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According to the Saint James Infirmary Songfacts, the song is based on an old English tune, "The Unfortunate Rake," that made its way over to America. The song's title is derived from St. James Hospital in London, a religious foundation for the treatment of leprosy. It was closed in 1532 when Henry VIII acquired the land to build St. James Palace. The lyrics tell the tale of a man explaining to the singer/narrator, at a bar, how he… read more

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