Lovecraft Country’s Soundtrack Boasts Blues Classics — & A Few Truly Momentous Speeches

Whether or not you knew immediately that Atticus’ (Jonathan Majors) vision of monsters at the start of the series would become real by episode’s end or not, one thing is certain from the second you set foot in Lovecraft Country: This soundtrack does not mess around. In episode 1 alone, the new HBO series has already sampled great blues singers like Etta James and Big Maybelle, alongside the audio directly from James Baldwin’s famed debate on race with William F. Buckley. By the time that first episode wraps, we’re treated to a cover of Nina Simone’s version of the traditional spiritual song, “Sinnerman.” And that’s all before you can even whisper “episode 2.” 

It’s no wonder the soundtrack is full of such heavy hitters. Misha Green's Lovecraft Country, adapted from the book of the same name, has some serious backing from executive producers Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams. The story itself takes on a literary history that is both mammoth, and rife with inequity: The book and series’ namesake H.P. Lovecraft was one of the godfathers of sci-fi horror, known widely as the creator of the Cthulhu Mythos (put simply, a universe of monsters)... and for his own famously racist beliefs. 


Atticus, Leticia “Leti” Lewis (Jurnee Smollett), and Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) travel through the titular Lovecraft Country, the series’ soundtrack will continue to dole out classics from throughout the 1950s. And as each episode airs, we’ll catalogue them all here for you. 

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Episode 1: Etta James, "I Just Wanna Make Love To You"

I don't want you cook my bread
I don't want you make my bed
I don't want your money too
I just want to make love to you, baby
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Episode 1: Cover Of Sister Rosetta Tharpe's "I Want A Tall Skinny Papa"

I want a tall skinny papa
That's all I'll ever need
She wants a tall, tall, tall skinny papa
Tall, tall, tall skinny papa
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Episode 1: Cover Of Big Maybelle's "A Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On"

Well I said come on over baby
We got kicking in the barn, ooh huh
Come over baby, baby
Baby got the bull by the horn
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Episode 1: James Baldwin's Debate Speech Delivered Opposite William F. Buckley

Obviously, this is a famous speech and not a song. But the series cleverly lays audio of Baldwin's words over a montage in episode 1, in place of musical accompaniment:

"It would seem to me the proposition before the House, and I would put it that way, is the American Dream at the expense of the American Negro, or the American Dream is at the expense of the American Negro. Is the question hideously loaded, and then one’s response to that question—one’s reaction to that question—has to depend on effect and, in effect, where you find yourself in the world, what your sense of reality is, what your system of reality is." 
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Episode 1 & Beyond: Alice Smith Cover of Nina Simone's "Sinnerman"

Oh, sinnerman, where you gonna run to?
Sinnerman where you gonna run to?
Where you gonna run to?
All on that day
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Episode 2: Ja'net Dubois & Jeff Barry, "The Jeffersons Theme (Movin' On Up)"

Now we're up in the big leagues
Getting our turn at bat
As long as we live, it's you and me baby
There ain't nothing wrong with that

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Episode 2: Morning Ritual "Bad Moon Rising (Creedence Clearwater Revival Cover)"

I see the bad moon a-rising
I see trouble on the way
I see earthquakes and lightnin'
I see bad times today
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Episode 2: Earl Grant, "The End"

At the end of a river,
The water stops its flow
At the end of a highway,
There's no place you can go
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Episode 2: Nina Simone, "Blackbird"

Why you want to fly Blackbird you ain't ever gonna fly
No place big enough for holding all the tears you're gonna cry
'cause your mama's name was lonely and your daddy's name was pain
And they call you little sorrow 'cause you'll never love again
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Episode 2: Marilyn Manson, "Killing Strangers"

This world doesn't need no opera, we need it for the operation
We don't need a bigga knife (a bigga knife)
'Cause we got guns, we got guns, we got guns (we got guns)
We got guns, you betta run (ya betta run, ya betta run, ya betta run)

