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Lyr Req: Songs About Moving North

Q (Frank Staplin) 31 Jan 09 - 07:08 PM
Joe_F 31 Jan 09 - 08:31 PM
Charley Noble 01 Feb 09 - 10:32 AM
Bob the Postman 01 Feb 09 - 10:48 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 01 Feb 09 - 02:15 PM
Charley Noble 03 Feb 09 - 07:59 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 03 Feb 09 - 08:33 PM
topical tom 03 Feb 09 - 11:30 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 04 Feb 09 - 12:12 AM
Mark Ross 04 Feb 09 - 12:36 AM
oldhippie 04 Feb 09 - 12:57 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 04 Feb 09 - 03:52 PM
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Subject: ADD: Going from the Cottonfields
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 31 Jan 09 - 07:08 PM

Although many African-Americans moved from the South to the North in the period from 1870s-1930s, and probably almost as many whites did the same, there seem to be few songs about the exodus. The thread on secular African-American music caused me to wonder about their scarcity.
I would especially like to find folk songs or folk versions, both Black and White.

The parlor song "Going from the Cotton Fields," 1879, by Thos. P. Westendorf, entered White folk song repertoire. It has been sung by Grandpa Jones, and Bob Walker recorded it for the Library of Congress in 1937; the Carter Family sang a modified version.
It was sung by the Gilbert Family of Arkansas. Their version:

GOING FROM THE COTTONFIELDS

1
I'se a goin' from de cottonfields, I'se a goin' from de cane
I'se a goin' from de old log hut dat stands down in de lane
I'se gwine to join de expedition headed for 'de Norf
And de boat is on de ribber dat's gwine to take me off.

Chorus:
I'se goin' from de cotton fields and oh it makes me sigh
For when de sun goes down tonight I'se gwine to say goodbye.

2
They say dat up in Kansas so many miles away
De colored folks is flockin' round and gettin' better pay
I don't know how I'll find it dere but I is bound to try
So when the sun goes down tonight I'se gwine to say goodbye.

4
I dread to leave de dear old place where I was borned and bred
To leave de friends dat I have made and de graves of dem dat's dead
De flowers dat bloom on Massa's grave will miss de tender care
No hands like mine will take de pains to keep dem bloomin' dere.

4
Now Dinah she don't wanta go, she says she's gettin' old
She says she's 'fraid we'll freeze to death de country am so cold
But I'se bound to help my chillun some befo' I'se called to die
So when de sun goes down tonight i'se gwine to say goodbye.

5
I'se sold de old log cabin and de little patch of ground
Dat good old Massa gave to me when de Yankee troops came down
My heart is sad and sore now, de tears are in my eyes
For when de sun goes down tonight I'se gwine to say goodbye.

With musical scoere, pp. 186-187, Appendix One. Robert Cochran, 1999, Singing in Zion. The University of Arkansas Press.

A similar version of Westendorf's song has been collected in Alabama:
"I'm Gwine from the Cotton Fields," pp. 107-108, with music, Robert W. Halli Jr., Ed., 2004, "An Alabama Songbook, Ballads, Folksongs and Spirituals Collected by Byron Arnold."


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Songs About Moving North
From: Joe_F
Date: 31 Jan 09 - 08:31 PM

I don't know at all. But if Detroit failed to produce such songs, I'd like to know the reason why.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Songs About Moving North
From: Charley Noble
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 10:32 AM

The ones that come to my mind are more contemporary and have more to do with White Appalachian migrants. I'm thinking of "You Gave Me a Song" and "The Green Hills of West Virginia" as sung by Hazel and Alice.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Songs About Moving North
From: Bob the Postman
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 10:48 AM

"Man of Constant Sorrow", first published in 1913 and possibly derived from an oral source, according to the Traditional Ballad Index, speaks of being "bound to ride that northern railroad". In the hoopla following the movie "Oh Brother" much was made of "Constant Sorrow" as a song about emigration to the industrial north.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Songs About Moving North
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 02:15 PM

"You Gave Me a Song" seems to be about leaving for a job in the nearby southern mills, but not leaving for the north.
I can't find lyrics to "The Green Hills of West Virginia" (a relative of "Country Roads"?). In the Civil War, people there were bitterly divided. My wife's relatives (Georgia) considered it renegade Yankee territory; not part of the South.

