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Origins: Dink's Song

DigiTrad:
DINK'S SONG


Related thread:
Tune Req: dinks song (32)


cshurtz 06 May 07 - 01:45 AM
Big Al Whittle 06 May 07 - 02:05 AM
Joe Offer 06 May 07 - 04:01 AM
Joe Offer 06 May 07 - 04:38 AM
johnross 06 May 07 - 01:29 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 06 May 07 - 02:07 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 06 May 07 - 02:15 PM
Azizi 06 May 07 - 02:35 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 06 May 07 - 04:04 PM
GUEST,Greycap 06 May 07 - 07:04 PM
Azizi 06 May 07 - 07:14 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 06 May 07 - 07:27 PM
Scoville 07 May 07 - 01:01 PM
PoppaGator 07 May 07 - 03:20 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 07 May 07 - 03:32 PM
dick greenhaus 07 May 07 - 06:10 PM
GUEST,Alex Moen 14 Jan 14 - 01:46 PM
Phil Cooper 14 Jan 14 - 02:21 PM
GUEST,michaelr 15 Jan 14 - 12:10 AM
MGM·Lion 15 Jan 14 - 02:04 AM
GUEST 15 Jan 14 - 02:05 AM
MGM·Lion 15 Jan 14 - 02:07 AM
GUEST,MCP 15 Jan 14 - 12:48 PM
Joe_F 15 Jan 14 - 04:22 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 19 Dec 14 - 04:38 PM
GUEST,Pennywhistler 22 May 16 - 04:04 PM
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Subject: Origins: Dink's Song
From: cshurtz
Date: 06 May 07 - 01:45 AM

I'm sure you all are aware of this most wonderful song called "Dink's Song." I decided a month or so that I wanted to work out a really good personal version to play for my own sake. I have several different transcribed and recorded versions of the song at hand that have showed me how various people have approach the song. But I also keep reading online about the original John Lomax recording of the actual "Dink" singing the song. Where is this original recording? Is it available anywhere? I thank you for your help


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dink's Song
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 06 May 07 - 02:05 AM

After about forty years of singing this song I got fascinated by the origins of it and read all about it on the internet. Of course I knew the basic elements - but the actual brutality of the living conditions of the poor woman who gave the world this wonderful song humbled me - so I wrote this preamble before recording the version for my first cd. Some lines seems crass, but I'm glad I attempted to honour that terrible life.

Tribute to Dink


Seems like all my lifetime long

I sang your sad and pretty song
Of days you lived in tent town

on the side of the Brazos River

Nineteen hundred and eight, you were washing the clothes

Of the working men who would come and go

you sang about love, and how you hurt

Of living hard and being treated like dirt

Down by that levee,

The blows were many and your work was heavy

some man would pass by with a bottle of gin

Often as not you would let him in



But tonight I'll hold your

song to my heart

You'll step out one proud lady

If all that remains of us is love, I'm thinkin'

and tonight Dink, it's your love song we're singing



Tonight we can almost touch your hand with our hearts

Down through all the years

With the words of a song that you wrote with your tears


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dink's Song
From: Joe Offer
Date: 06 May 07 - 04:01 AM

I think all the versions (the one and only) came from what John and Alan Lomax collected from one woman, Dink, published in 1934 in American Ballads and Folksongs (ABFS). The lyrics in the Digital Tradition are almost the same as what's in ABFS, but the DT has plain English instead of the inauthentic-sounding dialect that's in the Lomax book. Here's the entry from the traditional Ballad Index:

Dink's Song

DESCRIPTION: Chorus: Fare thee well/Oh, honey, fare thee well." Floating verses: "If I had wings like Noah's dove/I'd fly 'cross the river to the man I love"; "When I wore my apron low..." "One of these days... You'll look for me, and I'll be gone"
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1908 (collected by John Lomax)
KEYWORDS: nonballad lyric pregnancy love separation floatingverses
FOUND IN: US(SE)
REFERENCES (6 citations):
Lomax-FSUSA 21, "Dink's Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-ABFS, pp. 195-196, "Dink's Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
PSeeger-AFB, p. 88, "Dink's Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-FSWB, p. 186, "Dink's Song" (1 text)
DT, DINKSONG*
ADDITIONAL: Francis L. Utley, "'The Genesis and Revival of 'Dink's Song,''" article published 1966 in _Studies in Language and Literature in Honor of Margaret Schlauch_; republished on pp. 122-137 of Norm Cohen, editor, _All This for a Song_, Southern Folklife Collection, 2009