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Episode 2: Gil Scott-Heron, "Whitey On The Moon"

I can't pay no doctor bill.
(but Whitey's on the moon)
Ten years from now I'll be payin' still.
(while Whitey's on the moon)
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Episode 2: Leon Bridges, "River"

Oh, I wanna come near and give ya
Every part of me
But there's blood on my hands
And my lips aren't clean
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Episode 3: Leiomy Maldonado with music by The Album Leaf, Vogue Nike Commercial (2017)

Hey Lei, What did you do to make a mark on this world? What mountains did you climb? Which angels gave you their wings? Which skies have you flown? When you reached the heavens, who was there to catch when you fell? And did they tell you that you saved them too, like you saved me? That they are mending their wings and holding them up to the sun, just to step back and watch you fly, So go ‘head
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Episode 3: Fats Domino, "Ain't That A Shame"

You made me cry when you said goodbye
Ain't that a shame
My tears fell like rain
Ain't that a shame
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Episode 3: Marian Anderson, "Standchen (No. 4)"

Silently my songs beg
Through the night to you
Down into the quiet grove
Darling, come to me

(Lyrics have been translated from the original German.)
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Episode 3: Mighty Walker Brothers, "God's Been Good To Me"

First I was a sinner
A sinful kind of name
'Til I met king Jesus
He’s takin’ my sins away
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Episode 3: Cover Of Roy Brown, "Boogie At Midnight"

I’m a mighty mighty man,
I’m young and I’m in my prime
Well, I don’t pick my jobs,
I’m ready for any old time
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Episode 3: Etta James, "Good Rockin' Daddy"

Well you can really go go go
Jumpin' fast or rockin' slow
I will see ya when the band gone blow
Now hold it, don't move it now boogie some more

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Episode 3: Cover of Louis Jordan, "Is You Or Is You Ain't (My Baby)"

Is you is or is you ain't my baby?
The way you're acting lately makes me doubt
Youse is still my baby, baby
Seems my flame in your heart's done gone out
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Episode 3: Dinah Washington, "I Don't Hurt Anymore"

It don't hurt anymore
All my teardrops are dried
No more walkin' the floor
With that burnin' inside
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Episode 3: Dorinda Clark-Cole, "Take It Back"

Everything that the devil stole, God's giv'n it back
Yeah, God's gonna give it, give it, give it back to me
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Episode 3: Jay McShann, "You Turned Your Back On Me"

This exact track isn't currently available to stream, so we've included an embed of essential McShann listening from Spotify.
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Episode 3: Shirley Caesar, "Satan, We're Gonna Tear Your Kingdom Down"

Satan, we're gonna tear
Your kingdom down (oh Lord)
Satan, we're gonna tear
Your kingdom down (oh Yes)
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Episode 4: Rihanna, "Bitch Better Have My Money"

Bitch better have my money
Y'all should know me well enough
Bitch better have my money
Please don't call me on my bluff

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Episode 4: Jade Josephine, "Get Em"

Yeah I’m on your head now
I did not come here to play around
No no you scared now
You will not make it home safe and sound

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Episode 4: Bo Diddley, "Cops & Robbers"

I was drivin' home on the boulevard
Late one night, when I spied a guy over
On the corner, bummin' all alone.

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Episode 4: The Clovers, "Devil Or Angel"

Devil or angel, I can't make up my mind
Which one you are I'd like to wake up and find
Devil or angel dear, whichever you are
I miss you, I miss you, I mi-i-iss you

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Episode 4: Leikeli47, "Money"

All my life, I had to grind and hustle (Ooh)
I had to, work like Kobe just to shine like Russell (Ooh)
They say, "Glad you made it happen over night" (Ooh)

They say, "Damn, you changed"

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Episode 4: Cover Of Ma Rainey, "Chain Gang Blues"

