Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafemuddy

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home


Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing

Vic Smith 19 Feb 12 - 08:29 AM
Will Fly 19 Feb 12 - 08:49 AM
GUEST 19 Feb 12 - 09:57 AM
bubblyrat 19 Feb 12 - 10:21 AM
dick greenhaus 19 Feb 12 - 11:13 AM
Will Fly 19 Feb 12 - 11:18 AM
dick greenhaus 19 Feb 12 - 11:23 AM
Vic Smith 19 Feb 12 - 11:30 AM
Acorn4 19 Feb 12 - 01:05 PM
Acorn4 19 Feb 12 - 01:09 PM
Vic Smith 19 Feb 12 - 01:35 PM
GUEST,Howard Jones 19 Feb 12 - 01:48 PM
matt milton 19 Feb 12 - 02:05 PM
matt milton 19 Feb 12 - 02:36 PM
Steve Gardham 19 Feb 12 - 02:45 PM
Vic Smith 19 Feb 12 - 03:24 PM
michaelr 19 Feb 12 - 04:45 PM
Lighter 19 Feb 12 - 05:05 PM
Big Al Whittle 19 Feb 12 - 05:56 PM
GUEST,Ebor_Fiddler (Well-known pedant) 19 Feb 12 - 06:15 PM
Lighter 19 Feb 12 - 06:54 PM
Big Al Whittle 19 Feb 12 - 07:12 PM
Gurney 19 Feb 12 - 10:54 PM
MGM·Lion 20 Feb 12 - 12:32 AM
MGM·Lion 20 Feb 12 - 12:37 AM
Big Al Whittle 20 Feb 12 - 02:02 AM
Will Fly 20 Feb 12 - 03:53 AM
GUEST,Howard Jones 20 Feb 12 - 03:56 AM
Vic Smith 20 Feb 12 - 05:17 AM
matt milton 20 Feb 12 - 07:29 AM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:









Subject: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: Vic Smith
Date: 19 Feb 12 - 08:29 AM

There is a very thoughtful and challenging short article by Mike Yates recently posted on Rod Stradling's Musical Traditions website. He calls it A Different Country .

I know that I have been affected by the issues that he raises and probably will want to contribute these thoughts to a discussion here. In the meantime, I will be very interested to read the reactions of others to the article.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: Will Fly
Date: 19 Feb 12 - 08:49 AM

It's a topic which has surfaced several times here on Mudcat - with varying opinions. I had a similar decision to make when I started to sing Gus Elen's "Postman's Holiday" many years ago (and you'll recall I sang it at the Royal Oak only recently). The original opening line goes:

I works just like a nigger and I isn't very strong

So, my choice was: (a) to sing it straight, with a preliminary word to the audience to explain that I was singing it 'as was' and true to Elen's original - no racism intended on my part - or (b) simply change the word to something fake but less offensive. I opted for the latter action and sing:

I works just like a devil and I isn't very strong

I sometimes use "navvy" - depending on how I feel. Ultimately, no matter what apologia I might have made in my preliminary defence of singing "nigger", the word would have sunk the spirit of the song like a lead balloon. It would have been the elephant in the room. In any case, the original song is on record and the original sheet music is available for anyone to read.

Most songs of that time with that word have been changed as the years have progressed. I used to sing "The Sun Has Got His Hat On" with the Jubilee Jazz band in Brighton - a song which contains the original lines:

He's been tanning niggers, down in Timbuctoo - sung by the Henry Hall Orchestra in the 1920s, by the way.

Later on this was changed (I think by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah band in the '60s) to:

He's been tanning darkies, down in Timbuctoo

I sang:

He's been tanning people, down in Timbuctoo

Still dubious but, if you really hate the idea, leave that bit completely...


