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Racist songs .... arghhhh!

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a target 28 Nov 99 - 07:56 PM
marcelloblues 28 Nov 99 - 08:03 PM
Metchosin 28 Nov 99 - 08:08 PM
Metchosin 28 Nov 99 - 08:12 PM
Metchosin 28 Nov 99 - 08:14 PM
Banjer 28 Nov 99 - 08:45 PM
Willie-O 28 Nov 99 - 08:51 PM
Dale Rose 28 Nov 99 - 09:00 PM
Bill D 28 Nov 99 - 09:19 PM
Dale Rose 28 Nov 99 - 09:21 PM
Don 28 Nov 99 - 09:37 PM
Barry Finn 28 Nov 99 - 10:18 PM
Jeri 28 Nov 99 - 10:22 PM
Chet W. 28 Nov 99 - 10:25 PM
Metchosin 28 Nov 99 - 10:34 PM
Joe Offer 28 Nov 99 - 10:35 PM
Bruce O. 28 Nov 99 - 10:45 PM
_gargoyle 28 Nov 99 - 11:12 PM
28 Nov 99 - 11:17 PM
Metchosin 28 Nov 99 - 11:30 PM
Rick Fielding 28 Nov 99 - 11:38 PM
29 Nov 99 - 12:14 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 29 Nov 99 - 03:35 AM
Dani 29 Nov 99 - 08:19 AM
Allan C. 29 Nov 99 - 09:03 AM
Liam's Brother 29 Nov 99 - 09:10 AM
JedMarum 29 Nov 99 - 09:12 AM
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sophocleese 29 Nov 99 - 11:10 AM
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Midchuck 29 Nov 99 - 11:31 AM
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kendall 29 Nov 99 - 03:11 PM
Chet W. 29 Nov 99 - 04:19 PM
Jack (who is called Jack) 29 Nov 99 - 04:34 PM
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Subject: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: a target
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 07:56 PM

The list of songs on this site are is amazing! The respondants on this message forum are most helpful! I have one problem - that is, some of the songs are downright racist, insulting, and degrading. I stumbled across one "nigger" song and a few "jew" songs. I'm pretty open-minded as a rule, but I wonder if these songs have a place on this site. I don't think so!


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: marcelloblues
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 08:03 PM

drop it! in slang, from Rome: "accanna"


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Metchosin
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 08:08 PM

The songs you are referring to are usually historical in context. That was the mind set of the past and if we expunge them from the collective memory, the ugliness of the past will most likely repeat itself. They serve as valuable reminders and lessons.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Metchosin
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 08:12 PM

Modifying history to suit to current dogma is Big Brothers favorite thing and the term politically correct was coined by Joseph Stalin.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Metchosin
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 08:14 PM

The songs you are referring to are usually historical in context. That was the mind set of the past and if we expunge them from the collective memory, the ugliness of the past will most likely repeat itself. They serve as valuable reminders and lessons. Yeah its ugly but don't forget it! There are those among us, who would forget the holocaust. History should be based on truth not wishful thinking and expediency.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Banjer
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 08:45 PM

Oh, there have been some HEATED discussions about this subject. I echo the advice of marcelloblues, DROP IT! Keep in mind that folk music traditionally deals with the full spectrum of the human condition. It would not be right to not allow songs from certain periods or of certain subjects just because they may not meet with favor in some circles.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Willie-O
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 08:51 PM

Please don't feel you're a target, you are welcome to express your feelings here.

This is a debate that has been going around /n/ around for years. Basically the larger consensus in the traditional music community (I'll go out on a limb here and speak for all) is that you can't change history, you can't choose the way things were, only the way they are. We can't ignore the seamier aspects of our history and culture by pretending they didn't exist, and some of this material has real value. It's there for performers and scholars to examine and use. I find that some songs have an essential human essence to them that transcends the usage of terms which may be derogatory now. Even if you hold a Poetic Licence, you cannot mess too much with them without destroying them. (Then again, some songs are not worth singing--but we may not agree on which ones.)

If you're a performer, you already know that not every song is suitable for every audience. For example, I like singing "Get Up And Bar the Door" (look it up, aka "John and Joan Blount") because I think it's got a very clever usage of irony, especially in the ending. But I wouldn't sing it at a women's shelter benefit, because after all it's about a home invasion and implied rape. You might not want to sing it at all, or you might leave out or change the second last verse. (If its a listening audience, I just usually apologize in advance for not being PC) Point is, it's a performer's choice, you or I can choose to do it this way or that way. But I want to see as many versions as I can of a song like this, so I can decide what are the strongest parts, and what can be left out (usually because it's redundant and too long rather than offensive).

In particular, when a song has a known author--Stephen Foster, say, or Henry Clay Work--that person wrote a specific set of words. If you want to change the parts you don't like when you sing it, that's fine--but it's now "Stephen Foster as adapted by So And So".

Also particularly a problem in the nautical songs...sailors were not altar boys or New Left multiculturalists, and the music reflects this very strongly. What they sang is mostly not what you learned in Grade Five Music. If you're into this stuff seriously, you're going to have to compromise something, either your historical credibility, or current political sensibilities. It's a fine line. No wonder people write their own songs these days.

Getting off soapbox. Someone else's turn.

Bill


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Dale Rose
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 09:00 PM

A good place to check out is Brown University's African American Sheet Music 1850-1920. I would suggest reading About The Collection first.

As Metchosin suggests, they reflect a different time. Don't forget that many of these were written by black (colored, to use the polite term of the time) authors. To give just one example, Gussie L Davis, noted for The Baggage Coach Ahead and Just Set A Light (aka The Red and Green Lights) also wrote When They Straighten all the Colored People's Hair (first line: Oh, you jolly little nigger, you make a funny figure) and When I Do The Hoochy-coochy In The Sky Coon Song. There are many, many other examples.

I know of a recording of The Bonnie Blue Flag by a black quartet, though I can't remember the name of the group at the moment.

Pay attention to the words sung by any number of black string bands or blues musicians ~~ you'll hear the so called N word frequently. Or for that matter, listen to the language of many (not all) blacks today.

In the Army at Fort Leonard Wood, 1956, our colored first sergeant used the term nigger more than once, though he sometimes qualified it by saying that there were white niggers just the same as there were black ones.

Do understand that I am not supporting a racist view here, just trying to add a little to the historical picture of a past time.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Bill D
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 09:19 PM

Bok, Trickett & Muir once sang a song entitled "The Middle Class Life is the Best of All"....and to end the introduction, Ed Trickett leaned up to the mic and said..."You don't have to believe everything you sing!"..........so it is with racist, etc., songs; part of the reason for singing them in certain contexts is to say..."this is how it once was"

Taste and 'awareness' of your audience, and the manner of presentation should take care of the issue, though being totally PC is a little trendy these days, and you can never please everyone...


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Dale Rose
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 09:21 PM

I thought of that recording of The Bonnie Blue Flag, a Confederate Civil War song, for those less familiar with U S history. It is on THE EARLIEST NEGRO VOCAL QUARTETS (1894-1928) Document DOCD 5061 by The Old South Quartette, probably recorded in the range of 1909-1928.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Don
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 09:37 PM

Long ago I asked a question about singing songs I considered questionable. The gentleman I asked was, perhaps, chief shanty man at the Mystic Seaport. "Hog Eye Man", "Desolation Island" and "Year of Jubilo" (a.k.a. "Kingdom Coming") are tunes I had doubts about.

His opinion was, "There are some songs that should never be sung for purposes of entertainment."

I liked the concept; succinct, clear and stated in a non-hostile way.

Whaddaya think?