It was early this morning that I had my trial
It was early this morning that I had my trial
Ninety days on the county road, and judge didn't even smile
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Episode 4: Marilyn Manson, "I Put A Spell On You" (Cover)

I put a spell on you because you're mine
You better stop the things that you do
I ain't lyin', no, I ain't lyin'
I just can't stand it babe
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Episode 5: Patience & Prudence, "Tonight You Belong To Me

Way down by the stream
How sweet it will seem
Once more just to dream
In the moonlight
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Episode 5: Janet League from 

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf

(1976), "Dark Phrases"

Dark phrases of womanhood
Of never having been a girl
Half notes scattered without rhythm, no tune
Distraught laughter falling over a Black girl’s shoulders
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Episode 5: Black Atlass, "Return To Love"

Set that flame down, darling
Before you burn up
And keep it locked out your soul
Return to love
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Episode 5: Cover Of George Harrison, "Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea"

I don't want you
But I hate to lose you
You got me in between the devil and the deep blue sea
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Episode 5: Cardi B, "Money"

I was born to flex (yes)
Diamonds on my neck
I like boardin' jets, I like mornin' sex (woo!)
But nothing in this world that I like more than checks (money)
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Episode 5: Frank Ocean, "Bad Religion"

Taxi driver
Be my shrink for the hour
Leave the meter running
It's rush hour
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Episode 5: Pat Boone, "Tutti Frutti"

Tutti Frutti, all rootie
Tutti Frutti, all rootie
Whooo, Tutti Frutti, all rootie
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Episode 5: The Charms, "My Baby Dearest Darling"

My baby dearest darling
You are the one
My baby dearest darling
My life's begun
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Episode 5: Little Richard, "Tutti Frutti"

Got a girl named Sue, she knows just what to do
Got a girl named Sue, she knows just what to do
She rock to the east, she rocks to the west
But she's the girl that I know best
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Episode 5: Cover Of Wynonie Harris, "Lovin' Machine"

Well you put a nickel in the slot
You hear sounds buzzin'
Kisses wild and hot
Five cents a dozen
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Episode 5: Moses Sumney, "Lonely World"

And the sound of the void
Flows through your body undestroyed
And the sound of your voice
Flows from your body, white as noise
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Episode 5: Cardi B, "Bodak Yellow"

If I see you and I don't speak
That means I don't fuck with you
I'm a boss, you a worker, bitch
I make bloody moves
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Episode 6: Judy Garland in Meet Me In St. Louis, "The Trolley Song"

Clang, clang, clang went the trolley
Ding, ding, ding went the bell
Zing, zing, zing went my heartstrings
As we started for Huntington Dell
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Episode 6: APM Music Library Version, "Neujeun jajinmori"

The APM Music Library version of the song isn't readily available to stream, so we've included Kim Hae-Sook and Yoon Ho-Se's version here.
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Episode 6: Johnny Gree, The MGM Studio Orchestra & The MGM Studio Chorus, "Main Title (Easter Parade)"

In your easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it,
You'll be the grandest lady in the easter parade.
I'll be all in clover and when they look you over,
I'll be the proudest fellow in the easter parade.
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Episode 6: Park Hyang-rim, "Oppaneun Punggakjaengiya"

This Korean trot song was originally recorded in 1938.
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Episode 6: MGM Orchestra, "Overture (Summer Stock)"

Summer Stock was a musical film released in 1950, starring Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. It's better known for the Garland number "Get Happy."
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Episode 6: Gene Kelly & Judy Garland in Summer Stock, "You Wonderful You"

I'm glad I met you
You wonderful you
I can't forget you
You wonderful you
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Episode 7: Josephine Baker, "A Message From The Man In The Moon"

I've got a message from The Man In The Moon for you
Just you
He said to tell you there's a bench in the park for two,
Just two
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Episode 7: The Penguins, "Baby Let's Make Some Love"

