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Why does the song end like this?-Young Billy Brown

Dave Ruch 06 Nov 09 - 11:51 AM
Dave Ruch 06 Nov 09 - 12:11 PM
Dave Ruch 07 Nov 09 - 10:18 AM
GUEST,leeneia 07 Nov 09 - 10:33 AM
Dave Ruch 08 Nov 09 - 05:40 PM
Amos 08 Nov 09 - 05:45 PM
Dave Hunt 08 Nov 09 - 07:30 PM
Uncle_DaveO 08 Nov 09 - 07:33 PM
Jeri 08 Nov 09 - 07:59 PM
kendall 09 Nov 09 - 08:13 AM
McGrath of Harlow 09 Nov 09 - 11:39 AM
Dave Ruch 09 Nov 09 - 11:43 AM
GUEST,leeneia 09 Nov 09 - 01:36 PM
Amos 09 Nov 09 - 01:51 PM
Dave Ruch 09 Nov 09 - 03:48 PM
Tootler 09 Nov 09 - 03:58 PM
semi-submersible 09 Nov 09 - 04:49 PM
McGrath of Harlow 09 Nov 09 - 05:02 PM
Tootler 09 Nov 09 - 05:06 PM
Steve Gardham 09 Nov 09 - 06:26 PM
semi-submersible 09 Nov 09 - 06:57 PM
Mo the caller 10 Nov 09 - 06:40 AM
McGrath of Harlow 10 Nov 09 - 07:46 AM
Steve Gardham 10 Nov 09 - 05:41 PM
McGrath of Harlow 10 Nov 09 - 05:44 PM
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Subject: Need help with Young Billy Brown
From: Dave Ruch
Date: 06 Nov 09 - 11:51 AM

I know that the Watersons have recorded a version of this song, and it seems to be fairly uncommon in tradition. I've discovered a version from the Catskill Mountains of New York State, sung by traditional singers George and Dick Edwards (cousins) in 1941, and titled "Charles Grey" (text below).

They sing it to a very compelling tune (I'll try to post an mp3 online soon). I'd love to work up a version of it, but my problem is that the end is just so unsatisfying. It makes no sense to me that she'd end up taking this position, based on what we know about this guy.

Thoughts?

CHARLES GREY
as sung by Dick Edwards and George Edwards of the Catskill Mountains, New York State 1941

It was a hard hearted fellow, Charles Grey he proved to be, he took me from my parents and home
He took me from my parents, bid adieu to them all, and he left me in this wide wide world alone

He took me by the lily white hand, he led me 'cross the garden so green
And what was done there I never shall declare, but the green leaves are plain to be seen

It's about six months from that very day, the young man he came riding by
You see young man I have a child by thee and the very same thing you can't deny

Perhaps you may have a child by me, perhaps may be another man
If you have a child by me, tell me the where and the when

Yes I can tell you the where and the when, the very same hour and time
And if you don't marry to me a poor girl, then in prison I'll have you confined

He promised to marry, marry marry me, the very next dawning of the day
But instead of getting married to me a poor girl, he took ship and he sailed far away

Now perhaps his poor body lies drowned in the deep, perhaps he lies floating o'er the waves
Perhaps his poor body is drowned in the deep, and no more will I see him again

But if he ever, if he ever, he comes this way again, his curly curly locks I'll unfold
I never shall chastise him for using of me so, but encourage him for being so bold.


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Subject: RE: Need help with Young Billy Brown
From: Dave Ruch
Date: 06 Nov 09 - 12:11 PM

OK, here's Dick Edwards singing the song: Charles Grey

His cousin George Edwards, who learned the song from Dick, sang the three middle verses left out by Dick!


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Subject: RE: Need help with Young Billy Brown
From: Dave Ruch
Date: 07 Nov 09 - 10:18 AM

I wonder if someone could retitle this thread "Why does the song end like this?"

Might help to get more folks to read and respond


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Subject: RE: Need help with Young Billy Brown
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 07 Nov 09 - 10:33 AM

I agree with you, Dave, It's a pusillanimous ending. Who can believe that she would want to dally with a seducer who ridicued her ('maybe it's some other guy's kid'], made a false promise and then vamoosed?

There's another pusillanimous line and that is, ',,,but the green leaves are plain to be seen.'

Green leaves, eh? More like bloody, or if that's too graphic, how about 'crushed' or 'broken'?