Burnett's "Farewell Song" (Man of Constant Sorrow) is about a troubled (and blind literally?) man leaving his home Kentucky and going north; other singers may have got the song from Burnett's broadside publication. Not an 'exodus' song.

Thanks for the recommendations. They give me ideas about where to search.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Songs About Moving North
From: Charley Noble
Date: 03 Feb 09 - 07:59 PM

Q-

I guess I always assumed that "You Gave Me a Song" had to do with moving north to Detroit although there is no mention of that in the verses:

I got a job in a factory
On that old assembly line
Thought I'd climb on up the hill
And leave my past behind
But the only climbing that I did
Was five flights up the stairs
And the past I thought I'd left behind
Went with me everywhere.

But when I hear "assembly line" I think automobile factories, and when I imagine a 5-flight walk-up I think major Northern city.

The other song's title I believe is "The Green Rolling Hills of West Virginia."

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Songs About Moving North
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Feb 09 - 08:33 PM

Isn't it odd! So many moved, yet almost no one sang about it.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Songs About Moving North
From: topical tom
Date: 03 Feb 09 - 11:30 PM

Dolly Parton's "Smokey Mountain Memories"


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Songs About Moving North
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 04 Feb 09 - 12:12 AM

Thanks for that. Enjoyed it. Who wrote it?

I would like to get some old ones, but they seem to be rare.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Songs About Moving North
From: Mark Ross
Date: 04 Feb 09 - 12:36 AM

GREEN ROLLING HILLS OF WEST VIRGINIA was written in the early '60's by Utah Phillips while he was traveling thru that state. When people asked him if there was any work out where he was from, his reply would be that there wasn't which was why he was back there in the W.Virginia hills looking for work. He stayed with an old woman down in some hollow. When he asked her why people didn't leave to find work, she told him that it was the hills that would keep you and never let you go. He left her the song as a "Thank You" when he departed the next morning before she woke up. It was written a while before the John Denver hit.

Mark Ross


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Subject: ADD: A Very Nice Country (Oscar Brand)
From: oldhippie
Date: 04 Feb 09 - 12:57 PM

A VERY NICE COUNTRY
(Oscar Brand)

I was born in Philadelphia
Not too far from Rittenhouse Square
Maybe you pass by that place sometimes
My family still lives there
But please don't ask them about me
Especially not my Dad
As far as he's concerned
I'm just another bit of
good luck that went bad

And, so, I'm living up here in Canada
Living here all alone
A very nice country
But not my own

Funny thing about the people here
They're just like the people back home
And the buildings look a lot alike
Not much of that New York tone
The streets are a little bit cleaner
And every one has its sign
Printed very neatly
Half a million streets
Not one of them mine

I'm still living up here in Canada
Living here all alone
A very nice country
But not my own

I've been writing lots of letters home
I get answers once in awhile
They say things like
Please don't catch a cold
Well, that always makes me smile
But they never mention my brother
Or what he intends to be
I guess they're all afraid
If we got too friendly
He'd turn out like me

So, I'm living uo here in Canada
Living here all alone
A very nice country
But not my own

Funny thing the war is over now
They're not making anyone go
Seems like they just got tired of it
They used to love it so
You'd think they'd say we're sorry now
And maybe you were right
But they won't let us back
They say it isn't fair
To the kids they forced to fight

Meanwhile, I'm living uo here in Canada
Living here all alone
A very nice country
But not my own

There are lots of others living here
Twenty, thirty thousand or so
Some of them say they'd much rather stay
But I sure would like to go
And now they're talking the draft again
And resuming nuclear tests
I'll find some empty spots
Set up folding cots
Cause I'm expecting lots more guests

Meanwhile, I'm living up here in Canada
Living here all alone
A very nice country
But not my own

A very nice country
But not my own



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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Songs About Moving North
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 04 Feb 09 - 03:52 PM

The Oscar Brand song brings back memories. Several slept in my basement until they got themselves settled here in Canada.


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