Death Don’t Have No Mercy


Rev. Gary Davis

Rev. Gary Davis

The Rev. Gary Davis was a blind singer from the Carolinas who moved to New York City in 1940. He played blues, ragtime, and gospel guitar, often on the streets of New York City, although for much of his time in New York he was reluctant to play blues in public. Many artists have covered his songs, and this one, “Death Don’t Have No Mercy, “ is one of his most well known. A version on the Grateful Dead’s album Live Dead features a version with one of Jerry Garcia’s finest solos, and the song has always been a Jorma Kaukonen/Hot Tuna favorite. His song “Samson and Delilah” was covered by Peter, Paul and Mary as “If I Had My Way,” and Davis received enough royalties to purchase an automobile. Of course, being blind he could not drive the car, instead having students chauffeur him around. Being blind also did not stop him having a pistol, reportedly purchased after one of his Gibson Jumbos was stoled from him while performing on the street.