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Barry Finn
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 10:18 PM

Hi Don, The same shanty man said, after a performence of the "Chinee Bumboatman" by the British ex tug boat man Shanty Jack, "We may not do 'em correct here but we sure do 'em right". Change some of the words when singing it if you like (in some cases you'd better) but don't cleanse so it's intent disappears.
Welcome to Mudcat, Target, we've discussed this same topic a number of times over the years & the thought that it gets rehashed every so often I'd say reflects the concern of those who frequent this site as well as yourself. Barry


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Jeri
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 10:22 PM

I think Willie-O explained it best, that we can't pretend parts of our history never existed. I've heard people do songs with currently offensive terms in an historical context. "This is what people sang back then." Me, I couldn't get through any song with the word "nigger" in it without flinching. Another option is to change songs to be less offensive - that's why "Hog-Eye Man" is still sung, with "navvy" as the "N" word. It's one thing for a black chanteyman from some time in the past to sing "nigger," and another for a modern day white folkie to do it.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Chet W.
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 10:25 PM

Good answers all above, in my opinion. As far as performing these songs, there is no one answer. First I would ask the individual why they would want to perform a song they find objectionable; there are plenty of other songs, and an infinite opportunity to create new ones. If they object to the mere existence of the song, that has been well discussed above. One approach that usually is not good is looking for a replacement for the one offending word. The N word is often replaced by words such as "preacher" or more recently, in an effort to be historically and socially correct, "worker". In the case of "The Year of Jubilo" we used to take the latter course and found that it sounded like a communist Mayday anthem, so we created the following last verse:

On Mayday all the workers gather out on the old Red Square, They celebrate the Revolution, there'll be no hard times there, They raise a toast to Marx and Lenin while they tear their statues down, There's going to be a big revival when the Baptists come to town. (cho) The massa run, ha ha, the workers push and shove, There's going to be a great day coming in the year of Gorbachuv.

If there is a song that I really like but it is inappropriate for whatever reason I have no problem with substantial changes. An example is a song I've done many times at weddings, "The Water is Wide", but not before leaving out the parts about love growing cold etc. Some songs, however, really do seem to have no place in a performance today, like "It's a shame to beat your wife on Sunday (because there's plenty of time the rest of the week)". Performing songs like that at all would be a hateful thing to do, and performing them for people who would like them even worse. So maybe there are some songs that should be left silent as historical leftovers, but, again, there's lots of songs.

Target, take the advice above. It is good advice.

Chet


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Metchosin
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 10:34 PM

Don, the only song in your list that I recognize is Hog-Eye Man and I must know a more English version than is on the DT, as the offending line in the chorus of the one I know is "Railroad navey with his hog-eye". It is no problem to drop the one racially offensive verse without changing the intent of the song and still enjoy a rollicking shanty.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Joe Offer
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 10:35 PM

I learned the song "Shortnin' Bread" when I was little, and I always thought it was a fine song, and still do:
Two little children, lyin in bed
One of them sick, and the other most dead
Called for the doctor, and the doctor he said
"Feed them children shortnin' bread.

Mammy's little baby loves shortnin', shortnin'
Mammy's little baby loves shortnin' bread.
Recently, I read somewhere that this song was a racist song, and it was a disgrace that people still sing it. I also learned that the original version sings of "two little niggers" and uses a heavier dialect and some verses that would be objectionable. Nonetheless, the song I learned was a good one, which makes me sing that a little light cleaning up could save some pretty good songs. I suppose some will still object, but I prefer to err on the side of having a good time with the music and not cleansing away too much of our past.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Bruce O.
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 10:45 PM

Bear in mind when you read Henry Clay Work's songs where his sympathies were. He was pro-black and his father was a well known Abolitionist.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: _gargoyle
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 11:12 PM

Only one reference to "nigger!"?????????????

Hell man... you are doin' somting rong, get your ass in gear!

Only one reference to "nigger!"?????????????

A simple search gives me "19" citations for "the N-word" and another 29 for "Jew."

You need to expand your search parameters - we are all "adults" here....try, "black" "kike" "coon" "wop" "dago" "beaner" "spick" "shiny" "greaser" "wetback" "honky" "hunky" "slant eyes" "chink" "jap" "kraut" "rusky" "dutch" "piker" "limey" and "mick."

Folk music is a non-discrimination, denigrator it does not care about your sex, age, color, religous belief or political affiliation, in addition sexual harassment is considered "fair-territory."

Please stick to the Disney Sites - they are family rated...or crank up the filters on the "Net Nanny."

Besides, I sorely resent your hedging in on the territory (and doing it poorly) which I have considered my exclusive domain for close to a year. (AKA resident "Schmoo" a-la "Al Capp's comics."


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From:
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 11:17 PM

When this site gets entirely politically correct, there will be no one here for you to talk to.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Metchosin
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 11:30 PM

Gargoyle who and what are you talking about? If you are referring to Hog-Eye Man reread my post again. I see nothing on this thread that in anyway denies the content of the songs within the Digitrad.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 11:38 PM

Chet, I thought I was the only sentimental sucker who sometimes leaves out "but love grows older and love grows colder, and fades away like mornin' dew"!
Rick


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From:
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 12:14 AM

g is refering to the original poster's objectiion to a single song when there hundreds that could be targeted.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 03:35 AM

Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians" was originally, "Ten Little Niggers", since that was the text of the original verse--times demanded a more acceptable version, though I would think that Indians are sensitive about that sort of thing now as well--

"Shortin' Bread" dates back, as I understand it, to the 1840's at least, and was written and performed by blacks--that someone would advocate that such a venerable musical relic be bannished because it once contained objectionable words is, to me, objeactionable--


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Dani
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 08:19 AM

As a non-Christian gospel-music-loving fool, I can sympathize with your struggle. If a song makes you squirm to sing it, don't do it. If it can be changed a little to fit, I echo the sentiments above - do what you can, and be honest about what you've done.

Just as it doesn't do to allow the original historical context of a song to be lost, so it does not do to let a good song (or tune) die because we're afraid to let down the hem a bit to fit where we've grown.

Dani


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Allan C.
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 09:03 AM

But then there are songs which, in order to "cleanse" them, would lose any semblance of meaning (or so some would have us believe). Virginia just went through this debate over it's Official State Song, "Carry Me Back To Old Virginia". For those who aren't familiar with the song, it contains "There's where I labored so hard for old massa" and quite a few other lines which were said to be objectionable and reminded some folks of things they felt should not be brought to mind. So, after failed attempts to rewrite the song, it was ultimately decided to dump the song entirely and solicit candidates for a new State Song. Even Jimmy Dean and his wife had an entry. To be honest, I heard so many entries that I never discovered which of them actually became the new musical icon for the state. And, to be honest, I really don't care. I was one who thought that the original could have been altered to reflect the times.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Liam's Brother
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 09:10 AM

Comrade Stalin and his unending line of cronies (he used to bump them off when he felt himself getting comfortable with them) were very good at changing history. On the other side of the spectrum, Hitler and his crew (some of whom got bumped off as well) used to burn books they found objectionable.

I recently spent a day at Brown University and I found a songster with virulently anti-Irish content from the time when Catholic churches in America resembled the stockade forts we associate with the Old West. I copied the song because it showed me exactly how base this type of material is. Without the document, there is no way to know that. This is why they have not torn down the concentration camps. I hope you appreciate that.

When we see people singing these songs with waxy-eyed smiles on their faces, then it's time to get upset!

All the best,
Dan


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: JedMarum
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 09:12 AM

I have an acquaintance who sings at a session here in Dallas. He occasionally sings a beautiful song about an old man. The singer says lovingly how this tired old man, who once had a life filled with love and adventure has grown very old and frail. The old man can now still enjoy his corn bread, but has few pleasures left ... soon the old man will pass on to the place "where good niggers go." I can't recall all the words now, but there are lines in the song that make me believe the singer is a white person - a person from a different culture. To hear the song you would never suspect anything but love and respect existed between the singer and the old man. To hear the words with our 1990's ears, we find the conotation and the sentiment difficult to reconcile - at first.

Judge the song by its intent, or its sentiment - not by its choice of words. Sing the song where it can appreciated in that light, or don't sing it.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Paul S
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 09:46 AM

I have no objections whatsoever to changing lyrics to fit my needs. If you want to sing a good old song, but not risk offending yourself and others, go ahead and change what you need.

Yes, songs can tell us a great deal about our past, and be great reminders, and instruments of change. But ... they can also, just be songs.

What's it really matter if I change the meaning or message of a song. There are a lot of archivists and revivalists out there to keep the stories alive; when you hear me sing a song, it's just for your entertainment.

These songs must also be preserved in their original state, however. We can't expunge our sins of the past by purging all offensive material from that era.

