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Folklore: Odd Minstrel Song = John Barleycorn (?)

DigiTrad:
JOHN BARLEYCORN
JOHN BARLEYCORN (2)
JOHN BARLEYCORN, MY JO
JOHN BARLEYCORN: A BALLAD


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Songster Bob 18 Dec 07 - 11:59 PM
Jim Carroll 19 Dec 07 - 03:15 AM
Nerd 19 Dec 07 - 06:33 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 19 Dec 07 - 09:50 PM
Leadfingers 19 Dec 07 - 10:55 PM
Skivee 19 Dec 07 - 11:14 PM
Les in Chorlton 20 Dec 07 - 05:25 AM
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Subject: Lyr Add: JIM JAWBONE
From: Songster Bob
Date: 18 Dec 07 - 11:59 PM

In going through the lyrics in Christy's Panorama Songster (1852), I came upon this interestingly supernatural story song, and it occurred to me that it includes several fascinating connections to folklore, and in particular to John Barleycorn. Does anyone else see the connection?

Here's the lyric, with two editorial changes (by me) to avoid the "N" word and all that baggage:

^^
JIM JAWBONE
TUNE. "Yankee Doodle was a gentleman."


Jim Jawbone was a color'd man,
Ob de true negro blood, sa,
In old Virginny he did grow,
Among de 'bacca buds, sa.
His fader cum from Alabam,
His moder cum from Guinea,
Dey suckled little Jawbone wid
De leaf ob ole Virginny.

Chorus:
Success to de tobacco leaf,
An' to de Jawbone Grinny,
Sing may dey raise for our relief,
De plant ob ole Virginny.


Dey cradled in tobacco stalks,
Dis blooming infant black, sa;
An' long before he larnt to talk,
He squealed de name of "bacca."
Soon as young Jim fus' larnt to creep,
Dey missed an' thought him killed, sa,
But dey found him in de field asleep,
Upon a bacca hill, sa,

Chorus

As Jim growed up, de more he show
His vegetable breed, sa;
His 'plexion from the de sable crow,
Turned like de yallar weed, sa;
His limbs growed so jist like de plant,
When cutting time come round, sa,
He took 'em for tobacco stalks,
An' cut'mself clar down, sa.

Chorus

So poor Jim Jawbone had to die,
All by dis sad slipstake, sa,
He hung him up wid stalks to dry,
Upon de 'bacca brake, sa;
Dis pipe I cut out ob de bone,
Dat growed out ob his shin, sa,
An' de more I smoke de 'bacca out,
De more keeps coming in, sa,


From Christy's Panorama Songster, 1852

I also note the "never-empty purse" in the last two lines. There are probably several other folklore connections, too, but this was a song specifically written for the popular stage of the time, not one where folklore elements were a "given."

What do you think?

Bob Clayton


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Odd Minstrel Song = John Barleycorn
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Dec 07 - 03:15 AM

Seems to have been lifted directly from the traditional 'John Barleycorn' ritual.
Fascinating.
Thanks for that Bob.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Odd Minstrel Song = John Barleycorn
From: Nerd
Date: 19 Dec 07 - 06:33 PM

This is a great piece! I agree about the folklore connections, and of course the connections to other minstrel songs--"jawbone," etc.

As to Jim's post, no one has ever proved there WAS a "traditional 'John Barleycorn' ritual," and most scholars today would be loath to speculate. If there were such a ritual, it presumably would be reflected in the song, so JB wouldn't cut HIMSELF down, but be cut down by others.

I like the touch that Jim Jawbone cuts himself down by mistake. It is a great and amusing image, but of course impossible and absurd in practice. This leads me to think the song is a half-homage, half-parody of John Barleycorn, rather than a straight "lift" as Jim suggests.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Odd Minstrel Song = John Barleycorn (?)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Dec 07 - 09:50 PM

This is 100% digression, but there is an old Hindu tale of the "Sixth Goblin," about a girl who transposed the heads of her husband and brother.
Sixth Goblin

The goblin tales are available at this website.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Odd Minstrel Song = John Barleycorn (?)
From: Leadfingers
Date: 19 Dec 07 - 10:55 PM

"John Barleycorn" was never a 'Ritual' The Description I would use would me be Myth or Legend .


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Odd Minstrel Song = John Barleycorn (?)
From: Skivee
Date: 19 Dec 07 - 11:14 PM

I'd be interested to know if the Jim Jawbone story was rewritten for minstral show by some white manager, or is the work of a black minstral who knew John Barleycorn.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Odd Minstrel Song = John Barleycorn
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 20 Dec 07 - 05:25 AM

Could it just be that two songs concerning things that grow are by coincidence similar?


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