Roud #10057
RECORDINGS:
Pete Seeger, "Dink's Song" (on PeteSeeger24)
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Careless Love" (floating lyrics)
cf. "Waly Waly (The Water is Wide)" (floating lyrics)
cf. "The Butcher Boy" [Laws P24] (floating lyrics)
NOTES: While this shares a great deal of material with the cross-referenced songs, the unique tune and chorus make me believe it deserves a separate entry. - PJS
It is, however, so close to "Careless Love" in its text that I may have classified some versions there. The reader is advised to check the entries for both songs. Given that it comes from the Lomaxes, I'm not sure I trust its origin, either. Supposedly it was collected from a prostitute who called herself "Dink."
Utley's article is less about Dink and the Lomaxes than about how the song was modified by performers in the folk revival -- an interesting commentary on what performers can do to a song. - RBW
Last updated in version 2.6
File: PSAFB088

Dink's Blues

DESCRIPTION: "Some folks say dat de worry blues ain' bad, It's de wors' ol' feelin' I ever had." The singer details (her) life: "If trouble was money, I'd be a millionaire." "I used to love you, but oh, God damn you now." "Take a worried man to sing de worried song."
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1934 (Lomax)
KEYWORDS: love courting separation work floatingverses
FOUND IN: US
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Lomax-ABFS, pp. 193-194, "Dink's Blues" (1 text)
Roud #15573
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Worried Man Blues" (floating lyrics)
NOTES: The Lomaxes claim they got this from a drunken woman imported to Texas to accompany the men working on a levee there. It's just a feeling, but the story rings utterly false to me; I think they made it up, using floating verses (e.g. from the song which also inspired "Worried Man Blues").
On the other hand, Elijah Wald tells me, "I have looked through John Lomax's papers, and they include the full lyric he got from Dink in Texas, showing his editing process: first a handwritten transcription of her version, then a typescript that is a bit more organized but substantially identical, then an expurgated, edited, and rearranged version that is substantially the one published in ABFS. The final version is thus to some extent his creation, but all its components were in the version he transcribed from her, along with verses he left out because they were too rudimentary (one line repeated three times) or bawdy." - RBW
Last updated in version 3.2
File: LxA193

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2015 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dink's Song
From: Joe Offer
Date: 06 May 07 - 04:38 AM

Here are the lyrics and notes from Lomax and Lomax, Best Loved American Folk Songs.

DINK'S SONG
. . . is a beautiful Negro variant of "Careless Love. John A. Lomax tells how he found the song in 1904, when he made his first field trip for Harvard University:
"I found Dink scrubbing her man's clothes in the shade of their tent across the Brazos river from the A. & M. College in Texas. Professor James C. Nagle of the College faculty was the supervising engineer of a levee-building company and he had invited me to come along and bring my Edison recording machine. The Negroes were trained levee workers from the Mississippi River.

'Dink knows all the songs,' said her companion. But I did not find her helpful until I walked a mile to a farm commissary and bought her a pint of gin. As she drank the gin, the sounds from her scrubbing board increased in intensity and in volume. She worked as she talked: 'That little boy there ain't got no daddy an' he ain't got no name. I comes from Mississippi and we never saw these levee niggers, till us got here. I brung along my little boy. My man drives a four-wheel scraper down there where you see the dust risin'. I keeps his tent, cooks his vittles and washes his clothes. Some day Ize goin' to wrap up his wet breeches and shirts, roll 'em up in a knot, put 'em in the middle of the bed, and tuck down the covers right nice. Then I'm going on up the river where I belong.' She sipped her gin and sang and drank until the bottle was empty.

"The original Edison record of 'Dink's Song' was broken long ago, but not until all the Lomax family had learned the tune. The one-line refrain, as Dink sang it in her soft lovely voice, gave the effect of a sobbing woman, deserted by her man. Dink's tune is really lost; what is left is only a shadow of the tender, tragic beauty of what she sang in the sordid, bleak surroundings of a Brazos Bottom levee camp.