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Feb 12 - 09:57 AM

Pete Castle
I have had a similar problem with the ballad Little Sir Hugh (Hugh of Lincoln). I recorded it back in the 1980s - no problem. It's a great song, a lovely tune and an important part of English history - we should know that there was anti-Jewish feeling and laws in this country way back then (is it the 13th century? I forget the dates.). However it has become increasingly difficult to sing it, even with a long disclaimer that it's historical, I am not anti-Jewish etc. The disclaimer becomes longer than the song and detracts from it. So I haven't sung it for probably 10 years now. It sits on my list of 'songs I know but don't sing'. I could get it out for a workshop on racism or something. Perhaps one day anti-Semitism will be such a strange idea that it will need to be sung as a reminder of what things used to be like. We can only hope.
www.petecastle.co.uk


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: bubblyrat
Date: 19 Feb 12 - 10:21 AM

"Jonny Come Down To Hilo " ,which we used to sing at school back in the 'fifties , had the line " I never seen the like since I been born , a big buck nigger with the sea-boots on " ..; not that there was ever any intention to denigrate nor to deliberately offend ,I am sure ; it's just the way things were then.The film "The Dam Busters" was on TV quite recently ; I watched it , and was interested to note that the word "Nigger" was still being used ( I thought it might have been "edited" out ) for both Wing Commander Gibson's dog , and as the radio codeword indicating a successful operation.No doubt this film,in its original and uncut state ,could never be screened in the USA !


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 19 Feb 12 - 11:13 AM

Carried to a logical extreme, it's clear that since any s***g which m*****s a******g is going to offend s*******y, t****s absolutely n*****g that s***d be sung.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: Will Fly
Date: 19 Feb 12 - 11:18 AM

Ah, but that wouldn't be a logical extreme - that would be an illogical extreme.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 19 Feb 12 - 11:23 AM

*******


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: Vic Smith
Date: 19 Feb 12 - 11:30 AM

Pete Castle
I have had a similar problem with the ballad Little Sir Hugh (Hugh of Lincoln).


I feel that Pete mentions a particularly interesting and difficult case. It did cause a bit of a controversy a couple of years ago when it was sung quite beautifully at our folk club in Lewes. One of our regulars, who is Jewish, posted on his website wondering whether it should be sung at all in this day and age. I certainly thought long and hard about it at the time. The ballad concerns an apparently motiveless murder. We don't learn anything about the killer apart from the fact that he is Jewish and that entices the boy into his garden where he kills him. Is that in itself anti-semetic? I really don't know the answer. If we are not to sing that song because there is a motiveless murder in it, then there's quite a proportion of traditional ballads and folk songs that we have no longer to sing.
I remember having a long talk about this ballad with Alasdair Roberts when he told me that he was considering whether to record it (He did so not long after on the superb album Too Long In This Condition (Drag City DC421 / Navigator Records NAVIGATOR040). In the booklet notes, he deals with the problem in this way:-
This ballad, from the singing of Ian Campbell, is believed to refer to a specific historical event—the murder of a Christian boy by a Jewish girl in the city of Lincoln in 1255 A.D. I wish to make it clear that the attitudes expressed within the song, and my reasons for singing it, are in no way anti-Semitic; I felt it important to mark the fact that such sentiments once existed, and indeed, continue to exist, in the so-called civilised world—as Professor Child says, '...these pretended child-murders, with their horrible consequences, are only a part of the persecution which, with all moderation, may be rubricated as the most disgraceful chapter in the history of the human race'.

In the end, I suppose I would have to agree with Alasdair that we should still sing it as long as can contextualise it as he has done.

