Music Moment: There’s no tomorrow — The Mighty Hannibal, “Hymn No. 5”

If you skip the Music Moments normally … don’t skip this one. Banned from the airwaves and all-but-lost to obscurity, this song is one of the best Vietnam tell-it-like-it-is protest songs and one of the greatest soul singles I have heard in recent memory, period.

The Mighty Hannibal — “Hymn No. 5”


I wrote my baby from Vietnam
and this is what I said,

“I want to see you
(You know that)
I want to see you
I want to see you
(Yes I do, now)
Yes, I do.


via northern soul in the u.k.

“Sleeping in these foxholes
Hungry and cold
I had a dream last night

I dreamed I saw you
(You know that I)
I dreamed I saw you
(Yes, I did, yeah)
I dreamed I saw you
(Yeah, I want to say that I)
(I dreamed, a dream)
Yes, I did.”


I want somebody
to tell my mother
And go down yonder in Georgia
and tell my father
that I’m way over here
crawling in these trench-holes,
covered with blood,
but one thing that I know:


There’s no tomorrow,
There’s no tomorrow,
There’s no tomorrow —
they’ll bury me.


I want everybody
in the sound of my voice this evening
to help me sing this hymn number five.

I want you to moan one time.
(humming chorus)


Sometimes I wonder,
I wonder what was it that I did?
I tried to be a good father,
I did the best that I could.
And I wonder, who’s going to take care of my kids?
I’m a long way from home, children.

But I want the world to know
the one thing that I did.
I’m gone for good.


via American Ethnography: Vietnam Zippos.

“Hymn No. 5” was banned from stateside radio-play lickety-split for its “controversial” lyrics. I searched high and low on the internet for those incendiary, heartfelt lyrics, but no go. So, fuck you, censorious witchhunt world of the late 60’s and paranoid early 70’s played out across this present world wide web, because I’m not as lazy as you suppose — I’m typing them out myself. (see above.)


The protest in ’71. The largest of its kind.

From the infinitely worthy Soul Shack:

The Mighty Hannibal is one of those Soul artists that is wrongfully obscure. The world of popular music is filled with myth building, myths sometimes becoming truth, facts obscured. A handful of people these days remember Hannibal. The kind of people who like to hang out in dusty record shops, swap endless amounts of stories and usually useless little facts about obscure and forgotten Soul singers that are God’s gift only in our minds.

(“Platters That Matter: Hymn No. 5.” January 9, 2008.)


from photographer Declan McCullagh, “A dilapidated section of Hue’s citadel, site of major Vietnam War battle involving U.S. Marines and U.S. Army calvary regiments, slowly being rebuilt.”

Hannibal’s “Hymn No. 5” is in my opinion an exception. It is one of those few obscure Soul records that should be saved from forgetfulness. “Hymn No. 5” is both a record of rare beauty and relevance.

(Ibid.)



With the war in Iraq still taking young lives on a daily basis I feel it is important that art like this is remembered. It is through art that we understand the true atrocities of war. If we left it up to our politicians war would be narrowed down to one-liners and personal interest. The news may gives us the facts, photographers may give us the images, but art gives us the personal implications. A song like “Hymn No 5” allows us to feel what war means, allows us to forget the bullshit of the politicians, the confusing statistics scientists use, transcend the daily cold news and actually feel what war does to people. Art allows us to experience the very human consequence of war.

(Ibid.)

Quoted in full because I could not have articulated it as well. A thousand thanks.

The Mighty Hannibal was initially active in the West Coast soul scene, working with Johnny Otis (“Willie and the Hand Jive,” “Harlem Nocturne”) and Johnny “Guitar” Watson (“Gangster of Love”) before launching his own less-than-widely-known but well-appreciated solo career. Born James Timothy Shaw, the Mighty Hannibal grew up with his folks Corrie Bell and James Henry Shaw in Atlanta, GA and then eventually wung his way West. (Can we put a permanent ban on calling it “Hotlanta?” Can that be done?)


Vernon Jordan.

I mention Mr. Shaw’s family as a roundabout and oblique way of announcing that we are coming up on twenty-three years since the overdose/drowning death of AIDS-stricken early porn-and-free-speech crusader Althea Flynt. (Seems random. Bear with me because everything is related and everything is falling apart.) The Mighty Hannibal’s first cousin, the famous lawyer, civil rights crusader, and all-around controversial dude Vernon Jordan (pictured above) has a common bond with Althea’s husband, never-once-controversial-a-day-of-his-life-wink-wink, the paraplegic and litigious Hustler mastermind, Mr. Larry Flynt (pictured below): they have both survived assassination efforts by murderous racist fuckface Joseph Paul Franklin.

For the record, Franklin —and hell, no, I am not throwing up a link to his attention-seeking, Aryan Nations-loving, hopefully-daily-reamed-out butthole; if you want to know more, wiki his sick ass — has never been tried for either of their attempted murders, though he has confessed. He currently sits on Death Row in Missouri, a sentence for which he thanked his jury, assuring them that if they had not condemned him, he would only escape and keep killing in the name of race wars. Also he was a big fan of the Beltway Snipers, who took their cues from his methodology. He was probably pretty surprised when they turned out to be of a heritage he thought was going to Hell. In his face. So, yeah, that dickhead’s on Death Row now. Uh, good? I guess? Not sure that killing him is the solution, although I understand it will satisfy a need for vengeance (which they’ll call “closure” and I deeply understand why because of some of my own shit but it still sits uneasy with me) on the part of his victims’ families. But still. What the good Lord makes of all that is anyone’s guess.


You are all like, why is this a picture of Larry and Althea Flynt and not of Joseph Paul Franklin, and I am all like, “Because I don’t support pathological interest in killers. How about focusing on the people whose lives they interrupted? Go somewhere else if that’s what you want, you stupid, sick fuck, and I hope you never endure the type of loss it will apparently take to snap you out of your ignorant murderer-worshiping, celebrity-and-violence-driven stupor.” If you’re offended by all that, then PLEASE feel free never to return to this journal.

When you stack Franklin’s heinous crimes — which I am not happy to have even touched upon in this entry but I did want to bring the fact of Mr. Jordan’s and Mr. Shaw’s blood relationship to your attention as they are both forthright guys who are serious about civil rights and speaking the truth no matter how ugly it is — up against the subject of this song, hate piled upon hate … it is difficult to even understand where the good can come from on this earth. There is evil in the big picture just as much as the devil is in the details. Genocide and crime and blood and war on one another, which can only be against God’s plan? ought they must be?, stalk every continent. There’s no tomorrow.

Yikes. In reviewing this, I guess it seems that foul mood of earlier today has not yet passed. Super-sorry. Kickass song, though, right? And again, please do scope out the awesome Soul Shack.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Responses to “Music Moment: There’s no tomorrow — The Mighty Hannibal, “Hymn No. 5””

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    Thanks for sharing that
    http://www.antiwarsongs.org/canzone.php?lang=en&id=36893

  2. Dan Says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  3. Happy birthday to the Mighty Hannibal, James Shaw | blog hit sally inside Says:

    […] https://thethoughtexperiment.wordpress.com/2010/06/16/music-moment-theres-no-tomorrow-the-mighty-han… […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: