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Curly headed piccaninny

GUEST,Alan (Vic Aust) 21 Dec 08 - 05:22 AM
freda underhill 21 Dec 08 - 07:15 AM
kendall 21 Dec 08 - 08:01 AM
GUEST,steven 21 Dec 08 - 08:43 AM
Azizi 21 Dec 08 - 08:49 AM
Azizi 21 Dec 08 - 09:05 AM
Will Fly 21 Dec 08 - 09:13 AM
kendall 21 Dec 08 - 09:33 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 21 Dec 08 - 01:27 PM
GUEST,steven 21 Dec 08 - 02:09 PM
kendall 21 Dec 08 - 02:13 PM
wysiwyg 21 Dec 08 - 02:36 PM
SINSULL 21 Dec 08 - 02:43 PM
GUEST,Steven 21 Dec 08 - 02:50 PM
McGrath of Harlow 21 Dec 08 - 02:52 PM
GUEST,Steven 21 Dec 08 - 03:03 PM
Azizi 21 Dec 08 - 03:14 PM
John MacKenzie 21 Dec 08 - 03:17 PM
Azizi 21 Dec 08 - 03:20 PM
John MacKenzie 21 Dec 08 - 03:24 PM
meself 21 Dec 08 - 03:31 PM
Azizi 21 Dec 08 - 03:31 PM
Megan L 21 Dec 08 - 03:32 PM
Azizi 21 Dec 08 - 03:36 PM
Azizi 21 Dec 08 - 03:37 PM
McGrath of Harlow 21 Dec 08 - 03:38 PM
John MacKenzie 21 Dec 08 - 03:41 PM
meself 21 Dec 08 - 03:44 PM
Azizi 21 Dec 08 - 03:45 PM
John MacKenzie 21 Dec 08 - 03:47 PM
Art Thieme 21 Dec 08 - 04:02 PM
Azizi 21 Dec 08 - 04:02 PM
John MacKenzie 21 Dec 08 - 04:11 PM
Azizi 21 Dec 08 - 04:16 PM
meself 21 Dec 08 - 04:19 PM
Jeri 21 Dec 08 - 04:26 PM
Azizi 21 Dec 08 - 04:28 PM
Azizi 21 Dec 08 - 04:31 PM
SINSULL 21 Dec 08 - 05:08 PM
Bert 21 Dec 08 - 05:28 PM
SINSULL 21 Dec 08 - 05:34 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 21 Dec 08 - 05:46 PM
Sandy Mc Lean 21 Dec 08 - 06:24 PM
Lox 21 Dec 08 - 07:03 PM
Jeri 21 Dec 08 - 07:11 PM
Lox 21 Dec 08 - 07:27 PM
Leadfingers 21 Dec 08 - 08:11 PM
GUEST,Steven 22 Dec 08 - 01:13 AM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 22 Dec 08 - 03:27 PM
GUEST,lox 22 Dec 08 - 03:38 PM
Azizi 22 Dec 08 - 04:11 PM
M.Ted 22 Dec 08 - 05:34 PM
Azizi 22 Dec 08 - 06:22 PM
Azizi 22 Dec 08 - 06:48 PM
M.Ted 22 Dec 08 - 07:30 PM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 22 Dec 08 - 07:37 PM
meself 22 Dec 08 - 08:21 PM
McGrath of Harlow 22 Dec 08 - 09:24 PM
Tangledwood 23 Dec 08 - 04:31 AM
wysiwyg 23 Dec 08 - 09:36 AM
Azizi 23 Dec 08 - 07:52 PM
GUEST,Fay Berry 01 Feb 16 - 09:03 PM
Steve Shaw 01 Feb 16 - 09:57 PM
GUEST,Dave 02 Feb 16 - 03:49 AM
GUEST,Dave 02 Feb 16 - 03:55 AM
Steve Shaw 02 Feb 16 - 04:43 AM
MGM·Lion 02 Feb 16 - 07:49 AM
MGM·Lion 02 Feb 16 - 08:02 AM
Will Fly 02 Feb 16 - 08:47 AM
MGM·Lion 02 Feb 16 - 08:58 AM
Will Fly 02 Feb 16 - 08:59 AM
GUEST,matt milton 02 Feb 16 - 09:06 AM
Steve Shaw 02 Feb 16 - 09:13 AM
Will Fly 02 Feb 16 - 09:16 AM
MGM·Lion 02 Feb 16 - 09:31 AM
GUEST 02 Feb 16 - 12:31 PM
TheSnail 02 Feb 16 - 12:42 PM
GUEST 02 Feb 16 - 12:59 PM
Steve Shaw 02 Feb 16 - 02:48 PM
Greg F. 02 Feb 16 - 04:07 PM
GUEST,Ebor Fiddl er 02 Feb 16 - 05:43 PM
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Subject: Curly headed piccaninny
From: GUEST,Alan (Vic Aust)
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 05:22 AM

Many years ago 60 odd in fact my mother used to sing a lullubye to me. I've spent many years trying to find a copy of the song and more recently have searched for anyone who can even remember its existance. Tonight I found a brief mention of the lyrics in another forum thread but it disappeared; leaving only a few lyrics which differed from the lyrics etched into my memory. My plea now is that some one will know the correct lyrics and perhaps the name of the song; beyond all dreams would be that some one could tell me where I might get a copy of the song on record, tape, or CD. The lyrics in part as I remember them, area as follows:-

Curly headed piccaninny
Coming home so late
Crying cos' his little heart did ache
All the children round about
With skin so white as snow
None of them
With him would ever play
So mammy sat and rocked
As she'd sat and rocked before
And said in her old kind way
Now honey don't you cry so hard
And honey don't you cry no more
Go out and play as much as you like
But stay in your own back yard
What do you suppose a white child would do
With a black little coon like you.

My fingers are crossed many thanks


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: freda underhill
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 07:15 AM

check this mudcat thread, Alan
Lyr Req: Go to Sleep My Baby / Wyoming Lullaby


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: kendall
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 08:01 AM

My Grandmother had a 78 record of a song called Piccaninny's Paradise. Anyone ever heard of it? Thank God most of us have outgrown this sort of thing.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: GUEST,steven
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 08:43 AM

Are you intending to sing it? I won't be attending the concert


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Azizi
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 08:49 AM

I also hope that this song is being researched for historical or folkloric purposes and not sung at a public concert, even with an explanatory introduction.

With regard to the song itself, see this Mudcat thread:

thread.cfm?threadid=27458#1170874
Lyr Req: Stay in your own backyard


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Azizi
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 09:05 AM

Also, I thought that "piccaninny" was folk etymology for the Spanish word "pequeno" meaning "small". However, I'm not certain of that.

In any event, "piccaninny" definitely has negative connotations now as it has become attached to images of stereotypically drawn Black children. Regardless of its source, in my not at all humble opinion, "piccaninny" is a word that needs to be retired if it isn't already withdrawn from usage.

And as far as I'm concerned, anyone who still uses "coon" to refer to Black people is beyond the pale {if you'll excuse that expression}. And even though the term "coon songs" was acceptable way back and those songs might be fondly remembered by some folks, I hope that people don't sing them in public and I hope adults don't pass them down to their children, or if they pass them down they do it in an educational way, making sure that their children know that what is problematic about those songs.

Rant over, though I didn't really begin.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Will Fly
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 09:13 AM

Is it just me, or do I detect "troll" here...?
    Troll or not, it's a song that has at least some historical interest. Don't go trying to pick a fight.
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: kendall
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 09:33 AM

Much of our history sucks. These songs are good examples of how "Mr. Clean" America" is a joke.

It reminds me of an old saying, (what doesn't), "No man ever need be a complete failure. He can always serve as a bad example." Anyone who would sing this tripe in public is a damn bad example!


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 01:27 PM

See "My Curly-headed Baby," sung and made popular by Paul Robeson.

It was based on the minstrel-type song "My Curly-Headed Babby, Plantation Song," by George H. Clutsam. Robeson's version was perhaps the most popular lullaby of all in the 1940s-1950s.

Lyrics to both in thread 55715: Curly-headed Baby

Guest Alan, you might want to compare the two songs, which have much in common.
Hear Robeson on youtube-
Curly headed baby


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: GUEST,steven
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 02:09 PM

"Go out and play as much as you like
But stay in your own back yard
What do you suppose a white child would do
With a black little coon like you"

Why would anyone want to dredge up this garbage, even in the name of research?


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: kendall
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 02:13 PM

It depends on the reason.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: wysiwyg
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 02:36 PM

I don't think there is a human bean on the planet that doesn't have some nasty junk or other mixed in, deep, with all the happy memories. Imagine how a poor kid has to wrap their mind around the disconnect between granny's loving croon and these words, as a tiny mite hearing it for the first time? How does one disentangle the good part of that memory from the all junk that got stuck onto it? (Rhet Q) Oh I KNOW how-- but the doing of it, that is another matter.

One way you do it is by taking an unflinching look back there into the past to see what-all is actually IN there. Can't clean it up, really, without being willing to start, there.

~S~


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: SINSULL
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 02:43 PM

This is a theme in Coon Songs. Mammy's Little Coal Black Rose is another sample.
The Smithsonian has a collection of them. Lester Levy too. They are part of our musical heritage.
"Dredge up this garbage"? Check out the Southern Poverty Law Center. Racism is alive and well and living in the US in a variety of forms.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: GUEST,Steven
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 02:50 PM

If they are being discussed for research purposes the lyrics should at least be shown as quotations otherwise something will be mistaken for what it isn't.

Even far right websites don't use that kind of language these days


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 02:52 PM

Why should a song which on the face of it appears to be attacking racism, recognising the existence of racism, and pretty, be seen as offensive? Sentimental, true, racist, surely not.

What is pretty dodgy is to try to rewrite history as to pretend that our societies have not been degraded by the existence of racism. And continue to be in many ways.

It seems to me that "Stay in your own backyard" in this song carries essentially the same kind of irony as Big Bill Broonzy singing "If you're black, get back, get back, get back."


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: GUEST,Steven
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 03:03 PM

Its all about context I agree. However as a white person, if my mum had sung that one to me when I was a child I'd be wanting to erase it from my memory.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Azizi
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 03:14 PM

It's possible that a person could sing this song, and add commentary before and/or afterwards that attacks racism. However, the lyrics to this song don't attack racism. On the contrary, the lyrics promotes an acceptance of racial segregation:

And said in her old kind way
Now honey don't you cry so hard
And honey don't you cry no more
Go out and play as much as you like
But stay in your own back yard
What do you suppose a white child would do
With a black little coon like you.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 03:17 PM

That's called revisionism Steven.
We must be able to discuss these things objectively, and like it or not they are part of our musical history.
What did somebody say about those who don't learn from history?


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Azizi
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 03:20 PM

And McGrath of Harlow, clearly people have different definitions of what is pretty, and what is offensive.

Perhaps you are talking about its tune. I've never heard the tune for this song, so I can't comment on that. But even if the tune is "pretty", the words are so offensive that I wouldn't consider this song as anything but ugly.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 03:24 PM

Kevin did not say it was pretty, he said it was 'pretty dodgy'


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: meself
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 03:31 PM

Those last two lines are highly ambiguous. They could be given both a racist and an anti-racist interpretation.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Azizi
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 03:31 PM

McGrath of Harlow - PM
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 02:52 PM

Why should a song which on the face of it appears to be attacking racism, recognising the existence of racism, and pretty, be seen as offensive? Sentimental, true, racist, surely not.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Megan L
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 03:32 PM

What he in fact said was "What is pretty dodgy is to try to rewrite history as to pretend that our societies have not been degraded by the existence of racism. And continue to be in many ways." If you are going to critisise someone you might at least do them the courtesay of reading their post properly before you do.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Azizi
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 03:36 PM

Okay, I'll grant you that Kevin did write "pretty dodgy" in his next line to that post:

"What is pretty dodgy is to try to rewrite history as to pretend that our societies have not been degraded by the existence of racism. And continue to be in many ways."

-snip-

{and I'll also admit that I don't know what "dodgy" means, pretty or otherwise}.

But he did write "pretty". And that's not an adjective I'd use for this song, regardless of how nice its tune may be.

Of course, different strokes for different folks. I'm stating my position-and that is that this song is highly offensive.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Azizi
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 03:37 PM

For the record, Megan L. I posted my last comment on this thread prior to this one before reading your comment.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 03:38 PM

Right there - the post got a bit jumbled there, and the pretty didn't belong in that first sentence.

There does seem to me to be a pretty clear implication in the song that a situation where a mother feels she has to give that kind of advice to her child is a wicked one that ought to be changed.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 03:41 PM

Perhaps it might have been better to check out the meaning of the phrase before you allowed it to offend you.
Dodgy defined


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: meself
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 03:44 PM

"Pretty" is being used here as in "pretty much" of something, or "that's a pretty big load", or "that's a pretty ugly dog" - indicating a substanial degree; nothing to do with the other meaning of pretty, i.e., "mildly beautiful".

"Dodgy" is not as commonly used in North America. It means "worthy of suspicion; possibly dishonest; on the borderline of illegality or immorality". From the idea of someone dodging around to avoid the authorities.

"this song is highly offensive"

That was my initial reaction, and I think it would be the reaction of most people. However, upon reflection, I find it (disturbingly) ambiguous (as I mentioned).


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Azizi
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 03:45 PM

John, thanks for posting the defintion for the word "dodgy".

However, I thought I was clear about what offended me. But apparently I wasn't clear, so let me state it one last time.

The word "dodgy" doesn't offend me. The lyrics to that song are highly offensive to me.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 03:47 PM

They are offensive to every right thinking person, but we cannot erase history, we can only learn from it, and it needs to be there to be learned from.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Art Thieme
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 04:02 PM

Ms A.

The word "pretty" in this context, means "rather"---as in That man is rather handsome. (or That man is pretty handsome.)

Or, maybe, That girl is pretty pretty. (A JOKE)


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Azizi
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 04:02 PM

John, I agree with your 21 Dec 08 - 03:47 PM statement. I suppose there may be differences of opinion between some people {not necessarily you and me} as to what "there" means in the last part of your sentence {"it needs to be there to be learned from"}.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 04:11 PM

there-extant-unerased-not revised


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Azizi
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 04:16 PM

Thanks to all who commented about the word "pretty".

I understood that Kevin's second use of "pretty" meant "rather" when I first read that sentence. As I mentioned, it was the word "dodgy" whose meaning I wasn't certain of.

And I understand from Kevin's post of 21 Dec 08 - 03:38 PM that his first use of "pretty" was a typo.

And for the record, fwiw, I agree with Kevin's comment that "What is pretty dodgy is to try to rewrite history as to pretend that our societies have not been degraded by the existence of racism."

That said, indicating that this song is offensive isn't the same thing as attempting to rewrite history.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: meself
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 04:19 PM

Apologies, Azizi - just looked back and saw the "pretty" you were talking about ...


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Jeri
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 04:26 PM

Kevin, I agree.

The lyrics seem to be sarcastic. It may just be how I read them if a mother were singing the song to her child IN THIS TIME AND PLACE. Maybe they were taken literally back in the day.

Azizi, you seem pretty easy to offend sometimes. I'd get pissed off if someone were singing the song at ME and looking like they were waiting for a reaction, but that all boils down to what the singer MEANT by it. We can't know that, and so the song is open to whatever interpretation someone wants to give it.

As to those 'stereotypically drawn Black children', there are people who collect that sort of African American memorabilia. One day, people will stop having reactions to this sort of thing and just look at it as something from the used-to-bes. Not there yet.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Azizi
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 04:28 PM

Your apology accepted, meself.

Now moving right along, anyone up to singing "Kumbayah"?

;o)


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Azizi
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 04:31 PM

Also, for the record, I wrote my comment about moving right along before I read Jeri's comment. And I meant it.

So I hope you're not offended, Jeri, if I don't respond to your comment.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: SINSULL
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 05:08 PM

Guest Steve says: Its all about context I agree. However as a white person, if my mum had sung that one to me when I was a child I'd be wanting to erase it from my memory.

Actually Nana Sullivan used to sing Mammy's Little Coal Black Rose to us, her grandchildren. She did it straight and from her heart - she dearly loved the song. As a child what I heard was a mother comforting her baby and reassuring him that he is as beautiful as a perfect rose.

Nana also sang Only Me which usually draws a snicker now as a tear jerker. But I can tell you that I have never loved one child more than another or even one cat more than another. The song had a profound effect on me - and Nana loved it dearly and sang it straight from her heart.

These are memories I cherish. Did I know, even then, that pickaninny was not an acceptable word in polite company - yes. Am I careful where I sing the song. Yes. But I will never be ashamed of knowing and loving it. It is a cherished part of my childhood.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Bert
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 05:28 PM

This song belongs with other early attempts to point out the evils of racism. Unfortunately the language used, in itself, causes offence.

But that is how the language was back then. I doesn't make it right nor does it make it inoffensive. It's just the way it was.

Here's another


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: SINSULL
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 05:34 PM

Bert,
Reading the lyrics I suspect we are being told that the Daddy was white.
M


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 05:46 PM

Whenever one asks for or posts one of these old songs, that once were favorites in another time, the same objections are posted and re-posted ad nauseum. These songs are an integral part of our musical history and heritage, like it or not; the objectors obviously believe that the reader is incapable of making his own judgement.
A lyric was requested; an answer to that query was the only response that was needed.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 06:24 PM

It has been said by wiser people than me that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. It speaks well that such a song is deemed offensive by most, myself included. That I see as progress! Human values are slowly changing but they have much farther to go. Let us continue to be offended by crap from the past if it makes us better in the future!


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Lox
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 07:03 PM

You move on, I'll comment ...

"there are people who collect that sort of African American memorabilia."

There are people who collect Nazi Memorabilia too.

The only collector of "piccaninny" or "coon" memorabilia that I am aware of is a museum
of Racist artefacts that exists to educate people on the difference between racist art and non racist art.

That kind of stuff is offensive, but in the old days society didn't give a much of a shit about the feelings of those they were offensive to.

The song is offensive because of its lyrics.

You could dress the singer up in a clown suit and throw pies at him, it wouldn't take the sting out of the words.

I'd bet a fortune that it wasn't composed by an African American.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Jeri
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 07:11 PM

Lox, I'm pretty sure Oprah doesn't collect the Nazi stuff, but the African American memorabilia, as in toys and art, she does.

It's offensive if you're offended. If you have to explain WHY and people still don't get it, maybe it's not so offensive. I'm willing to just accept that individuals are offended by the song. When people start telling me what to think and feel and try to make me feel guilty about not agreeing with them (without actually trying to explain WHY a think is racist), I get to be offended.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Lox
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 07:27 PM

"If you have to explain WHY and people still don't get it, maybe it's not so offensive."

Or maybe the person you're explaining it to is an idiot.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Leadfingers
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 08:11 PM

Great !!! Lets ALL rewrite the History books ,and ALL the Old Songs
and forget that there EVER was Injustice , and Racialism , and Bear Baiting , And Poverty and all the other Non PC things that are featured in Folk Song .


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: GUEST,Steven
Date: 22 Dec 08 - 01:13 AM

I personally don't want to see these lyrics banned, much as the lyrics are offensive to about a billion people on this planet. They speak for themselves and educate us about the people who wrote them and also those who bring them up as "research".


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 22 Dec 08 - 03:27 PM

I, too, had relatives from the "Old South," namely Texas and the "red-neck riviera" of the Florida panhandle. This song, or a variant of it, along with many others with a similar theme or substance, spoke volumes about the superior, not to mention paternalistic attitudes in play at the time. I was confronted with this as a small child in the 1940's and never understood or accepted it.

However, it is not necessarily wise to assume a superior posture in condemning Americans today for the sins of their forebears, as some like to do. They were not perfect, but neither are those who point accusatory fingers now. Yes, history is often sanitized in many countries for a variety of reasons. But, once recognized and understood, the sins of the past belong to the past. If things like these songs serve a cautionary purpose, so be it. Every country has some skeletons they would prefer not to confront. But, as some say, Denial is not a river in Egypt.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: GUEST,lox
Date: 22 Dec 08 - 03:38 PM

The song should not be erased, but it should be referred to honestly.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Azizi
Date: 22 Dec 08 - 04:11 PM

Being offended by songs and other cultural indices from the past does not mean that I think that those cultural products should be erased. While I would prefer that these types of songs not be sung in public, I would not want there to be any law to prohibit their public performance. And I support research and educational study of such songs as a means of learning from them.

Also, for what it's worth, I believe that it is a legitimate use of this forum's bandwidth for its members & guests to discuss songs and/or other cultural indices that some indivuals remember with nostalgia and other folks, or perhaps the same individuals, consider to be offensive. Indeed, in my opinion, such discussions can be interesting & informative. Furthermore, these types of online discussions may also be of educational and research value from a sociological if not folkloric standpoint because they not only shed a light on current attitudes & opinions about those subjects that some folks consider to be culturally offensive, and these discussions also can provide interesting studies about group dynamics.

[This last paragraph is in response to Q's 21 Dec 08 - 05:46 PM post to this thread. Q, I owe you a debt of gratitude for introducing me to this forum, and for teaching me-through your example-the value of researching & citing sources for songs and other material. However, this debt does not stop me from sometimes vehemently disagreeing with you regarding some subjects. This happens to be one of them.]


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: M.Ted
Date: 22 Dec 08 - 05:34 PM

I think it's fair to ask why the songs are offensive.

They were certainly not intended to offend--often, they were intended to be humorous instead, and, in fact many of the "offensive" songs were written by African-American songwriters, Ernest Hogan's "All Coons Look Alike to Me", (one of the most disturbing song title ever) being an example.

George W. Johnson, who was the world's first recording star of color (and pretty close to the first recording star of any kind), wrote and performed now horrifying song, "The Whistling Coon", and promoted himself as "The Whistling Coon, the Laughing Darkie"

There is fair reason to believe that the appellation "coon", and concept of "coon songs" was derived from "coon jine" which was the name given to a stepping movement used by crews who worked on the river boats. It seems to be derived from a type of Aftican dance, "counjai"--none of which is offensive.

Slavery, of course, was offensive. The institution of racism was, and is, offensive. Lynchings, beatings, cross burnings, and segregation were, and are offensive.

"Jim Crow" laws are offensive, and that is where innocent entertainment and reality collide--"Jim Crow", as all good Mudcatters know, having been the name of a song and character popularized by minstrel show performer T.D. "Daddy" Rice somewhere around 1830, and it was adopted as a label for the segregationist laws and social order imposed from the 1880's onward.

So the innocent, though undoubtably naive images from popular entertainment were chewed up and spit back out as something profoundly venomous. The stereotypes and caricatures, drawn up simply to amuse, were turned into labels, that in turn were used deny the humanity of living, breathing, people.

This has caused us to blot out the memory of performers like George W. Johnson, and to ignore minstrelry and a lot of ragtime, which really played an enormous role in the evolution of our contemporary music.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Azizi
Date: 22 Dec 08 - 06:22 PM

M. Ted, I agree that the name of the dance "coon-jine" and perhaps some of its movements have their source in the Congolese or West African traditional dance, "counjai" {Counjaille}.

However, I believe that the referent "coon" comes from the referent for the animal called "racoon". See this excerpt from an online article among many others:

"Many slang terms use the term "coon" to mean raccoon. Their black eye-mask and nocturnal habits suggest anthropomorphic parallels, so we get the term "coon" meaning to steal or pilfer, for instance. The word also was used in the 1830s to mean a rustic, a country-bumpkin. In 1840, the coon was the figurehead of the Whig Party. (Where are the Whigs now when we need them?)

Unfortunately, many of those negative stereotypes were applied to black people, hence the derogatory term "coon," first used in the 1850s but more commonly heard after 1890. Some etymologists speculate that the term was used because of the raccoon's dark coloring rather than its real or imagined behavior. Whatever the case, the usage is highly offensive today - heck, it was highly offensive back then. For that reason, "in a coon's age" makes many people uncomfortable, notwithstanding its innocent origin"...

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1536/whats-the-origin-of-coons-age

**

I believe that it wasn't just the dark coloring of the racoon, but also their white circled eyes that fed into or helped create the caricature of big, wide bulging eyed Black people {for instance Stepin Fetchit}. See this excerpt from the biography of
Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry [Stepin Fetchit]:

.."The "Coon" persona mitigated the low status accorded African Americans by whites by feigning near-idiocy in order to frustrate whites by ironically fulfilling their low expectations. (The "Tom," by contrast, is praised by whites for his good work and loyalty. A parallel racial caricaturization of black men by whites, the "buck," is the repository of their racial and sexual fears, and still can be seen in blaxploitation movies of the 1970s and currently, in the gangsta rapper.) Perry used this mitigation stratagem when dealing with whites in real life, allegedly maintaining a coon persona while auditioning for a role in the film "In Old Kentucky," where he stayed in the Stepin Fetchit character before and after the audition. Often, while making movies in which he found the lines offensive, Perry would skip or mumble lines he did not like, pretending to be too stupid to comprehend the script.

The "Coon" stereotype existed long before Perry decided to adopt it (its prevalence as a defiance stratagem intensified after the gains that African Americans had made in the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era were rolled back by segregationist Jim Crow laws, when an "uppity" African American might find himself at the end of a rope). However, he was such a hit with white audiences that his Stepin Fetchit persona popularized the "Coon" image to an unprecedented degree in the medium of film, and many stereotypical black movie characters, including the child Stymie in the "Our Gang" comedy series, were based upon Stepin Fetchit to cash in on his popularity."

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0275297/bio


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Azizi
Date: 22 Dec 08 - 06:48 PM

Here's a Mudcat post that refers to the coon-jine:

thread.cfm?threadid=48976#738250

-snip-

That post was mentioned in this online article about the song "Bully Of The Town"- http://www.bluegrassmessengers.com/master/bullyofthetown1.html

That article includes a number of verses to that song.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: M.Ted
Date: 22 Dec 08 - 07:30 PM

Here is a link to an old recording of one of the songs mentioned above--http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLYuyFeIAFEThe lyrics are appalling, the banjo picking is incredible. In that way, it is something of a metaphor for our history--


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 22 Dec 08 - 07:37 PM

Going back to the song itself, and why we sang it. WE, meaning "we kids back in the 1930s in the Kentucky Mountains."

1- It was a beautiful song, had lovely harmonies.

2- It was to us very sad, very emotional, on the same level as,"Please Mommie, Please, Stay Home With Me!"

3- It always ended with us having a discussion about how folks "ought never to act that way." We didn't realize the size of the racial problems the song portrayed (very few people besides whites in our part of KY then) but our reaction to the treatment of the Momma and her little boy- was always sorrow and anger. That particular song was never intended to be funny- was never sung as a joke. I think it may even have been in one of our songbooks at school- not really sure. I know we had a written source. Here's how it goes, and I think these are the original words:

Lilac trees are blooming in the corner by the gate,
Mammy in her little cabin door;
Curly-headed piccaninny comin in so late,
Cryin cause his little heart was sore.
All the children playin round had skins so white and fair-
None of them with him would ever play,
So Mammy in her lap takes the weepin little chap
And says in her kind old way:

Now honey, you stay in your own backyard,
Never mind what the white chiles do
What show do you s'pose they's goin to give
A little black coon like you?
So jes stay on this side of the high board fence
An honey, don't you cry so hard!
Go out an play jes as much as you please.
But stay in your own backyard.

Ev'ry day the children when they pass ole Mammy's place,
Romping home from school at night and noon
Peeping through the fence to see the eager little face,
Of such a winsome, lonesome little coon...
'Til one day that little face was gone forevermore-
God had called the dusky little elf.
So, Mammy in her door sits and rockes as oft before,
And croons to her own black self:

Now honey, you stay (etc.)

I agree with you all that the song should not be sung today; it is history. And anyway the singer would be a laughing-stock, and the song would be embarrassing to almost everyone. But in its day,I do honestly feel that it reinforced for me the teaching of my parents, that God made and loves all the world's people and that we as His people should love and respect each other likewise.
End of sermon. Merry Christmas!Happy Chanukah!Glorious_____________!fill this in) Wonderful New Year!    Jean


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: meself
Date: 22 Dec 08 - 08:21 PM

And I think that might be an appropriate (if temporary) conclusion for this little set-to ... Thanks once again, kytrad Jean! (And Merry Merry Merry to you!)


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 22 Dec 08 - 09:24 PM

That gem of a post by kytrad shows why its sometimes worth keeping a thread about uncomfortable stuff going.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Tangledwood
Date: 23 Dec 08 - 04:31 AM

"I think it's fair to ask why the songs are offensive.

They were certainly not intended to offend--often, they were intended to be humorous instead, and, in fact many of the "offensive" songs were written by African-American songwriters"

Isn't it often the PC crowd that decide what is offensive to them then tell others to be offended? I was once taken to task by one at work for referring to the English as Poms - even though I'm one myself. (it's rarely considered to be any more derogatory than Brits or Limeys)
In PNG the young boys are referred to as "monkeys". Horrifying isn't it? No - the Pidgin word is "manki" which is believed to come from a German word like "mankin" (not sure of the spelling)


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: wysiwyg
Date: 23 Dec 08 - 09:36 AM

Azizi, please accept my respectful offer of food for future thought.

Every time anyone posts to a thread, the thread title (which may be offensive in an of itself) is brought back up to the top of the thread list.

This does not always result in thoughtful posts in response, nor necessarily any posts of any sort that might give an indication of folks' reactions.

It does, however, re-re-re-reinforce whatever negative stereotyupe is reflected in the thread title.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Azizi
Date: 23 Dec 08 - 07:52 PM

Susan, I just saw your comment. But I'm not certain why you addressed your comment only to me.

For what it's worth, like everyone else here, when I feel the need to post to a thread with what I consider to be an offensive title {or without an offensive title}, I'll do so.

I felt the need to say what I said on this thread, and I wanted to share the information that I shared, including a Mudcat thread with a similar song as the one which is the focus of this discussion. That's why I posted comments to this thread. When I don't feel the need to comment or respond, I don't.

Be that as it may, I'm sure your intentions are good, as are mine.

Best wishes,

Azizi


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: GUEST,Fay Berry
Date: 01 Feb 16 - 09:03 PM

This song my mother sang to me from when I was very young. I loved it! I used to hang onto her skirt so if I fell asleep she wouldn't be able to leave me. Of all the songs she ever sang me I loved this one the best and used to cry each time she sang it.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 01 Feb 16 - 09:57 PM

Well, dammit all, I've just sent the Paul Robeson version of Ma Curly-headed Baby to my son for our new grandson. My mum used to sing it to me sixty-odd years ago and it means a lot to me. There's a current thread about the song. I printed out the words for him. In looking for them I noticed that an awful lot of politically-correct revising has gone on down the years. As far as I'm concerned, daddy was in the cotton field workin' for de coon and it was to a little darkie baby. We admire Nic Jones's songs about whaling and we don't change the words or leave verses out. We sing old songs about men getting women in the club then abandoning them as if they'd done no harm, and songs about dirty old men climbing into the bedroom windows of sixteen-year-olds. We are not going to be depraved or corrupted because we know these songs are of their time. Trying to clean them up just looks a bit shabby. If there's the potential to offend by singing them in our own contexts, then we know what to do, don't we!


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: GUEST,Dave
Date: 02 Feb 16 - 03:49 AM

That would be Harry Robertson's songs about whaling, as sung by Nic Jones (amongst others).


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: GUEST,Dave
Date: 02 Feb 16 - 03:55 AM

As for the word in the title of this thread, it was used by Enoch Powell in his "Rivers of Blood" speech, which was clearly racist in context, and wouldn't really be appropriate now.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 02 Feb 16 - 04:43 AM

Sorry, Dave. I wasn't meaning to imply that Nic wrote the songs! It was late...


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 02 Feb 16 - 07:49 AM

You will find the word 'picknies', obviously a variant, in the well-known Linstead Market calypso, however; sung apparently without embarrassment by Cliff Hall with The Spinners. Not exactly 'now'; but hardly a million years ago either. There was certainly a tendentiousness in Powell's 1968 use of it; but it was scarcely an obsolete word in W.Indian usage even as late as that, it appears: contemporaneous approx with the Spinners' mid-career.

≈M≈


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 02 Feb 16 - 08:02 AM

"Uploaded on Jun 7, 2010

Linstead is a Jamaican Town with a renowned market place. This song tells the touching story of a market seller lamenting her poor sales and fretting about the disppointment of her expectant children ("pickney") awaiting her return home."

    You Tube note


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Will Fly
Date: 02 Feb 16 - 08:47 AM

Another example of an issue which has been described on Mudcat on several occasions - how to approach a song which is problematic in today's context, but which was acceptable to many in its own day. If we perform it at all, do we preface the performance with a bit of chat which places the original song in context - or do we simply change the words.

I had to arrive some decision on this when I started performing Gus Elen's "The Postman's Holiday", which has the unfortunate first line:

"I works just like a nigger..."

In the end, I decided to abandon any sort of preliminary explanation/apology as it would simply draw more attention to the word and ultimately detract from the performance. So now I sing:

"I works just like the devil..."

which seems to work as many people don't know the original words anyway.