I feel that there is much more of a problem in the blatant anti-semitism of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice although even there, a case was made for it in Michael Radford's 2004 film with Al Pacino as Shylock. Pacino's attempts to make us feel sympathetic towards Shylock seemed to me to be a very courageous and successful piece of acting.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: Acorn4
Date: 19 Feb 12 - 01:05 PM

The opening chorus of the musical "Showboat" is interesting:-The "N" word was included in it (the first two lines of the opening chorus "Cotton Blossom" were "Niggers all work on the Mississippi; niggers all work while the white folks play"; these lines also occur in "Ol' Man River", at about the middle of the song). The word has been changed to what was considered a more acceptable term in later revivals as well as the 1936 film version and the 1989 television version - although the 1936 film did use the now unacceptable word "darkies" instead of "niggers". Most stage revivals, including the 1989 television version, now use the term "colored folks". In other productions, the line is changed to "Here we all work on the Mississippi". In the 1951 film version, no one worked on the Mississipi and the opening chorus was dropped altogether.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: Acorn4
Date: 19 Feb 12 - 01:09 PM

...the musical does actually contain an anti-racist message - the 'N' word is being applied in a tongue in cheek way by the dock workers to themselves.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: Vic Smith
Date: 19 Feb 12 - 01:35 PM

the 'N' word is being applied in a tongue in cheek way by the dock workers to themselves.

... and coming forwards in time, American black youth have largely reclaimed the word for their own use. At http://wrt-intertext.syr.edu/XI/Nigger.html it argues:-

On the other hand, the word nigger has been "reclaimed" by black youths particularly in the hip-hop culture. These modern day teens claim that it is just a word and that people give words meaning rather than words giving people meaning. If this were true, the word nigger could be altered from time to time depending on who was using it and where. In other words, youth in the hip-hop culture are arguing that context determines the meaning of nigger.

So for them to use the word amongst themselves is acceptable, but as soon as it has white racist connotations, it is not acceptable - sounds about right to me.

There is a lot to be said for reclaiming an insult and wearing it as a badge of pride. I can remember 'gypsy' and 'tinker' being used as terms of abuse, but when travellers openly identified with those words, the sting was entirely removed.

I seem to remember that even 'folkie' was a sort of jokey term of abuse at one time until we all started to say 'yes, that is what we are and proud to be so'.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: GUEST,Howard Jones
Date: 19 Feb 12 - 01:48 PM

I find myself agreeing with Mike Yates' conclusion, that we should respect these songs as historical record but be cautious about performing them. Both attitudes and language have changed, and songs which may once have been written and performed with no offence intended, or perhaps taken, cannot now be viewed through our modern sensibilities in the way they were by previous generations.

It is even more difficult where offence was perhaps intended. Several versions of "Little Sir Hugh" make it clear that it was a ritual murder of a Christian child by a Jew. The same story turns up in Chaucer, and was reinforcing not just anti-semitic feeling the way we might interpret it now but the teaching of the Church. It's an important song, but Pete and Vic are probably right to be wary of performing it.

On the other hand, if we were to self-censor every song which someone might take offence at we wouldn't be left with very much. I disagree with the prevailing attitude that no one should be offended by anything - it is inevitable that some people will have different attitudes and opinions to one's own, but in a free society they should be permitted to express them.

In the end its a matter for the taste and judgement of the individual. If someone chooses to perform a sensitive song that is up to them, however I hope they would at least have thought through their position on it first.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: matt milton
Date: 19 Feb 12 - 02:05 PM

Interesting piece, though I think the most telling part of it is the Ed.'s comment that the second a black person turned up the folk club, the word 'nigger' vanished from the song. Which makes it very clear that, deep down, everyone in the club knew that it was morally wrong for white people to be singing a song that referred to black people as niggers irrespective of context.

NB: Having just said irrespective of context, I'll backtrack: one glaring exception would be that of film or theatre, in which somebody is playing the character of a racist.

I can think of quite literally one or two other - highly debatable - possible exceptions. I heard a Billy Childish cover of a Leadbelly song the other day in which he retains use of the words "niggers". It's very much a "niggers do the work/white man gets the money" type line. He just about gets away with it, largely because the line itself makes it clear that it is against the very discrimination that invented the term. There's also the fact that it's a punky cover, spat out by a punk singer with a large repertoire of songs about abuse and exploitation of one kind or another. Having said all that, it's treading on thin ice: I wonder if Billy C would sing it if he suddenly found himself playing to a sizeable black audience?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: matt milton
Date: 19 Feb 12 - 02:36 PM

"On the other hand, if we were to self-censor every song which someone might take offence at we wouldn't be left with very much. I disagree with the prevailing attitude that no one should be offended by anything - it is inevitable that some people will have different attitudes and opinions to one's own, but in a free society they should be permitted to express them."

I agree, but from a slightly different perspecive: when I choose not to sing certain material, it is not "self-censorship". I don't choose not to sing it simply because somebody else might be offended. I choose not to sing it because I think singing those particular words is (morally) questionable *in and of itself*. Irrespective of who's listening.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 19 Feb 12 - 02:45 PM

There are some shanties I used to sing without thinking about it which I now don't sing, and I still have problems trying to tone down the language in 'My Brudda Sylvest'. There's still a hell of a lot of sexism still being sung in songs, and you have to be very careful where you trot the bawdry out nowadays.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: Vic Smith
Date: 19 Feb 12 - 03:24 PM

Steve's comments remind me that as a very happily newly-married man over forty years ago, I used to sing Bound To Be A Row that I had learned from the great Willie Scott.

The song starts:-

I'm a poor unhappy married man, I've such an awful wife,
To please her I do all I can, but still she plagues my life....


Why on earth was I singing that? I had (and still have) a wonderful wife but it took some while for the penny to drop about the connection with a song that I was singing. It was kind of funny in an ironic way, but it was reinforcing a stereotypical attitude.

At the same festivals as I heard Willie Scott, I used to hear Belle Stewart singing Blue Blazin' Blin' Drunk which contains the lines:-

Now, when Alex comes home, I get battered,
He batters me all black and blue....


Belle's delivery - and often the audiences reactions - indicated that this was very comical, but I winced at this thinking that wife-beating as it was called then, domestic abuse as it is called now, could ever be thought of as funny.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: michaelr
Date: 19 Feb 12 - 04:45 PM

I like occasionally to sing Shel Silverstein's "Freaking at the Freaker's Ball". The last time I did, the line

All the fags and the dykes are boogying together

got me some surprised looks from the audience, but then the next line

The leather freaks are dressed in all kinds of leather

resulted in relieved laughter, signaling that the PC crowd (this is Northern California) had decided the song was comical and therefore OK.

I do agree with Will that singing the N-word would be like loosing a big loud stinky fart in the room. Not a good thing.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: Lighter
Date: 19 Feb 12 - 05:05 PM

If you suspect that something you're singing will be taken the wrong way, you're probably tight.

The real basis for decision is how many people in your audience you believe will think you're an insensitive jackass, and why.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 19 Feb 12 - 05:56 PM

Well personally, I always preface my performance a folksinger by saying:-

Look chaps, we're in an English folk club. That means an intelligent sensitive audience....people who realise we're trying to show respect for original the text and feeling behind these wonderful old songs. That presupposes a certain degree of sophistication and education.

Not much chance of left wing oiks and johnny bloody foreigner, I know my rights twits barging and shouting the odds. If they do turn up - we tell 'em to bugger off home and watch Simon Cowell dancing on ice with homos, or drinking rum and doing limbo dancing.

And I think that marks out the territory well enough - without giving offence to anyone. how else will we hang on to the BBC Folk Awards?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: GUEST,Ebor_Fiddler (Well-known pedant)
Date: 19 Feb 12 - 06:15 PM

"Bugger" of course is itself in origin both a racist AND homophobe word .... .. .


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: Lighter
Date: 19 Feb 12 - 06:54 PM

Did I say "tight"??

I meant, of course, "right."

Stupid English language.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 19 Feb 12 - 07:12 PM

You can't expect JUST ANYONE to realise they're listening to atonal, unaccompanied songs in 15/17 time. As someone pointed out - just because you happen to be English doesn't mean you can appreciate mighty intellects like ours. Bloody foreigners - no chance at all, I'm afraid.