Paul


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: sophocleese
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 11:10 AM

I used to work in a book store. Near the till was the section for pyschology and self help and when business was slack I'd read a little. If the book referred to everybody, male and female, as 'man' I'd check the publication date. If it was written more than fifteen years earlier I'd continue reading and not be offended by the use of "man" to describe me. If it had been written any later than that I put it back down, by that time the issue of exclusive language had been around long enough for even insensitive people to be aware of it and alter their writing to take it into account. I use a similar approach with songs. Where it will not alter the story I will change uncomfortable words but if I can't change it and still don't feel comfortable singing it I don't sing it.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Art Thieme
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 11:16 AM

When I sang/recorded "Master Of The Sheepfold" it was without the "original" dialect that Sarah Pratt MacLean Greene (1856-1935) used in her poem called "De Sheepfol'". I feel her poem is most probably the origin of this song. It was printed in Sing Out! (in a column) as "De Massa Ob De Sheepfol'". My changing the song's dialect had nothing to do with political correctness. It was simply my gut wisdom that told me that this dialect was offensive, not only to me, but to so very many people--white as well as black. Our hateful modern times demanded that I morph it some. I, and others, strive mightily to leave the sad trappings of slavery and it's aftermath (which we are STILL going through) behind us. I do this because, as recent events have stressed to me/us, insane baggage from that era is present here and now. It is with those strivings and sensibilities in mind that I changed history (NOT) and the song. Hell, even Jean Luc Piccard changed history when it didn't interfere (too much) with his prime directive.

And, I feel, it made a better song that promoted inclusiveness instead of ostricism, tolerance of difference instead of ethnic cleansing and live-and-let-live instead of a "kill the pig" (Lord Of The Flies) mentality.

No, just calling something "politically correct" in order to discredit a heartfelt logical stand arrived at by much deliberationn is a Limbaughian technique that would've made the despots of our century grin, not spin, in their gaves.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Ron
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 11:20 AM

While I would question why someone would sing some of these racist songs, I agree with those who feel they should be in the archive - especially those produced by oppressed minorities as these songs decpict how they saw life in their own experience. We must never forget the circumstances that would produce some of that music.

At the same time, an ongoing open discussion will be the most effective way to root out racism and make the world better for all - both the oppressed and the oppressors. I think this conversation in itself makes the strongest argument for not doing the equivalent of burning books. Be far more afraid of censorship than ignorance.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Midchuck
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 11:31 AM

"...Where it will not alter the story I will change uncomfortable words but if I can't change it and still don't feel comfortable singing it I don't sing it."

Tell me...Do you sing "..Rise again, Rise again, that her name not be lost to the knowledge of people...?" Or do you feel that the song should be thrown out..?


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 12:29 PM

Well you could sing "Rise again...like a steeple!
Or perhaps "Rise like yeast......the knowledge of the North East. Sorry.
Rick


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: sophocleese
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 01:06 PM

"Rise again, Rise again, that her name not be lost da da dee dee de dum......."


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 01:27 PM

How do people feel about, "Mammy"? As an unappologetic Al Jolson fan, I love this song--learned it as a child--and still sing it(but only when I play for older audiences, who haven't a clue that there could be anything wrong with it)

There are a whole lot of old songs that are full of Minstrel Show characters and images, and that express the full range of offensive minstrel show cliches, from shuffling to beatin' your feet in the Missisippi mud-- any song that mentions Mandy or Alexander or Rufus, Sammy, or Chattanooga, alludes to this--

"Pardon me, Boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo-Choo? Track Twenty Nine, Boy, you can give me a shine!" is, in addition to being an archetype of the hip swing culture of the forties, is also a big time allusion to racist stereotypes--

What do we do?


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Ole Bull
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 01:40 PM

Offense is in the eye of the beholder.

The epithet "Racist" is the most effective (and fasionable) means of censorship today. And no other form of censorship is so well tolerated. Furthermore the label is freely applied to a point that is usually has nothing to do with whether one is indeed racist or not! To me it's getting to be like hearing "RED".

My objective study of pre-Civil War music was quite a surprise to find how our musical history is so stereotyped as being stereotyped. I love to find the open mind like the one above who finds "Old Uncle Ned" to be a beautifull loving tune and does not acuse uglyness.

So, who is offended now by the word nigger? Not blacks. My kids bring home more nigger content by modern urban musicians than in the archives of Brown and Duke University combined. Oh! Excuse me. You have to be white, and perhaps male to be offensive(or not around to defend yourself).

And what will those one hundred years in the future find sinfully offensive about the things we all do and accept today?? Like maybe forsaking our kids so we can all make more money and be "fullfilled"? I can think of a few things......


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: folk1234
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 02:43 PM

Another Mudcat Classic! Articulate, learned, and very polite discussion about a topic as old as traditional music and history itself.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Allan C.
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 02:45 PM

M. Ted, you just reminded me of the time on the Andy Williams variety show when he and Lou Rawls did a duet of "Chattanooga Choo-Choo". They got around the potential problem with the lyrics by having Lou lead off. It was great!


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: kendall
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 03:11 PM

I have two short comments. First, the definition of manners is simply the art of making others comfortable, and not making them UNcomfortable. Singing such racist songs in public will make many people uncomfortable.
Now, they do have historical value, so, maybe we should put them in a museum like we do old cars. Nice to look at and remember, but pretty uncomfortable to use.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Chet W.
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 04:19 PM

During the seemingly lamented Cold War, jazz musicians behind the Iron Curtain were at first censored for doing American music, but when they got across the idea that it was the music of the oppressed American workers, they were given a lot more freedom to play. They often had to change the titles, usually to something like "The Worker's Struggle" instead of "Sophisticated Lady", but it allowed them to keep playing.

Seems like everybody don't like somebody, Chet


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Jack (who is called Jack)
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 04:34 PM

Let me politely add my two cents.

There should be an old proverb that says,

You cannot make the wolf disappear by wiping away his footprints.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Joe Offer
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 04:35 PM

I think you will find very few songs in the database (and in our history) that are racist in their essence. Those are the ones we have to be very careful about. There are many others that contain racist terms and concepts, but the songs themselves are not essentially racist - those are the ones we can salvage with a little doctoring-up.
We have to use a lot of good taste when we "doctor" a song. I think the way Art Thieme handled "Master of the Sheepfold" is a prime example. He did an excellent job, if I may say so.
Dealing with gender issues in songs is a newer problem, and fixing songs for gender problems can get really clumsy. The above example from "Mary Ellen Carter" isn't a glaring problem, so I think it can be left alone. "The Ways of Man" (Gordon Bok, 1977) and "Faith of Man" (Bill Staines, 1986) are absolutely wonderful songs written not very long ago, but it's a little "iffy" to perform them for certain audiences nowadays - I can't imagine how I could change them and still make them work.
I might give a word of advice on how to change wording to deal with gender issues - read the Bible. The New Revised Standard Version, completed in 1989, did a very nice, subtle job of removing masculine language from the 1952 Revised Standard Version.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Jeremiah McCaw
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 04:48 PM

Hmmm... when I saw the thread title, I thought it might have to do with the skinhead bands that play at "white power" rallies. Instead, this stuff. Phooey.

As a number of posts have said, change your own performance if you must, or don't do it at all. And be honest about why. But to suggest that such material should be deleted entirely is, I think, quite wrong.

As Santayana wrote: "Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it". As are those who wish to revise the past.

Sanitize this stuff? Phooey rats. Give me the truth, warts and all!


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: bunkerhill
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 06:10 PM

Bowdler is not remembered well elsewhere.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: MAG (inactive)
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 06:48 PM

On "Shake a Tailfeather," Taj Mahal includes "Shortnin' Bread." I wouldn't feel comfortable doing it, but from him it works.

Julius Lester and Jerry Pinkney did a reworking of *Little Black Sambo* called *Sam and the Tigers* in order to rescue a very good story from the unfortunate original pictures. Not everybody is happy with it, but I and others are.

My sentiments on this issue are on an old thread somewhere.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: kendall
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 06:49 PM

So, what's wrong with THE WAYS OF MAN?