There's an interesting example of changing sensibilities over time in the words to "The Sum Has Got His Hat On", which has the line"

"Hes's been tanning niggers down in Timbuctoo" - this is sung on the original 1932 record by Ambrose and his Orchestra. In the 1960s Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band's version, I believe the word had softened into "darkies", and then into "Negroes" in the 1971 version by Nemo (aka Jonathan King). If you buy the sheet music today, it's "people".

I oncce had the embarassment, in my trad jazz days - when I often performed without specs on - of singing "Chinese Laundry Blues" at a lunchtime pub gig. When I'd finished, the band was in fits of laughter - there was a row of Chinese tourists in the audience. Luckily, they saw the humour of the situation, but I felt like a tit for some time afterwards...


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 02 Feb 16 - 08:58 AM

Child #155 anyone? --

Sir Hugh, or The Jew's Daughter


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Will Fly
Date: 02 Feb 16 - 08:59 AM

That should read "The SUN Has Got His Hat On"!

(Two and two making five...)


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 02 Feb 16 - 09:06 AM

Surprised to see that a thread with this title would get resuscitated after 8 years...

As revenants go, it's unwelcome; hopefully it's only a night-visitor and will begone back to the nether regions before long.

Essentially, you're a fool if you sing these words in public. If wish to do so in private, that's your business, and it's inconsequential as nobody else gets to hear it (the proverbial tree falling in the woods).

End of story.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 02 Feb 16 - 09:13 AM

Context is everything. You just ask yourself three questions: Will it cause offence? Do I want to cause offence? Will it deprave or corrupt? Then it's down to your judgement. These stories never end.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Will Fly
Date: 02 Feb 16 - 09:16 AM

I understand what you say, Matt - but it's sometimes worth moving from the particular to the general - and the issue can stay with us for as long as people sing songs from the past.

I'm quite fond of the novels of Dorothy Sayers and J.B. Priestley, but I'm very conscious of the way in which the casually accepted anti-semitism of the period pops up in them from time to time.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 02 Feb 16 - 09:31 AM

À propos -- have just been reading Wikipedia on Hugh of Lincoln, which reminded me that Bert Lloyd's singing of it on that big Riverside 'The Child Ballads' issue all those years ago was produced by Kenneth Goldstein -- a Jew himself, as it points out. & Dorothy L Sayers' publisher was -- why, who but Victor Gollancz? Her father was rector of a village a few miles up the road from where I sit at this moment, BTW: Bluntisham, Cambridgeshire, formerly Huntingdonshire; and the flood village is the one in between, Aldreth. Why she had to pretend that The Nine Tailors happened in Lincolnshire I cannot imagine, when the terrain she describes so minutely I am looking at thru the window as I type this...

≈M≈


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Feb 16 - 12:31 PM



Not to the Trumpites and such who listen to it.

Do I want to cause offence?

Not to the ausience. But you might want to share the idea of offending other (dark skinned or merely caring) people with Trumpites and their like.

Will it deprave or corrupt?

The target audience is already as corrupt as it can get.

A few other questions:

What will singing this song add to the world?

Just a little more hate with a bit of added resentment that people keep calling you for being self- indulgently nostalgic about when your mother could sing such songs from an innocent position of privilege. Oh but a black person sang it, that makes it OK for me to sing it, as if. As if a black person can decide for all black people for starters.

If you want to sing it for purposes of research (like Japanese whaling) record it or better still merely note the fact of its existence, archive it away and have done. If it's for your own entertainment, consider why you would wish to entertain youself in this way. If it's to entertain others, well, frankly you and they are beyond the pale and I wish to know no more about you.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: TheSnail
Date: 02 Feb 16 - 12:42 PM

Were it all so simple. Does anyone ever stop to think what "beyond the pale" means?


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Feb 16 - 12:59 PM

It means beyond civilisation, as the native Irish were considered by the Irish- born people of English extraction who lived in the territory which they defended against them, a fairly small area based on Dublin.

And what's "complicated" about seeing the only reason that anyone would wish to revive a song containing terms like "piccaninny" and "coon" as a desire to cause offence? It's not as though the world is short of songs.


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 02 Feb 16 - 02:48 PM

You're deluded, aren't you. And you're stalking me, aren't you. :-)


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: Greg F.
Date: 02 Feb 16 - 04:07 PM

BOY do I miss Azizi!!!


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Subject: RE: Curly headed piccaninny
From: GUEST,Ebor Fiddl er
Date: 02 Feb 16 - 05:43 PM

There are an awful lot of songs taking the mickey (another anti-Irish concept) from the Irish for several centuries, using the same ideas as the "coon" songs above - ie "We are superior. They are subhuman". In origin it is an ideological defence mechanism against the outsider, which in England included the Irish, the Scots, the Navvies and just about everyone else at times!


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