What this song needs is a couplet that says, 'Perhaps his poor body is drowned in the deep, and any number of foolish women are left in his wake.'


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Subject: Why does the song end like this?
From: Dave Ruch
Date: 08 Nov 09 - 05:40 PM

I posted this a few days ago under a different thread title, but I'm not sure many people read it, so here goes again....

I know that the Watersons have recorded a version of this song (as "Young Billy Brown"), and it seems to be fairly uncommon in tradition. I've just discovered a version from the Catskill Mountains of New York State, sung by traditional singers George and Dick Edwards (cousins) in 1941, and titled "Charles Grey" (text below, audio here: Charles Grey)

I find the tune to be very compelling, and I'd love to work up a version of it, but my problem is that the end is just so unsatisfying. It makes no sense to me that she'd end up taking this position, based on what we know about this guy.

Thoughts?

CHARLES GREY
as sung by Dick Edwards and George Edwards of the Catskill Mountains, New York State 1941

It was a hard hearted fellow, Charles Grey he proved to be, he took me from my parents and home
He took me from my parents, bid adieu to them all, and he left me in this wide wide world alone

He took me by the lily white hand, he led me 'cross the garden so green
And what was done there I never shall declare, but the green leaves are plain to be seen

It's about six months from that very day, the young man he came riding by
You see young man I have a child by thee and the very same thing you can't deny

Perhaps you may have a child by me, perhaps may be another man
If you have a child by me, tell me the where and the when

Yes I can tell you the where and the when, the very same hour and time
And if you don't marry to me a poor girl, then in prison I'll have you confined

He promised to marry, marry marry me, the very next dawning of the day
But instead of getting married to me a poor girl, he took ship and he sailed far away

Now perhaps his poor body lies drowned in the deep, perhaps he lies floating o'er the waves
Perhaps his poor body is drowned in the deep, and no more will I see him again

But if he ever, if he ever, he comes this way again, his curly curly locks I'll unfold
I never shall chastise him for using of me so, but encourage him for being so bold.
    Threads combined. Sorry I was slow - I've been having Internet problems. -Joe Offer--


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Subject: RE: Why does the song end like this?
From: Amos
Date: 08 Nov 09 - 05:45 PM

There's nothing mysterious about it to me. Women have very large hearts, and it takes a lot of living to teach them to be cynical or jaded. Some of them never learn not to love. This is not a matter of the justice of the situation, but the state of her heart.


A


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Subject: RE: Why does the song end like this?
From: Dave Hunt
Date: 08 Nov 09 - 07:30 PM

Interesting that the pregnancy only lasted 6 months - so perhaps it WAS another man!!


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Subject: RE: Why does the song end like this?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 08 Nov 09 - 07:33 PM

Dave Hunt, at six months she confronted him, and called on him to step up to his responsibility. Nothing is said as to the end of the pregnancy.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Why does the song end like this?
From: Jeri
Date: 08 Nov 09 - 07:59 PM

It was six months after he left her, no?

I don't know that it's about women having large hearts and not being cynical. Cynicism and a history of bad stuff can't stand up to love. Love makes people do some pretty stupid, pathetic things, including constantly proving that love to somebody who isn't paying attention or simply doesn't care. Look at all those ballads where the spurned lover dies of sorrow or does something intentional or obviously not good to prove their love.

Now, is welcoming the heart breaker back less believable than lying in bed until he/she dies? In real life, the abused let their abusers back into their lives and hearts all the time. Love, or maybe the desire to be loved, provides justification for people do some pretty destructive things.


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Subject: RE: Why does the song end like this?
From: kendall
Date: 09 Nov 09 - 08:13 AM

Maybe he was just great in bed?


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Subject: RE: Why does the song end like this?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 09 Nov 09 - 11:39 AM

Here's Young Billy Brown, as sung by the Watertsons (from here):

Young Billy Brown, he was a brisk young lad
When first that he raided me away
He brought me from me parents and stole me from me home
And now he's left me in the wicked world to stray

He took me by the lily-white hand
And led me down the garden path so green
And what we have done there, well I never will declare
But the leaves they were pleasant to be seen

He took me by the middle so small
And gently there he laid me down
And what we have done there, well I never will declare
But the winds they came a-whistling all around

When six or seven long months were past and gone
This young man he came a-riding by
She says, Young man, I fear that I am with child by thee
And the very same thing you can't deny

Now if you were with child, me pretty maid
It need not be any one of mine
Unless that you can tell me the where and the when
And also the hour and the time

Oh yes, I can tell you the where and the when
The very same hour and the time
'Twas underneath me father's red and rosy bush
Just as the village clock was striking nine

Then he gave consent for to marry me, poor girl
It was to be the very next day
But instead of getting married to me, poor girl
He took a ship and boldly sailed away

But if ever he should return again from sea
His curly curly locks I will enfold
I never will upbraid him nor tell him of his faults
But encourage him for being so bold


So the ending wasn't just tagged on at random. Why should it "make sense" - it's very much inkeeping with the way people are, often enough.