Eighty years of industrial and economic decline have given us one sort of England.

English Folksong though, is still on the gold standard. If only we could be more like the people in Downton Abbey rather than the freaks, foreigners and pervs in the Big Brother House. Everything would be hunky Dory, Amo Amas Amat, world without end.....


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: Gurney
Date: 19 Feb 12 - 10:54 PM

Old Johnny Bigger? Never heard it that way. Always Old Johnny Bucker/Bukker, with slight mispronunciations for effect. Always supposing that it's the one that starts;
'Old Johnny Bukker, he lived by himself,
as long as he had perfect health.
Then he took ill, so he took himself a wife,
for to look after him for the rest of his life....'
Can't access the DT.

A bukker, if you're interested, is a stonemason's tool. It looks like a hammer crossed with a folded entrenching tool. Never seen one used.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 20 Feb 12 - 12:32 AM

"Michael Radford's 2004 film with Al Pacino as Shylock. Pacino's attempts to make us feel sympathetic towards Shylock seemed to me to be a very courageous and successful piece of acting." Vic Smith yesterday

.,.,

Al Pacino was scarcely the first, or even the one-thousand-and-first probably, to get the brilliant idea of making Shylock, at least in part, sympathetic. Nothing all that 'courageous'. The tradition goes right back to Kean, or Garrick, or even probably to Burbage, because Will wrote such aspects into the character's lines: go back and look again if you can't remember. & I do deplore the way that the PC final curtain showing Jessica fidgeting with her wedding-ring and looking thoughtful as the hearty Christians into whom she has married go off celebrating their triumph over her unfortunate father ~~ a clever and original production touch a few years ago ~~ seems to have taken over as an indispensable part of every production, & probably gets taught now as what was originally meant to happen, a sort of implied stage direction' which it wasn't and isn't.

I had many reservations about that film, expressed in this review of it I wrote for Early Modern English Studies, Spring 2005:~

Portia's "You stand within his danger, do you not?", to Antonio at his trial, is one of those marvellous, resonant Shakespearean lines which defy improvement. The double meaning is obviously intended: the obsolete sense of "danger" as "power, specifically sometimes due to debt or obligation", overlapped, as the OED's history of the word shows, with the modern meaning of "peril or liability to harm" from the fifteenth century, and both nuances contribute to the line's effect. But Michael Radford's screenplay for www.themerchantofvenicemovie.com renders it as "You stand within his power"; a bit like making Caliban's line into "This isle is full of sounds" or Mad Tom's into "Rats and mice and such small animals": resonances go, and the striking is reduced to the banal. Patronisingly so - is the original line really so obscure that some lamebrain who has absentmindedly wandered in off the street is going to have difficulty with it? I don't want to overlabour this point, but it strikes me as emblematic of all that is wrong with the film. It's so intent on dotting every i, underlining every point, making sure that every implication is plonkingly spelt out, that any subtlety, any deviation from the PC - any interest, in fact - is firmly obliterated. And, dear me, no humour must distract. Launcelot Gobbo is just a plain, boring servant faithful to his young mistress, his father just a slightly shortsighted old geezer; any idea that they might just sometimes try to be funny might sidetrack us, you see. There's a lot for the eye here, and that remarkable actor Al Pacino's Shylock is as distinguished as the concept will allow. But any insights which might have emerged are firmly smothered under the determination to be "accessible".

~Michael~


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 20 Feb 12 - 12:37 AM

That should be Early Modern Literary Studies, an online academic journal of Shax &c studies for whom I write a regular review column ~~ google emls.

~M~


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 20 Feb 12 - 02:02 AM

Interesting. I sometimes wish I'd taught more English at a higher level. The only time I did, I knew what I should have done about two years afterwards. Some things I don't know why they put on a syllabus for 18 year olds - well 16 year old when they first enter the 6th form.


The meanings of many poems become obvious to you - but only when you the life experience that informs your reading.

I usedto love those documentaries that Pacino did about Richard III and Dustin Hoffman did about the Merchant of Venice. I had them on VHS. I don't thinkyou can look to those chaps for any great insights into the text - they come from cinema acting, and its its a different sort of discipline to learn what works for the camera and the 20 foot high cinema screen - and to get up and use the poetry from the stage of a big theatre.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: Will Fly
Date: 20 Feb 12 - 03:53 AM

Peter O'Toole a superb Shylock and Dorothy Tutin a superb Porta - Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford, RSC, 1961. A wonderful evening for a 16-year old who'd barely been to the theatre of half a dozen times in his life up until then.

O'Toole was magnificent as Shylock. "If you prick us, do we not bleed?"...


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: GUEST,Howard Jones
Date: 20 Feb 12 - 03:56 AM

If we apply a sense of morality to songs it is likely to be a modern morality based on modern sensibilties and modern meanings of words. The words may not originally have had the same meaning, or at least carried the same baggage, as they do today, and a different sense of morality may have applied.

I'm not suggesting we shouldn't be sensitive to modern sensitivities, whether our own or the audience's, but the issue of whether a word is questionable "in and of itself", as Matt put it, is a matter of cultural context.

I wonder how many songs we now sing quite innocently contain lyrics which were once "morally questionable" but have now lost their original meaning and become inoffensive to us.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: Vic Smith
Date: 20 Feb 12 - 05:17 AM

Howard Jones wrote:-
I wonder how many songs we now sing quite innocently contain lyrics which were once "morally questionable" but have now lost their original meaning and become inoffensive to us.


Very good point. We only have to look a bit more deeply into the words of some common nursery rhymes to find lyrics that have apparently lost thier original meaning or the barbs that they contained.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Consciousness of the Lyrics we sing
From: matt milton
Date: 20 Feb 12 - 07:29 AM

"If we apply a sense of morality to songs it is likely to be a modern morality based on modern sensibilties and modern meanings of words. The words may not originally have had the same meaning, or at least carried the same baggage, as they do today, and a different sense of morality may have applied.

I'm not suggesting we shouldn't be sensitive to modern sensitivities, whether our own or the audience's, but the issue of whether a word is questionable "in and of itself", as Matt put it, is a matter of cultural context."

Well yes, of course. What ISTN'T a matter of cultural context? The HUGE difference between Carolina Chocolate Drops or Kanye West using the word "nigger" in a song, and a white middle-aged Englishman doing so, is entirely down to a cultural context. (One informed by history, and the [racial] politics of both the present-day and the past).

I take the point though, that the march of history alters things. Eventually. Over a period of centuries. It often strikes me that it's fine to sing a song about Genghis Khan or Sweeney Todd because the distance of several centuries turns genocidal warlords or serial killers into bogeymen.

Once someone passes into "deep history", as it were, they become mythic, and singing a song about them - even perhaps a comic song - becomes an entirely different matter to singing a song about Adolf Hitler or Fred West.

It's entirely possible that in 250 years time, the word nigger will have become a completely dead word, archaic, something from the long, distant past, and that a song could be sung with this word in without anyone in the audience even knowing that it even referred to a specific of race. Then it will perhaps have become harmless, a spent match of a word. Perhaps.

I don't know... I don't even like people using the word "chav": it rankles. For me it's like saying something's "gyppo"... It's no coincidence that the word chav surfaced in the era that also is giving us Ch4's cheerfully racist "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding", bust-ups between Travellers and councils and the replacement of the "cheerful Indian cornershop owner" with the Polish builder/nanny (see Clare in the Community) as the stock comedy foreigner. It's not Jews, blacks or Asians: today it's the Central/Eastern European that's the favourite British johnny foreigner to bash/patronise.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 19 June 9:11 AM EDT

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.