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Ranky Tanky (Old Lady From Brewster)

Azizi 19 Jan 12 - 03:17 PM
Azizi 19 Jan 12 - 03:22 PM
Azizi 19 Jan 12 - 03:43 PM
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Subject: Ranky Tanky (Old Lady From Brewster)
From: Azizi
Date: 19 Jan 12 - 03:17 PM

I'm posting here to let those who might be interested know that I've published a post on my Cocojams blog on the African American social song "Ranky Tanky" (also known as "Ranky Tank", "Old Lady From Booster", and "Old Lady From Brewster"), and probably other titles.

The url for that post is

That post includes the lyrics of 6 renditions of that song, as well as video versions of three of those examples.

I also shared my theory the meaning of the phrase "ranky tanky"(ranky tank)-I believe "Ranky tanky is the equivalent of the exhortation to "Dance funky".

In addition, I included text analysis of specific lines from certain versions of "Ranky Tanky", as well as some examples of lines from versions of that are found in other songs.


I happened upon the song "Ranky Tanky" recently via a video of Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem - Valley Stage '07 - Ranky Tanky

This group's This CD entitled Ranky Tanky won the 2010 Parents' Choice Award.

It occurred to me that I had read of that song before, and (eventually) remembered that a song called "Ranky Tank" is included Bessie Jones' and Bess Lomax Hawes' 1972 book Step It Down Games, Plays, Songs, and Stories from the Afro-American Heritage (Athens, Georgia, The University of Georgia Press, 1972, pp. 129-130)   

Those two versions are featured in my above linked Cocojams post.

Also included is a version collected in 1970 from St. John's, South Carolina, a rendition by King Biscuit boy, a rendition by Linda Tillery and The Cultural Heritage Choir, and a rendition by "Dave's music class".

For the purpose of folkloric documentation, I'll post on this thread the lyrics of the St. John's version, which I found online in a pdf file.

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Subject: LYR ADD "Little Old Lady From Booster
From: Azizi
Date: 19 Jan 12 - 03:22 PM


album -St John's Island, South Carolina: It's People And Songs

This song was collected during field work in 1970 that was conducted by City College, New York professor Henrietta Yurchenco and her students.

Lyrics & Performance (as quoted from that website]

Side 1 Band 1 – Old Lady From Booster

A line game. The players stand with their feet slightly apart. Throughout this game, both feet tap out the following pattern: left, right, left, right, right moving slightly to the right on the last tap. The last tap then becomes the first tap of the second pattern, thus, line 5 has the right, left, right, left left moving slightly to the left on the last tap. Continue the foot patterns to the rhythm of the song until the end. Place hands on the different parts of the body mentioned in the song.

Old lady comes from Brewster
Had to hens and a rooster
The rooster died, the old lady cried
She couldn't get eggs like she used to.

Oh ma, you look so
Oh, pa, you look so

Well, who's been here since I been gone
Two little boys with their blue caps on.
Hang them on a hickory stick
Ranky tanky, button my shoes.
ranky tanky
Bufflalo boy gonna buy me a bag.
Pain in my head, ranky tanky
Pain in my shoulder
Pain in my hands
Pain in my thighs
Pain in my knees
Pain in my legs
Pain in my foot
Pain all over me
Pain all over me.

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Subject: RE: Ranky Tanky (Old Lady From Brewster)
From: Azizi
Date: 19 Jan 12 - 03:43 PM

The verse "The Old Lady From Brewster" is lifted from the "Three Old Ladies (In The Lavatory) which is also known as "Seven Old Ladies"
(In the Lavatory).

Here's a link to a Mudcat thread on that British / American song:

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