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Subject: RE: Why does the song end like this?
From: Dave Ruch
Date: 09 Nov 09 - 11:43 AM

Interesting and varied interpretations; thanks all. Please keep them coming.

Jeri - your words ring very true. For me, the "lying in bed until he/she dies" songs have always made at least some sense though, with the spurned lover simply unable to get over the rejection, lost love and cold reality of it all.

And Kendall - ha!! I got a great laugh when I read yours!

I'm going to copy here the one response generated on the earlier thread, because it adds yet another different perspective:

From: GUEST,leeneia - PM
Date: 07 Nov 09 - 10:33 AM

I agree with you, Dave, It's a pusillanimous ending. Who can believe that she would want to dally with a seducer who ridicued her ('maybe it's some other guy's kid'], made a false promise and then vamoosed?

There's another pusillanimous line and that is, ',,,but the green leaves are plain to be seen.'

Green leaves, eh? More like bloody, or if that's too graphic, how about 'crushed' or 'broken'?

What this song needs is a couplet that says, 'Perhaps his poor body is drowned in the deep, and any number of foolish women are left in his wake.'


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Subject: RE: Why does the song end like this?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 09 Nov 09 - 01:36 PM

Yep, that's what I said, and I still believe it.

Somebody else said, ' In real life, the abused let their abusers back into their lives and hearts all the time.'

Sometimes, they do. But there in we are talking about people who were subject to long-term abuse, abuse which destroyed hope and pride and left only fear in their place. That is not the case in the this song.


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Subject: RE: Why does the song end like this?
From: Amos
Date: 09 Nov 09 - 01:51 PM

Seems there's a lot of protest here that the song "shouldn't have" the ending it does haver, or that the heroine "shouldn't" let herself be infatuated into what looks to you like poor judgment. LE coeur a ses raisons que le raison ne connait pas, and sometimes that raison is more instinctively accurate than all the reasoning in the world.   It is certainly not a case where--it being hundreds of years and thousands miles distant through space and time--we have enough data to make an informed judgment in any case!! It's hard enough to be nosy about today's neighbors, let alone ancient folk whose lives we don't even understand!! :D



A


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Subject: RE: Why does the song end like this?
From: Dave Ruch
Date: 09 Nov 09 - 03:48 PM

Just for the record, I am simply trying to understand the ending, rather than judging it or saying what she should or shouldn't feel or think. We are indeed quite removed from the situation, and yet it's not exactly foreign to any of us either.   

I think what I'm coming to from seeing all of the various interpretations is that the song will mean different things to different people, so just sing than damn thing if you like it. And I do!


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Subject: RE: Why does the song end like this?
From: Tootler
Date: 09 Nov 09 - 03:58 PM

Those of you who are complaining of the ending and what the heroin of the song should have said are looking at this song through our 21st century eyes.

You need to remember that this song (and others like it) comes from a time when the only "career" open to a respectable woman was marriage. A woman having an illegitimate child would lose her status in society and would most likely be sent away in disgrace. The heroin was really hoping that should the man come back, he will do the decent thing and marry her, thus giving her a proper place in local society and scolding him is a sure fire way of making sure he won't marry her, so she is forced to act otherwise, whatever she may think.

Remember also, that respectability was often more important than anything and love in our modern sense often did not enter into the equation when it came to marriage.

As L P Hartley wrote at the beginning of the Go Between. "The past is another country. They do things differently there"


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Subject: RE: Why does the song end like this?
From: semi-submersible
Date: 09 Nov 09 - 04:49 PM

Now, now, Amos! The reasons of the heart won't change much in a dozen generations or so! Are "ancient" people so different that humans reproduce differently this century?

Cultural differences between us and our ancestors are real, but no wider than those between many people living today. Cultures constrain our emotions and reactions into diverse patterns, and we describe our values and options with slightly different language, but whether you call a situation True Love or Stockholm Syndrome, the behaviour and many of the emotional reactions may be the same.

In this case, the cad appears more precious in retrospect, and her dream of him has outlasted her anger at him. Evidently she never stopped thinking of him as a romantic figure, maybe because he never stayed around long enough for glamour to be replaced by mundane experience.

Also, by this point in the story she has experienced the shame and poverty of being an unmarried mother, and she has not yet experienced the misery of a bad marriage. Right now, to her the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence.

I agree with Dave Hunt that the "six months" was supposed to be an impossibly short pregnancy. Some people just don't know the score, even today after many taboos have broken. The "Young Billy Brown" version's biology is better.


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Subject: RE: Why does the song end like this?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 09 Nov 09 - 05:02 PM

After all, whatever the rights and wrongs of it, he's the father of her child.

Also, if it makes it easier to sing, it's also possible to interpret her words as meant ironically. "I never shall chastise him for using of me so - not half I won't..."

Or of course she could mean it both ways. People are complicated.


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Subject: RE: Why does the song end like this?
From: Tootler
Date: 09 Nov 09 - 05:06 PM

The song doesn't say the pregnancy only lasted six months, but that the man came back when she was six month's pregnant. The version sung by the Waterson's is clearer in that respect as it actually says "Young man, I fear that I am with child by thee" - clearly pregnant.

Version posted by the OP is a little more ambiguous, but one line says "Perhaps you may have a child by me" implying (to me at least) that she has not yet had the baby, not that the pregnancy is unnaturally short.

While these days a child born at 6 months has a good chance of survival (my 2nd daughter was born at 28 weeks and is well and truly alive 34 years later) in times gone by a child born that early would almost certainly have died soon after birth if it was not stillborn anyway.


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Subject: RE: Why does the song end like this?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 09 Nov 09 - 06:26 PM

What's the problem with the 6 months? She hadn't actually had the child by then, was only pregnant, in broadside versions anyway.
In one version 'Valentines morn' c1840 the appropriate verse runs
When three long months were gone and past,
This young sailor he came riding by,
She said, young man I am with child by you,
And the same thing you can't deny.

The last verse of this version runs

When seven long years were gone and past
This sailor return'd with his hands full of gold,
She never blam'd him for his long absence,
Nor his courage for being so bold.

I don't see any problem with any of this song. As others have stated it is of its time, very typical in its outlook to fidelity and children out of wedlock. Sailors had 'wives' in every port and birth control was unheard of among the lower classes. The sailors and their 'wives' were well aware of the high mortality rate among sailors in the late 18thc early 19thc. They took their pleasures where and when they could.


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Subject: RE: Why does the song end like this?
From: semi-submersible
Date: 09 Nov 09 - 06:57 PM

I did read "you see...I have a child..." as meaning, "see, my child is here." But at six months her pregnancy would be evident, so maybe (as Uncle DaveO said above) the child isn't actually born yet when she confronts the creep who then stalls her and skips.


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Subject: RE: Why does the song end like this?-Young Billy Brown
From: Mo the caller
Date: 10 Nov 09 - 06:40 AM

When I heard a version of this sung (by 'Sue the Zoo' at Whitby Folk Club - don't know if she has a Mudcat name) she prefaced it by saying she didn't agree with the ending.


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Subject: RE: Why does the song end like this?-Young Billy Brown
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 10 Nov 09 - 07:46 AM

I suppose it would be possible to preface all kinds of songs with remarks as to whether or not we apporove of the actions of the people in them.

"Now I'd like to say that I think Captain Kidd was very wrong to turn pirate."

"This next song is about three drunken maidens who pushed the jug about - but I don't want anyone to think I am in favour of binge drinking."

"Even drunken sailors should never be mistreated in the way described in this song."


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Subject: RE: Why does the song end like this?-Young Billy Brown
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 10 Nov 09 - 05:41 PM

'He took ship and boldly sailed away'. Creep? Not necessarily. The strongest likelihood is that his ship got its orders and he had no choice in the matter. To not turn up for duty was desertion and the very least he'd have got would have been a flogging, but more likely hung from the yardarm. 'boldly' simply refers to his duty to protect his King and country. Different times, different outlooks! She didn't blame him when he returned simply because it was a common occurrence, the accepted thing! Whether we today like it or not.


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Subject: RE: Why does the song end like this?-Young Billy Brown
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 10 Nov 09 - 05:44 PM

If he survived to return, that is.


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