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: bbelle
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 07:27 PM

Racism, anti-semitism, slavery ... they all exist and are a part of history. I don't think the songs should be deleted, nor do I think they should be changed, on paper, because they reflect history. I would sing a work song sung by slaves, but not in dialect, as I think this is inappropriate. I would, however, sing a song sung by holocaust victims, in Yiddish, which, for Jews, is as much a separate language as Polish. I would never sing a song extolling slavery or racism or anti-semitism, regardless of changed wording. Politics, for me at least, is a different matter. I would sing a song calling for gun control to a group of NRA members in a hot minute. Is there a difference in these scenarios? There is for me ... moonchild


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: marcelloblues
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 07:44 PM

The only thing to drop are songs, sometimes well confused in pop easy sung at football matches tunes, (at least around me), which contains nazy fascist slogans, or hate for people from Naples because they're all thieves, and a wagon of ugly vacuum imbecille's thought about the whole thing. Personally I don't run for any colour or race, but for the Blues. I just remember an old tune sung by Ebrew people in the lagers which is: The Peatbog Soldiers. cheers


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: omidheach@hotmail.com
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 08:41 PM

I was listening to a country music program on WKCR, the Columbia U. station, a few years ago. The show's host put on the Blue Sky Boys singing "Kentucky," an old recording of an even older song, one that includes a line about "the darkies singing in the pale moon light." Just before the song reached that line, however, the DJ must have realized what was coming and abruptly lifted the needle off the disc.

I had never heard the Blue Sky Boys' version of this beautiful southern harmony song, only the later 1950s cover by the Louvin Brothers. So I felt a bit cheated by this gratuitous act of self-censorship. Surely it would have been better to let the song play and explain later about the historical context?


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 08:58 PM

MarcelloBlues,

Are you from Naples? I have just been listening to the Rienzo Arbore tape with the picture of Clinton on the cover, and it is the best--any idea where I can find the lyrics?


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: JedMarum
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 09:00 PM

omidheach - your story exemplifies what is wrong with worrying too much about the language. it might be that you or I would choose to sing it differently, or choose not to sing it at all, but certainly, let the song be heard, as it was recorded.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Willie-O
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 09:14 PM

Well, I've heard many minor alterations to the line in Mary Ellen Carter (which is obviously sung because it is a stirring tribute to the human spirit, so it passes hurdle number one), such as:

"That her name not be lost to women and men"

But personally, I usually just add "and women" at the end, it still fits in the meter and I don't take out any of Stan's line. Scans for me.

But I won't go as far as to make The Dutchman make his own bed...some things you do not mess with!

Bill C


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Laura
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 11:50 PM

Most of the songs I have come across w/ the "N" word have been originated by blacks- mostly in the slave days- includes spirituals, hoedowns, lullabies. Most of the of the other potentially objectionable songs (i.e. Stephen Foster) seem to be much more euphemistic and we get terms like "Darkie". The "N" word is basically just a dialect variation of Negro which still seems to be semi politically correct when compared to the "N" version.

As to whether or not to banish these songs, well I guess that would be a shame. They are historical and describe life as it was in the time period. It's unfortunate that Slavery, discrimination, all of the atrocities against people of other races have occurred, however, I think by keeping these songs alive it serves as a reminder and that no one wants to go back there again.

Just my 2 cents worth Laura


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Midchuck
Date: 30 Nov 99 - 07:39 AM

I think the comment about "The Ways of Man" misses the point. The song is actually about the ways of man, as in "male people," not about "man" as a generic term for people of both sexes. Women don't go out in boats in unsafe weather and get drowned, to prove their machismo. Just like men don't really notice what they're wearing for clothes, just so they're comfortable and don't look so different from what everyone else is wearing that it attracts attention.

To those who say that any suggestion that there are any inherent personality differences between the sexes is sexist, I say....no, I can't say that here; what about...no, I guess I can't say that here either....


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: aldus
Date: 30 Nov 99 - 09:52 AM

I believe that political "correctness" is one of the most disturbing obsession of this obsession ridden era. There are two wonderful quotes i always keep in mind when the word police are ona tear.... 1] a free society has something to offend everyone and democracy allows us to to be equally offended. 2]Ypu cannot conceal thoughts by cpncealing evidence that they existed. Democracy must take risks and allow for all opionion and expression no matter how odious. If democracy does not do that it ceases to be democracy.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Art Thieme
Date: 30 Nov 99 - 11:49 AM

Joe, Thanks!

As I've said once before in a long lost thread: Once Roy Rogers was out in the barn shoveling messy & aromatic stuff. He had to take his new boots off before going into the ranch house for breakfast. When he emerged from eating, he found that a cougar or some kind of animal had eaten the tops off of his boots and he jumped on Trigger & rode after the animal. An hour later he arrived back at the ranch with the dead animal slung across his saddle. As Dale Evans met him and the door she sang out to him loudly: "Pardon me Roy, is that the cat that chewed your new shoes?"

That's how I always sing the song now!

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: JedMarum
Date: 06 May 09 - 10:06 AM

I stumbled onto this old thread and after almost 10 years - and find I have a bit more to add. So here goes:

I rarely sing to general audiences, songs that have sensitive racial content - except I sometimes sing "Yellow Rose of Texas." BUT when I sing it, I use the very commonly accepted set of lyrics that have long since replaced the word "darkie" with "fellow."

The oldest known written set of lyrics for this song, from around 1830 - say "She's the sweetest rose of color this darkie ever knew" but in America, we have long been singing, "She's the sweetest rose of color this fellow ever knew." And leave the rest of song original (there are exceptions - some Civil War versions have appeared and some local versions).

"The Yellow Rose" song is about the singer's fondness for a lovely girl of color, as he tells us - presumably a mulatto of "high yellow color" - and those words are gentle enough. They never were intended to be anything more then a loving description - so they seem to pass modern correctness tests.

The song is hugely popular in the US. Everyone, it seems has heard it and enjoys it. Still I think people haven't always paid close attention to its lyrics, so when I sing it, I watch for a few gears turning behind the audience member's eyes - when they realize he is singing about a Yellow Rose, or pretty girl of color.

As for other songs - other songs that might now have sensitivity, though they had a very different understanding of race issues when they were written - I don't usually have a place to sing them. And I wouldn't without comment, or should I say "explanation."

Here's a good example of such a song:

In the song Honest Pat Murphy - aka SONG OF THE SPLINTERED SHILLELAGAH (a version of this song is in the DT).

There is a verse that is commonly left out now-a-days, and one I sing only when I have a Civil War history focused audience and I have the chance to comment on it.

The song lists the Irish immigrant's reasons for joining, willingly in the American struggle to preserve the Union. The singer says they think it's a bit queer for brother to fight brother, and they prefer to rush into battle against the English - but they are happy to lay down their lives to preserve the Union. However, in this one verse that I commonly do not sing, they say they have no interest in joining the struggle to end slavery. This was a common feeling among the newly immigrant Irish in America (perhaps even a majority feeling in that crowd). These guys, or at least this singer was not Abolishionist! Here's the verse:

Jeff Davis ya thief if I had ya but here
Your beautiful plans I'd be ruinin'
I'd give a taste of me bedad
For tryin' to burst up the Union
And there's a crowd in the North too
And they're just as bad
Abolishionist Spouters, so scaley
For troublin' the negroes I think they deserve
A whack from me sprig of shillelagah

The verse is well worth singing, in the context of historical discussion. It is clever and beautifully captures a common (not ubiquitous) Irish immigrant sentiment from that place and time - but it's meaning would be lost or misunderstood to a general audience, without discussion. (And by the way, there many Union loyalists who felt like the Irish singer of this song - Civil War to save the Union, NOT to end slavery.)

The song itself, is rich with historical and cultural value - most of which can be lost on a general audience - but it is a strong song, a "stand alone" song and it works really well for a general audience without explanation. I believe the listeners who think about it will get it, or get some of it - and I believe the song may very well plant seeds of question that listeners seek answers to later on - or it will motivate them to listen more carefully next time around.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: SINSULL
Date: 06 May 09 - 10:43 AM

Mitch Miller changed it to:
She's the sweetest rose of Texas
This young boy ever knew...