Everyday is just settling in the dust
Unless you come right to me
When the day is gone, and the night has come
With you here beside me
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Episode 7: Josephine Baker, "Besame Mucho"

Besame besame mucho
Each time I cling to your lips
I hear music divine
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Episode 7: Josephine Baker, "Piel Canela"

Mon horizon, c'est toi, c'est toi
Et ma seule chanson, ma voix, pour toi
Mon coeur est fait pour toi, pour toi
Et ne bat que pour toi

And the same lyrics, translated to English:

My horizon is you, it's you
And my only song, my voice, for you
My heart is made for you, for you
And only beats for you
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Episode 7: Jesse O'Mahoney, Thomas Ellis, "Better To Miss You"

It's better to miss you
Better to miss you
Better to miss you still
Than never to have had you
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Episode 7: The Roy Milton Orchestra With Mickey Champion, "Bam-a-Lam"

Well, I love you, baby
Love you 'deed I do
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Episode 7: LaBelle, "Lady Marmalade"

Gitchi gitchi, ya ya, dada
Get your, get your ya ya's here
Mocha chocolata ya ya
Creole Lady Marmalade
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Episode 7: Mother's Finest, "Fire"

Ooh ooh ooh ooh
Well, you betta be careful 'bout the things you do
Cause somebody's watching you oh oh oh oh
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Episode 8: Bananarama, "Cruel Summer"

It's a cruel, cruel summer
Leaving me here on my own
It's a cruel, cruel summer
Now you're gone
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Episode 8: Peter Di-Sante, Brian Mark, David Van Veersblick & Roger Smith, "Stop Dat Knocking"

This song is an example of music from 19th century minstrel shows, which were largely performed by white people in blackface and which existed almost entirely to make cruel jokes at the expense of Black Americans.
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Episode 8: Alice Smith, "I Put A Spell On You"

I put a spell on you
Because you're mine
You better stop the things you do
I ain't lyin'
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Episode 8: Naomi Wadler at the 2018 March For Our Lives, "I'm here today to say never again for Black girls, too"

I am here today to represent Courtlin Arrington.

I am here today to represent Hadiya Pendleton.

I am here today to represent Taiyania Thompson who, at just 16, was shot dead in her home here in Washington DC.

I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper, whose stories don’t lead on the evening news. I represent the African American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential.
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Episode 8: Billie Holiday, "Stormy Weather"

Life is bare, gloom and mis'ry everywhere
Stormy weather
Just can't get my poor self together
I'm weary all the time, the time
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Episode 9: Al Jolson, "Avalon"

I dream of her in Avalon
From dusk till dawn.
So I think I'll travel on
To Avalon.
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Episode 9: Rob Feat. Sonia Sanchez, "Don't Kill Dub"

Sometimes I wonder,
What to say to you now in the soft afternoon air as you hold us all in a single death I say “Where is your fire?”
I say where is your fire?
You got to fight it and pass it on

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Episode 10: Billie Holiday, "Easy Living"

Living for you is easy living
It's easy to live when you're in love
And I'm so in love
There's nothing in life but you

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Episode 10: Gizzle, "Ready or Not"

I ain't weak
I ain't soft
I ain't got no chill

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Episode 10: Solange, "Weary"

Be leery 'bout your place in the world
You're feeling like you're chasing the world
You're leaving not a trace in the world
But you're facing the world
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Episode 10: Nina Simone, "I Am Blessed"

I who never had much I now have a treasure
A love too great to measure
I am blessed with happiness
And I'm done with loneliness
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Episode 10: The Chords, "Sh-Boom"

Life could be a dream
If I could take you up in paradise up above (sh-boom)
If you would tell me I'm the only one that you love
Life could be a dream sweetheart
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Episode 10: Mississippi Fred McDowell, "Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning"

Well mother don't you stop prayin'
Father keep right on prayin'
Don't you stop prayin' for this old world is almost done
Keep your lamps trimmed and burning

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