"The lyrics and music of Dink's Song' are to me uniquely beautiful. Professor Kittredge praised them without stint. Carl Sandburg compares them to the best fragments of Sappho. As you might expect, Carl prefers Dink to Sappho.

"When I went to find her in Yazoo, Mississippi, some years later, her women friends, pointing to a nearby graveyard, told me, Dink's done planted up there.' I could find no trace of her little son who 'didn't have no name.'


1. Ef I had wings like Norah's dove,
I'd fly up de river to de man I love.
Fare thee well, O honey, fare thee well.

2. Ize got a man an' he's long an' tall,
Moves his body like a cannon ball.
Fare thee well, O honey, fare thee well.

3. One uh these days, an' it won't be long,
Call my name an' I'll be gone.
Fare thee well, O honey, fare thee well.

4. 'Member one night, a-drizzlin' rain,
Roun' my heart I felt a pain.
Fare thee well, O honey, fare thee well.

5. When I wo' my ap'on low,
Couldn't keep you from my do'.
Fare thee well, O honey, fare thee well.

6. Now I wears my ap'on high,
Sca'cely ever see you.passin' by.
Fare thee well, O honey, fare thee well.

7. Now my ap'on's up to my chin,
You pass my do' an' you won't come in.
Fare thee well, O honey, fare thee well.

8. Ef I had listened to what my mama said,
I'd be at home in my mama's bed.
Fare thee well, O honey, fare thee well.


source:

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Subject: RE: Origins: Dink's Song
From: johnross
Date: 06 May 07 - 01:29 PM

>"The original Edison record of 'Dink's Song' was broken long ago..."

Were any copies made before the original cylinder was broken? If the audio still exists, it really ought to be a candidate for the National Recording Registry.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dink's Song
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 06 May 07 - 02:07 PM

The chorus, 'Fare thee well, O honey, fare thee well,' as well as the verse structure, reminds me of the chantey. This would not be unexpected in Mississippi River levee workers.
I don't think I have run across 'fare thee well' in older Af-Am song. A number of the other lines are floaters, as noted above, but, all in all, an interesting song.

Joe, the dialect is what I heard when I lived in Texas and when I was going to University there, except that it is simpler, as if Lomax simplified it. In 1904, when he claimed to have collected the song, it would have been much more difficult to understand.
I find it odd that Lomax did not obtain the singer's name. Did he make up the story after the ABFS publication and people started singing the song? He seems to have been remiss in this regard with several of his collections.

The words in the DT are too 'clean,' and suggest a white educated singer of the 1960's (or an urban Af-Am who had received more than 4-5 years schooling which was about the norm for rural southern Black kids pre-WW1; not a woman with Dink's background).


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dink's Song
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 06 May 07 - 02:15 PM

I know it's I bit off the main drift of the thread, but you must hear the versions by Carolyn Hester and Dave Van Ronk.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dink's Song
From: Azizi
Date: 06 May 07 - 02:35 PM

Q, as I'm sure you know, the African American spiritual "In That Great Gettin Up Mornin" includes the refrain "fare thee well, fare thee well".

If you don't mind listening to what is {imo} an awful midi that automatically comes on when you click on this website, here's the words to "In That Great Gettin Up Mornin":

http://my.homewithgod.com/heavenlymidis2/gettinup.html


And here's another version of this song that gives that phrase as "fare you well":
http://www.negrospirituals.com/news-song/in_dat_great_gittin_up_morning.htm


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dink's Song
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 06 May 07 - 04:04 PM

Azizi, I slipped a cog there; the line is used in the first verse of the song as sung by the Jubilee Singers in the 1880's. I have been thinking too much about sailors' songs and the chantey is running through my head. I still think "Dink's Song" is influenced by the chantey, not the religious song.

I have posted the version printed in Marsh, 1880's, "The Story of the Jubilee Singers," in thread 101413; I couldn't find the song in Mudcat. Great Getting-Up Morning


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dink's Song
From: GUEST,Greycap
Date: 06 May 07 - 07:04 PM

Ramblin' Jack Elliott recorded it on an old Topic 10" LP titled "Jack takes The Floor" here in the UK back in the early 60's. Did a damn fine job on it too.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dink's Song
From: Azizi
Date: 06 May 07 - 07:14 PM

Some floating verses show up in bothAfrican American spirituals & secular songs.

The third verse posted above certainly seems like it could be used for a spiritual:

One uh these days, an' it won't be long,
Call my name an' I'll be gone.
Fare thee well, O honey, fare thee well.

**

I recall reading somewhere-in one of your posts, Q?-that the line "wear my apron high" means that the woman is pregnant.

I'm sure there are other songs with those "apron verses", but I can't think of any right now.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dink's Song
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 06 May 07 - 07:27 PM

apron high = pregnant. Several songs and variations in Mudcat, I think, but "Careless Love" is the only one I recall at the moment.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dink's Song
From: Scoville
Date: 07 May 07 - 01:01 PM

I thought it was "Noah's dove", like the one he turned loose after the rain stopped, to see if it could find land.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dink's Song
From: PoppaGator
Date: 07 May 07 - 03:20 PM

I also vote for "Noah's dove." I think that's the way it was printed n Sing Out magazine many years ago, the first time I read these lyrics, and I also think that's the way (FWIW) that Dave Van Ronk sang it.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dink's Song
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 07 May 07 - 03:32 PM

Norah = Noah; Older African-American dialect.
Historical interest mainly, since it must be explained to the audience if it is retained.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dink's Song
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 07 May 07 - 06:10 PM

Lomax's notes are often taken best with a bit of salt.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dink's Song
From: GUEST,Alex Moen
Date: 14 Jan 14 - 01:46 PM

Can anyone tell me what it means to "move your body like a cannonball"?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dink's Song
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 14 Jan 14 - 02:21 PM

Think steam engine pistons for the cannonball reference.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dink's Song
From: GUEST,michaelr
Date: 15 Jan 14 - 12:10 AM

On the subject of apron height, this is from the DT text of "Willie o'Winsbury":

So she cast off her berry-brown gown
Stood naked on the stone
Her apron was low, her haunches round
Her face was pale and wan

...which served as proof that Janet was, in fact, pregnant. Any ideas as to the high/low apron contradiction?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dink's Song
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 15 Jan 14 - 02:04 AM

She wouldn't have had her apron on at all if she was naked, michaelr. So I take it that 'apron' in Winsbury means the front part, as in apron stage or (Aeronautics) a hard-surfaced area in front of or around an aircraft hangar, terminal building, etc, upon which aircraft can stand: ie that she had a lowslung belly.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dink's Song
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Jan 14 - 02:05 AM

Hi, I still think "Dink's Song" is influenced by the chantey, not the religious song.
animals songs for kids


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dink's Song
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 15 Jan 14 - 02:07 AM

Al ~~ Grossly belatedly!; but a word of appreciation for your Tribute To Dink song posted back in May 07.

Best

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dink's Song
From: GUEST,MCP
Date: 15 Jan 14 - 12:48 PM

On the use of Fare thee well honey, fare thee well, see this song from Variety, 1922: Jazz In Print

Mick


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dink's Song
From: Joe_F
Date: 15 Jan 14 - 04:22 PM

I have known the song for >60 years, and can no longer remember how I learned it, but at a guess it was in circulation in my high school, which had a strong folksinging tradition, and I must also have looked it up in print. The words I know are the Lomaxes'. However, we (I?) customarily repeated the first verse at the end, to a somewhat decorated tune (solfa, scale is DRMFSLTdrmfslt^, dots mean continuation for half a beat):
d.d.m.s.........s.l.....l.ls......
m.l.....mmrd....SLDmrd.L...........
dd^.........l...sm..............
r.......L.d.........
(more or less).

Even at the age of (say) 14, I had no trouble interpreting "Norah's" as "Noah's", without an explanation. I also had no trouble believing Lomax's story, but I was & am naive.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dink's Song
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 19 Dec 14 - 04:38 PM

If you look at John Lomax's 1917 article about black folk music for _The Nation_, which you can do at google books, it's obvious that he's just running together different lyrics he's encountered as mishmash supposed "lengthy" songs, and that includes when he's explicitly attributing stuff in that article to this "Dink," who he later couldn't keep his story straight about what year he'd encountered.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dink's Song
From: GUEST,Pennywhistler
Date: 22 May 16 - 04:04 PM

C'mon, johnross. Read the rest of the sentence: "The original Edison record of 'Dink's Song' was broken long ago, but not until all the Lomax family had learned the tune."

That's how it survived.


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