A whole generation grew up not knowing the yellow rose was mulatto.

I find it interesting that "a target" claimed to make use of the forum and threads but posted only once in his entire career - this thread. A troll, I suppose.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Howard Jones
Date: 06 May 09 - 11:15 AM

Just because an old song uses language which today we find unacceptable doesn't make it racist.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Charley Noble
Date: 06 May 09 - 11:20 AM

Howard-

You may have a point. Would you provide an example to illustrate it?

I generally agree with what Jed has just posted above.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: GUEST,Jim
Date: 06 May 09 - 11:41 AM

John Hartford modified the old verse:
Some folks say that a n____ won't steal
But I found three in my corn field
One half black, another half brown
And the third old boy was gettin' on home.

John sang:
Some folks say that a hippy won't steal
But I found three in my corn field
One had a flag and another had a bomb
And the third old boy was gettin' on home.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: JedMarum
Date: 06 May 09 - 11:41 AM

Yes Howard. Agreed.

In my "Honest Pat Murphy" example above, however; there were plenty of racist feeling behind the anti-Abolishionist feelings in the North. But in the Yellow Rose, I suspect there were none. Still in both instances language is used about which we are sensitive today.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Big Mick
Date: 06 May 09 - 12:05 PM

The original post posed the question as to whether the racist songs had a place on this forum. I believe the answer is yes, repulsive though they may be to many. It seems to me that we must never shield ourselves from our past, no matter how repulsive. To do so allows the revulsion to fade, and the apologists to gain ground. We see this in the area of racism with regard to the Holocaust, and with regard to the American Civil Rights struggle. Already, even though much of the horror occurred less than 75 years ago, we hear folks playing them down.

But, in the course of the discussion, it is important to understand what racism actually is. According to Merriam-Webster racism is defined as, "a belief that race is the primary determinent of human traits and capabilities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race". Using that criteria, it seems that the song "Yellow Rose of Texas" might be using a term that could be viewed (by today's standards) as outdated and a bit insensitive, but not particularly racist. And I agree with Jed that it is important to preserve historically.

All the best,

Mick


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 06 May 09 - 04:41 PM

Ok so what is a "Beaner"and what is a "piker"
Cheers


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Jack Campin
Date: 06 May 09 - 05:59 PM

There are some songs that haven't been buried anywhere near as deep with a stake through their chests as the ones mentioned so far. I have here a copy of The Hootenanny Sing Book (reprints from Sing Out, ed. Irwin Silber, 1963) which includes The Road to Eilat, a Zionist militarist number about expropriating Arab land by armed force and which includes an extra verse saying what a good and progressive idea that was by none other than Pete Seeger.

Then we have Dublin in the Rare Ould Times, in which the narrator attacks one character for being both Black and English and hence not the sort of person who had any business being in Dublin. I'd hate to think how Gypsies might feature in Pete St John's songs.

I've never heard anyone sing the Eilat thing and don't expect to (quite likely both Silber and Seeger would now disown it), but Dublin in the Rare Ould Times is a permanent fixture in the plastic-Paddy repertoire.

Anti-English racism is a recurrent theme in some Scottish music genres. Usually takes the form of how the song (or tune, sometimes) is framed and introduced, rather than with the content itself.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Azizi
Date: 06 May 09 - 07:23 PM

One aspect of this discussion that I've not read yet is that some people may have a nostalgic feeling for a song or rhyme that is racially and/or culturally insensitive because they have good memories of that learning that song from a loved one. They then pass that song on to their children and grandchildren. But maybe at some point that tradition ends because those children and grandchildren recognize that the song contains words that are no longer acceptable or its message is no longer acceptable.

For example, I posted to that thread four times. Two times I focused on an analysis of some of the words of that rhyme and how I thought they might be the source of a contemporary children's rhyme I had collected. One time I welcomed a guest to that discussion and to this forum. And the fourth time I wrote this post:

thread.cfm?threadid=6971

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 'Once in China there lived a great man...
From: Azizi - PM
Date: 26 Oct 08 - 08:53 AM

I'd like to make some random comments about this rhyme:

From reading the comments posted on this thread, it appears that few people have included in their posts any acknowledgement of the fact that the words of "Once In China There Lived A Great Man" ridicules Chinese people. One poster who did recognize this was GUEST,Darren ex-West Bromwich; 18 Jan 08 - 11:05 PM. Darren posted this comment:

"My Dad taught this one to me and his Dad taught it to him. Obviously back in the day they had a a hatred for Asian people and made up songs to ridicule them"
-snip-

Another poster who recognized the "socially incorrect" nature of this apparently fondly remembered rhyme is GUEST,Hugh
Date: 10 Feb 07 - 05:22 PM who wrote:

"I remember a song I heard at summer camp in Canada in the 60s. Unthinkable that anyone would sing it now.

-snip-

Guest Hugh may have meant that he considers it unthinkable that this song would be sung in public at camp.

It would be interesting to see what Chinese people think of this rhyme.

I hope that if {since} this rhyme continues to be passed down to children that at the very least some acknowledgement of this fact is made by the adults who are carrying on this tradition. And I hope that those who pass this rhyme on to their children reinforce that it isn't good to make fun of people because of their race, ethnicity and/or nationality.

That said, I believe discussion threads like this one serve are important as they help document the variant texts of folk rhymes and folk songs. [See my earlier comments to this thread about the possible connection between "Once In China"... and other certain other children's rhymes].

I think that community folklorists, professional folklorists, and the general public have only begun to recognize the importance of text based Internet discussion forums such as Mudcat as a means of documenting, studying, and passing on the words to children's rhymes/songs and other folk songs. And, hopefully, in the immediate future, more and more people will also recognize the huge role that Internet sites such as YouTube can serve in helping to document, study, and disseminate not only the words,but also the tunes, and any performance activities of these examples of folk culture..

GUEST,Brian Fellows 16 Nov 07 - 05:11 PM appears to be the only person so far to post a URL to a YouTube video of "Once In China There Lived A Great Man". Along with that website address, Brian Fellows adked "I wonder if the tune is always the same?"

Here's the hyperlink to that YouTube video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSLYYkEH_nM

For some reason that video clip is titled "Chewing Gum".

I searched for this rhyme on YouTube under its title, and there doesn't appear to be any entries of it as of this date.

-snip-

To some extent that posts is an example of my take on historical and also contemporary songs and rhymes that have could be said to be racially insensitive. I don't want those songs deleted from this forum, but I'm concerned that people might pass those songs on to another generation who may not understand that these songs contain culturally/racially insensitive terms.

Also, as an amateur folklorist, I'm interested in reading variants of rhymes. I'm glad when people post demographical information, and I'm interested in exploring possible connections between old songs and rhymes and contemporary songs and rhymes.

Furthermore, I'm concerned that an overwhelming majority of the posters to that "Lyr Req: 'Once in China there lived a great man" threads are guests to this forum and because they are guests they probably don't "get" that this forum presents historical songs and rhymes that may contain terms that are outdated and racially insensitive because of their historical, folkloric value.

In this threadRE: BS: Race & Socially Responsive Posting I wrote that I wish that Max would approve posting a disclaimer on the front page that indicated that certain songs/rhymes on this forum might contain culturally insensitive language but that these compositions were posted for the sake of history and for folkloric research. But whether such a disclaimer happens or not (and my sense is that it won't), I'll still post on Mudcat and continue to try to maintain a balance of folkloric study and societal concern when I consider something to be concerning and I recognize that everyone may not always agree with what I consider to be concerning.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Azizi
Date: 06 May 09 - 07:48 PM

For the record, I'm aware that my first post to this thread and the comment that I reposted from another Mudcat thread contains mistakes such as words that should have been deleted in a correctly done cut & paste job.

Especially when it comes to emotionally charged subjects-such as this one is for me-I try to carefully read my posts before hitting the submit button. But if I think too much about these kinds of posts, I won't post them. So although I re-read what I wrote (the new portion of this comment), and although I caught some errors and made changes in this post, I obviously didn't catch all of my errors.

I apologize about that.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Azizi
Date: 06 May 09 - 08:23 PM

Ugh!

For the record, I'm aware that my first post to this thread and the comment that I reposted from another Mudcat thread contain mistakes such as words that should have been deleted in a correctly done cut & paste job.

**

Since I'm here, let me mention that with regard to children's playground rhymes-the category of study that I'm most interested in on Mudcat-there are examples of contemporary children's rhymes that mention race and have text that document problems between people of different races. One rhyme that appears to be widely known in the USA among Black girls is this is an updated version of the rhyme "Down Down Baby" also known as "I Like Coffee I Like Tea" Here's a portion of that rhyme:

I like coffee I like tea
I like a Black boy and he like me.
Step back White boy. You don't shine..
I'll get a Black boy to beat your behind.

Down Down Baby-Race in Children's Rhymes

**

There are other contemporary examples of children's rhymes that may appear to mention race but actually the children who chant them don't think of them as referring to race or ethnicity. "Shimmy Shimmy China" is an excerpt of this type of rhyme:

Shimmy Shimmy China
I know karate.
Shimmy Shimmy China
I can shake in my body.

-snip-

The children who chant this rhyme consider "China" to be a girl's name and not the name of that Asian nation or a referent for people of Chinese ancestry. This example is a good reminder for me that sometimes adults interpret children's rhymes and songs differently than adults do.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Jack Campin
Date: 06 May 09 - 08:27 PM

I have one song sheet I've been sitting on for a long time. It was written as a promotional number for a pharmaceutical company (which still exists) near the beginning of the 20th century. The whole thing is a farrago of racist stereotypes from beginning to end - the worst aspects of the blackface minstrel tradition with essentially zero musical or poetic quality to redeem it.

But it seems to me it ought be more widely known, simply because of what it says about how companies like that promoted their wares.

I still don't like the idea that somebody might pick the thing up as originally intended.

Maybe I ought to upload the scanned image of the music sheets to my site, without transcribing them?


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 06 May 09 - 08:32 PM

Jack Campin: Tell us the name of the song. Maybe we'll be able to find it at the Levy collection or one of the similar sites.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Melissa
Date: 06 May 09 - 10:00 PM

Several years ago, there was a flurry of talk about my State Song (Missouri Waltz) being inappropriate and how it was wrong for us to have a state song with offensive words--and each time I heard somebody talking about it, I asked WHAT the offensive words were and/or what was wrong about the song. I couldn't get an answer other than another round of "well..whatever the words are, it's wrong for it to be our State Song!"

So, I started searching around to see if I could find original words. The song is common for fiddlers around here and I was thinking that if it was truly offensive, I probably ought to decide whether it was a song I needed to stop playing. My fiddling was/is bad enough that I didn't figure I needed to also add the offensiveness of playing a Wrong song.

It was hard to find original words. I ended up getting to see them online but it took a few years of sporadic searching for me to chance onto them.

I was relieved to find that the horrible awfulness was dated-sentimental..nostalgic storyline that probably never happened (like a lot of Nostalgia)

I don't remember where I finally found lyrics. If it was Mudcat, it's another reason for me to be appreciative of the stacks of information and knowledge that piles up around here.
If anything I sing/play is going to be censored, I believe I am old enough to be responsible for any Fixes I may do. I'm old enough to know exactly what has been changed in a song and I truly prefer to have a semi-accurate answer when someone says 'You're not supposed to sing that song..it's Wrong and Offensive..and since your words were slightly different, you probably don't even KNOW what the song originally said..hmmph'
I prefer to have an answer when someone says 'Hey, I thought MO Waltz was supposed to be awful?! It wasn't so bad when you sang it..did I miss something?'

My non-invasive 'fix' was that when I sing it, the old folks are humming and I was a child sitting on my mama's knee.
By being able to find it for myself, I also got a chance to re-insert the second part about 'strum strum..' which I had never heard a fiddler play.

It's just one song and I'm just one person so I doubt it has any effect on the Earth's ability to turn on it's axis, but without the ability to find those words for myself, I'd be embarrassed/ashamed/slightly mortified that my State Song was Offensive. It offends ME to be expected to feel ashamed of something without me knowing what's so awful about it. I want to know the history and storylines and I want to digest the information for myself.

Hooray for places like this where folks like me can find old/original words and come to our own conclusions!

*****
Tim Leaning:
I have read that 'pikers' are/were Missourians. It had to do with Pike County, wagon trains, westward expansion (maybe gold rush?) type stuff. "Sweet Betsy from Pike" and all that.
If I understand correctly, the negative way of using the word has something to do with being a layabout, avoiding responsibility, not doing your part (this is not a proper definition..just kind of how I understand the word)

If somebody wants to correct that, I'd be glad to know more. It would be kind of nice to understand why I'm supposed to be offended at hearing the word.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: pdq
Date: 06 May 09 - 10:14 PM

pike: "...medieval weapon consisting of a spearhead attached to a long pole or pikestaff; superseded by the bayonet..."

Ask an Irishman what "I'll have his head on a pike" means.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Melissa
Date: 06 May 09 - 10:17 PM

PDQ:
So, were the ones doing the piking called 'pikers'?


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: pdq
Date: 06 May 09 - 10:36 PM

I have no idea.

I live in the sagebrush of northern Nevada, not the troubled land of northern Ireland.

I think usng a pike on someone is rather distaseful no matter how the user justifies it.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: pdq
Date: 06 May 09 - 10:44 PM

beaner: a slang term for a Mexican. Comes from their penchant for bean-based food such as chili with beans and re-fried beans.

People who lived in mixed neighborhoods called each other names like "gringo" and "beaner" and kept a smile while doing it. No one was offended.

Now days that could get you killed. Not everything has improved in the last 40 years.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: JedMarum
Date: 06 May 09 - 11:25 PM

Jack Campin in yur comments about DUBLIN IN THE RARE OULD TIMES you say;

"the narrator attacks one character for being both Black and English and hence not the sort of person who had any business being in Dublin"

Not in the lyrics I've known.

In this song, the singer is bemoaning the signs of change in his city, decrying the loss of the old ways and his inability or lack of interest in moving on in the new world.

I presume the verse you refer to is this one:

I courted Peggy Dignan,
As pretty as you please
A rogue and a child of Mary
From the Rebel Liberties
I lost her to a student chap
With skin as black as coal
When he took her off to Birmingham,
She took away my soul

How is that an attack on anyone? In a song where he's listing the changes to the in world in which he lives, he tells us that the girl he courted ran off with a student, presumably the singer is not a student. He tells us that the student had black skin, presumably that would not have happened in his father's generation, and that they went off to Birmingham. Where is the racial attack?


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 07 May 09 - 12:01 AM

Another idea for acknowledging that parts of a song may be found objectionable is to add ones own, contemporary voice to a commentary that is part of the song. The abrupt shift in voice highlights the historical and not-the-views-of-the-performer tone of the rest of the song. I experimented with that in this recent recording of a song that inevitably raises questions. See the last, new verse. "The Chinee Bumboatman"
Actually, my opinions, on a word by word basis, of what is and isnt objectionable in the song are complex and far too lengthy...so this curt, sung "addendum" obviously cannot to them justice. Its function, rather, is the acknowledgement of "breaking taboo" and that shift in voice I was talking about...I hope

Gibb


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 07 May 09 - 02:19 AM

I have read that 'pikers' are/were Missourians. It had to do with Pike County, wagon trains, westward expansion (maybe gold rush?) type stuff. "Sweet Betsy from Pike" and all that.
If I understand correctly, the negative way of using the word has something to do with being a layabout, avoiding responsibility, not doing your part (this is not a proper definition..just kind of how I understand the word)

Any connection with the modern English usage of Pikeys as a description for 'travelling folk', the etymology given in Urban Dictionary as those who encamped around the 'turnpike'?

Having said 'moden English' usage, I note the first citation above dates it back to the 19th century!

Nigel


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Melissa
Date: 07 May 09 - 03:11 AM

Nigel:
I've heard "Where are you piking off to?" (where are you going?)
and "..guess I'll head on down the pike" (I'll be leaving now..)

