. I cannot believe, either, that a story so widely shared not that long ago has completely vanished.

McCrew, who was not buried until 60 years after his death, deserves not to be forgotten and erased. Not again.

What happened to the man "was macabre. It was scary. It was horrible," McLean told me this week. The famed folk singer does not do many interviews but was eager to talk about the inspiration behind "The Legend of Andrew McCrew," immortalized on this marker in this Dallas graveyard.

"What a nasty message to send black people — to make humor out of this, to make this person the butt of jokes and laughter," McLean said. "That was just awful."

Enough mystery surrounds McCrew's life to render him a "folk figure," as he's called on the Find a Grave website. His headstone says he was born in 1867, and by all accounts — every single one of which brands him a rail-riding "hobo" — died in 1913 in Marlin, just southeast of Waco.

In her 1998 book Modern Mummies, Christine Quigley wrote that when McCrew fell from a boxcar, his leg was severed and he bled to death. McCrew's body was taken to a funeral home in Marlin, where the director used what Quigley calls "experimental embalming fluid" on the corpse. When no one came to claim the body, a carnival owner bought McCrew, dressed him in a tuxedo and took the corpse on tour, charging people a dime a glance at the "The Amazing Petrified Man."

According to all accounts, the carnival folded sometime in the 1930s, and the contents were offloaded to "a wealthy man who collected show business paraphernalia," Quigley wrote. But even then, McCrew didn't get a proper burial.

In 1964, McCrew was found in a Houston warehouse that belonged to the sister-in-law of Elgie Pace, a nurse who worked in the Dallas County Mental Evaluation Center. She told Jet in 1973 that chickens had roosted on his coffin.

Pace's sister-in-law was going to take the coffin to a ditch and chuck some dirt on it. Pace would not allow it.

"Even though he was black, I felt he deserved a Christian burial," Pace told the magazine, "so I put the coffin in the trunk of my car, and I've kept the mummy in my basement ever since."

She called McCrew "Sam the Mummy" and tried to find takers for the corpse, including a medical school, but had no luck. Eventually word got out that Pace, a widow, had a mummy in her basement — just as she was at the center of a controversy involving the county's mental-health facility. In the spring of 1973, Pace claimed employees and patients were being mistreated there; Dallas police and the FBI investigated. Pace and another whistle-blower were fired.

Frank Lott Sr., namesake of Lott's Mortuary on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, offered to bury McCrew for free. Attempts to find relatives weren't successful: "I guess if you were the wrong color," Lott told Jet, "they didn't bother to keep thorough files on you."

McLean says he saw McCrew's story in The New York Times, while working on his fifth record, Homeless Brother, released three years after American Pie put him in the pantheon.

"I didn't want him forgotten," McLean told me. "And there was something about the way he was treated, the fact this person was still sitting in a basement. This was wrong. This was Elgie Pace's humanity that started this ball rolling.

"It was also a lot of metaphor in there for America. I think of that often. I don't know. It just seemed the right thing at the right time."

McLean said WGN, the Chicago radio station, played "The Legend of Andrew McCrew" so often, listeners asked about the man described in it as a "mummy at the fair, all crumpled in a folding chair." WGN jock Roy Leonard found out he had no headstone, and offered to cover the cost. Fulps Monument Co., not far from the cemetery, made the marker, on which you will find a verse from the song:

Well, what a way to live a life and what a way to die. 
Left to live a living death with no one left to cry. 
Petrified amazement, and wonder beyond words, 
A man who found more life in death than life gave him at birth.

McLean has never seen the marker and never will. He doesn't go to graveyards or funerals.

It is enough to know it is there, McLean said. To know that people like Ben Sandifer take people out there to pay their respects to the man who lived a living death until he was buried near the Trinity River.

"It was a moving story, and I wanted to memorialize him and what happened to him, never dreaming it would become real," McLean said. "I was proud. I was proud."

¡Gracias!

 

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