James Carr sang "Dark End of the Street" for Memphis-based Goldwax Records back in 1967. Many fans and critics consider it the pinnacle of soul music. Carr, who suffered with mental illness, appeared every bit the troubled man whose voice on records pulled the hearts of listeners like an old memory.
Carr lived out his last years with a sister, jumping from one housing project to another. Whether Carr was the victim of exploitative management or his illness rendered him unable to function, he enjoyed no enduring financial comfort from his recording success.
Carr succumbed to lung cancer January 7, 2001 and was laid to rest in New Park Cemetery at 3900 Sewanee Road in southwestern Memphis. Carr's grave would have remained unmarked if not for the efforts of fans and colleagues from outside Memphis who purchased a headstone that cemetery staff put in place in late February.
To visit Carr's resting place, take Third Street south, head west on Raines Road, and turn right on Sewanee. (You'll see horses hitched up in residents' yards, an unusual sight in the city limits.) New Park is about three miles on the right. The cemetery is full of flat markers, and devoid of landmarks. To find Carr's, follow the driveway around to the right as you enter past the New Park sign. Carrs marker is to the right, three rows back from the "Fleming" marker visible just beside the driveway.
New Park also holds the graves of Memphis music icons Rufus Thomas, Al Jackson Jr., Herbert Brewster, Johnny Ace, Bukka White, and members of the Bar-Kays.
-- Preston Lauterbach