During the US Westward Expansion, Missouri was a favored starting point. People from the east who were heading west would meet in MO, finish gathering supplies from traders, meet their party, get whatever information they could about maps and where to fork off to reach different areas.
Those people would get in their wagons and head west. They'd stay in their wagons, camping to get a little rest for themselves and the beasts (I guess it was probably oxen pulling most of the wagons?)

It seems logical to me that in at least that American usage of 'piker' could easily be related to 'pikeys'..Travellers. They were travelling and living in their wagons--at least until they landed and built a house.

The book I read the 'piker' definition was called "Labels for Locals". I moved recently and most of my stuff is still at my house..including books.
One of these times when I'm at home sorting/pilfering my things, I'll make a point to look more closely at that book to see if there's a more complete entry than I remember.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: MartinRyan
Date: 07 May 09 - 04:03 AM

Partridge gives "piker" as 19 C. slang for a tramp, vagrant; occasionally a Gypsy. Probably originating from turnpike .

Regards


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: GUEST,Jim P
Date: 07 May 09 - 05:30 AM

I was actually looking for something else, but found a version of Chinee Bumboatman on YouTube, that contained a final verse newly written, dealing with the subject of this thread:

Additional verse from "hultonclint" on YouTube:

Now some piece man no likee this song
Him talkee it give him offence
But in singin' it I wish no disrespect
To the fine Chinois ladies and gents
There's many a present PC song
That ticks me off far more
So quit suckin' yer thumb
And take it in fun
At least this song isn't a bor- ee-eye-or-ee-eye!

Hitch-ee-come kitch-ee-come, i-yi-yi
Hippie man no likee me
No sabby the value of history
Too much he smokin' pipee, ka-ya.
Too much he smokin' pipee.


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Subject: Lyr Add: BORDER AFFAIR / SPANISH IS THE LOVING...
From: Barry Finn
Date: 07 May 09 - 10:44 AM

IN 1907 Charles Badger Clark wrote his love song "Border Affair" (also know as "Spanish Is The Loving Tongue" (music by Billy Simon 1925). It's about a cross cultural love affair between a "Tex & a Mex", "Like as not it's better so". The feeling I get is that the affair was ok but the male recognizes (it is sung from the male's point of view) that it's not socially acceptable but that he's also ok with that as an excuse not to pursue the affair into a long lasting relationship but still "pines". But of course we read into any song what we'd like or can. The version I sing is not racist IMHO but lets it be known that racism does play a part in the affair there are stronger versions & versions that leave out the racism altogether

BORDER AFFAIR (also know as SPANISH IS THE LOVING TONGUE)
(Charles Badger Clark, Jr. 1907 & music by Billy Simon 1925)

Spanish is the loving tongue
Soft as music, light as spray;
'Twas a girl I learned it from
Living down Sonora way.
I don't look much like a lover,
Yet I hear her love words over.
Often when I'm all alone
"Mi amor, mi corazon"

On the nights that I would ride
She would listen for my spurs,
Throw them big door open wide,
Shine them laughing eyes of hers.
How my heart would nigh stop beating
When I heard her tender greeting,
Whispered soft for me alone ---
"Mi amor, mi corazon"

Moonlight on the patio,
Old senora nodding near,
Me and Juana talking low
So the Madre couldn't hear.
How the hours would go a-flyin!
And too soon I'd hear her sighin'
In her little sorry tone ---
"Adios, mi corazon."

I ain't seen her since that night,
I can't cross the line, you know.
She was Mex and I was white;
Like as not it's better so.
Yet I've always sort of missed her
Since that last wild night I kissed her;
She stole my heart, left her own
"Adios, mi Corazon"

As to Mitch Miller chaging the line to "the sweetest Rose in Texas", seems idiotic when the song title still remains "The Yellow Rose of Texas". It also seems that in such a loving song of fondness a cross cultural affair may have been more exceptable in the day when the song was sung as contemporary that in our present day of "PC enlightenment", same goes for the above "Border Affair".

Jed, your leaving the song intact with the exception of "Darkie" was the best opition IMHO, I use 'cowboy' or 'soldier' instead of 'fellow', but consider it to be a tender love song. The "Yellow Rose" is a hero to many in that part of the US & why wouldn't she be?

Barry

Barry


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 07 May 09 - 11:17 AM

Thanks for the info re piker and beaner.
I have heard Romany's referred to as pikies but have no idea why.


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Subject: Lyr Add: ROSA LEE McFALL (Charlie Monroe)
From: pdq
Date: 07 May 09 - 11:25 AM

here is another song in a similar vein...


Rosa Lee McFall ~ Charlie Monroe

Out on the lonely hillside in a cabin low and small
Lived the sweetest rose of color my Rosa Lee McFall

Her eyes were bright and shining and her voice was sweet to me
Knew that I would always love her and I hoped that she loved me

My eyes turned to me, my darlin' and this is what she said:
You know that I would always love you when you and I are wed.

Then God way up in heaven one day for her did call
I lost my bride, oh how I loved her, my Rosa Lee McFall

I searched this wide world over through cities great and small
But I never found another like my Rosa Lee McFall


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Big Mick
Date: 07 May 09 - 11:47 AM

I, like Jed, have sung the Rare Old Times for years. It is impossible not to in the States. It is my opinion that to ascribe an attack to any part of that song is projecting ones own biases onto the lyric. To me, the use of "skin as black as coal" was simply a descriptor used so he could get the necessary rhyme for "took away my soul".

So I also would like an explanation as to how that song is an attack.

All the best,

Mick


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: goatfell
Date: 07 May 09 - 11:50 AM

and what is wrong with the word Jew that is what they are they are Jews same as Catholics, Protestants etc. I don't agree by calling somone nigger I find that sort of stuff horrible but these folksongs are a part of history and from a time when people spoke thier minds.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Howard Jones
Date: 07 May 09 - 12:00 PM

It seems to me the test is to replace objectionable words with whatever is currently considered the acceptable term. If the meaning of the song still appears racist even without the objectionable words, that's a good sign that it is racist. If not, then the only problem is with the vocabulary.

The difficulty with modernising the language is that you then have to keep on doing it, as the idea of what terms are acceptable changes over time and place. I've made this point before, but when I was growing up it would have been offensive to call someone "black", the acceptable terms were "negro" or "coloured". Now the exact opposite is the case.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: GUEST,Jim
Date: 07 May 09 - 12:53 PM

Ian Tyson changed just one line of the Border Affair and gave it a different slant:

I ain't seen her since that night,
I can't cross the line, you know.
She was Mex and I was white;
Like as not it's better so.
Yet I've always sort of missed her
Since that last wild night I kissed her;
She stole my heart, left her own
"Adios, mi Corazon"


"She was Mex and I was white" became "Wanted for a gamblin' fight"

I ain't seen her since that night,
I can't cross the line, you know.
Wanted for a gamblin' fight;
Like as not it's better so.
Yet I've always sort of missed her
Since that last wild night I kissed her;
She stole my heart, left her own
"Adios, mi Corazon"


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: bubblyrat
Date: 07 May 09 - 01:31 PM

Why don't we make a start by eradicating the word "Black" from our joint language altogether,in which case nobody at all could ever be offended by it.We could say "Blank" instead,so giving us ;
Johnny Cash--The Man in Blank
"Goldfinger",starring Honor Blankman
"Take Me Back To The Blank Hills" sung by Doris Day
    "The Blank Shield of Falconworth " (Tony Curtis film)
         "Blank Eyed Susan"
                               And loads more.
    Yellow could be "Jellow" of course :-
         The Jellow Rose of Texas
                         Jellow River
    They Call Me Mellow Jellow
and so on----it's just a thought.
                                  Next time I sing "Johnny Come Down To Hilo", I will,if you like,sing " I never seen the like,since I been born,a big buck FRIGGER with the sea-boots on ",if it will help to avoid an international incident   !!


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: JedMarum
Date: 07 May 09 - 07:32 PM

well, y'are pretty bub'ly aren't ya?

;-)


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Barry Finn
Date: 08 May 09 - 01:30 AM

What's so bad about a change to "big buck sailor"? Of course, that's unless you like singing "nigger". "ON" is the ryhme that needs to be kept.

Mick, agreed, in the same way MacColl used the same turn of phrase in a song of his.


Barry


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Jack Campin
Date: 08 May 09 - 05:29 AM

Jack Campin: Tell us the name of the song. Maybe we'll be able to find it at the Levy collection or one of the similar sites.

"Doctor Darkey", from Beechams Music Portfolio, volume 10 (advertising "Beecham's Patent Pills"). From the cover listing it looks like Beechams published a *lot* of music - 300 titles.

It looks like it was a rewrite of a pre-existing song with a plug for Beechams added at the end. It would be interesting to know if they rewrote all the other songs they published.

[Dublin in the Rare Ould Times}
So I also would like an explanation as to how that song is an attack.

Look at the writer's website. There are a whole bunch of reactionary attitudes there, bordering on fascism, which make it quite clear we are to take it exactly as written - black men from Birmingham coming to Dublin are just one of the changes he sees as unwelcome.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Azizi
Date: 08 May 09 - 07:40 AM

With regard to the lines "skin as black as coal" in the song "Dublin In The Rare Ould Times", I'd first like to say that I don't know the song-apart from reading about it on this thread. And I've never heard it sung-which is not surprising since I've never heard many of the Anglo folk songs that are discussed in this forum.

Jack wrote that "There are a whole bunch of reactionary attitudes [on the writer's website], bordering on fascism, which make it quite clear we are to take it exactly as written - black men from Birmingham coming to Dublin are just one of the changes he sees as unwelcome". In support of Jack's comment, I think it is disingenuous to pretend that "skin as black as coal" in that song is a phase that has no other connotations but is merely a descriptor of what the man looked like as an arbitrary phrase like the singer saying "almost as old as me".   

No age jokes please :o)

But seriously, on a number of Mudcat threads and elsewhere I have written that I wish for and work for a time when skin color references are no more than valueless descriptors. But I know and most people would admit that in the USA, and in other nations (such as Ireland), most people are not there yet.

Does that mean that I have the same reaction to a phrase such as "skin as black as coal" as I have to the "n" word (spelled out)? No.

Does that mean that I am suggesting that a song which contains the phrase "skin as black as coal" shouldn't be sung in public for entertainment? No.

Have I suggested that the "n" word should be substituted in songs that include that referent no matter the race of those singing [or rapping] them? Yes.

**

It would be nice if persons who sang "Dublin in the Rare Ould Times" recognized that the race of the person who the singer's lady chose over him is pertinent and wasn't added just as a mere descriptor. To say that the race of the person who won the heart of that lady isn't pertinent in that song is like saying that President Barack Obama's race wasn't pertinent and wasn't raised pro and con as a factor in his campaign. And it's like saying that President Barack Obama's racial background isn't really a factor for a number of people who are opposed to his actions as President.

Saying that race still doesn't matter in the USA and elsewhere is a luxury for those who are not people of color. We [people of color] can tell you in myriad ways how race and ethnicity (in the USA meaning "Latino") are still being used against us as individuals and as members of racial/ethnic groups.

Yet, I'm not sure how a singer could mention the significance of the "skin as black as coal" phrase when singing that Dublin In The Rare Ould Days" song except to preface your performance by saying something like "In this song the composer refers to some changes that he (or she) would prefer not to see in the city he loves. That's his (her) view not mine. I'm sharing the song because it's one I find aesthetically pleasing".

Obviously, that preface is just a suggestion, and I'm not advocating for anyone to use it or anything like it. What I am advocating for is that folks admit that historically race was a factor and race often still is a factor in events and personal interactions.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Big Mick
Date: 08 May 09 - 08:51 AM

I just went to the website and could not find the comments you describe. Could you post a link to them, please?


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: JedMarum
Date: 08 May 09 - 09:14 AM

Such fascist causes as these:

He was deeply involved in the Peace Movement
Joined the fight for International Civil Rights
Brendan Behan Commemoration Day
Current interest in Anti Drink/Drive movement
Director of the Beaumont Foundation(Diabetes Research)

He has been honored by these organizations:

    * The Irish Republic Music Writers
    * The Irish Association of Songwriters and Composers
    * The U.S. Irish Cultural Society
    * The U.S. Brendan Cup Committee
    * Irish Music Rights Organisation Songwriter of the Year
    * Beaumont Foundation Cultural Award 2000
    * Goal/Rwanda Award
    * The Peace Train '89 Award
    * Omagh Awareness Award
    * Stenaline UK Songwriter of the Decade

You may not like his politics, and you may not like his songs, but claiming reactionary and fascist attitudes from this list of organizations and causes is simply silly.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: JedMarum
Date: 08 May 09 - 09:25 AM

Azizi - I'm more inclined to acting colorless, as you suggest but I didn't wrote the song. I am certain that the singer of the song is purposely denoting the color of young man who stole his girlfriend from him in the same way I might say, "She ran off with a football player" or "She married a Tory MP" or "They drove off in their Range Rover." All comments meant to have rich connotation, but the singer is not focused on the young man. The singer is focused on the girl who broke his heart.

"When he took her off Birmingham
She took away my soul"


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Azizi
Date: 08 May 09 - 10:44 AM

JedMarum, as a result of my posting on Mudcat, I've "met" a number of people who are "more inclined to acting colorless". And I am glad that there are folks who realize that people's skin color should be nothing but a valueless descriptor.

As I indicated, I don't know that "Dublin In The Rare Ould Times" song. I didn't think I was implying that you wrote the song and I didn't know whose website Jack Campin was referring to. I've never visited that website. If that is your website and if indeed there are indeed "a whole bunch of reactionary attitudes [on the writer's website], bordering on fascism", that doesn't necessarily mean that you agree with what they wrote. My apologies if my post conveyed that.

At least by the 18th century, the "skin as black as coal" descriptor was usually considered to be a negative reference. While the singer in that particular song may have been more focused on the girl that broke his heart, I'm still not convinced that that "black as the coal" phrase was meant to be just a mere informational descriptor. You suggested that that phrase was similar to the singer noting that "she ran off with a football player" or "She married a Tory MP" or "They drove off in their Range Rover". Pardon me if I still doubt that-unless those descriptors are meant to convey some information that is not only something extraordinary, but also something that has a negative connotation.

In other words, not only do I think that the woman running off with a man who was Black was an extraordinary happening, but I think that it is possible that the man being Black could be considered by some folks hearing (reading) this song as a circumstance that made the girl's running off even worse than it would otherwise have been.

My statements shouldn't be construed to mean that I think that the composer of that song was a racist. Perhaps the composer was just capturing a sentiment that made the woman's breaking up with the singer even more dramatic than it would had been if she left him for another White man.

It's true that you can't always interpret history using contemporary attitudes (and I'm assuming that this song is old). However, in my opinion, a comparable contemporary attitude is that held by those White people who have opined that it's bad enough that Republican candidate John McCain lost the Presidential campaign, but that he lost to a Black man makes his losing even worse.

Most Mudcatters may not think this way, but do you doubt that there are some folks who do think this way?


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: JedMarum
Date: 08 May 09 - 12:22 PM

I'll start with your last comments first. I think it is clear that a black man winning the US Presidency has been an easy thing to imagine since well before the election. I cannot imagine anyone thinking, let alone speaking the words, "it's bad enough that Republican candidate John McCain lost the Presidential campaign, but that he lost to a Black man makes his losing even worse." I'm sure there are some idiots out there like that - but it is certainly a marginal point-of-view. Obama has long been viewed as presidential by mainstream America, politics aside. I truly believe the bulk of his opposition was political NOT racial.

As for the racial content of the statement; I do not agree that we can conclude the composer ever even meant to refer to race. It probably does, but it could have other meanings.

In any case I believe it was meant as negative descriptor. After all, this guy just stole his girl! And if she's run off with a Footballer, or a Car Salesman, or a Tory MP - those would all have negative connotations that the singer was alluding to. We do this all the time in songwriting.

And - the point is that her running off with a man "with skin as black as coal" (whatever he meant by that) had become something was NOT uncommon. That was the point. The guy's world had changed so much that this was not an uncommon thing.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Azizi
Date: 08 May 09 - 12:31 PM

I suppose we'll just have to agree to disagree about what the composer might have meant by what he wrote.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 08 May 09 - 12:53 PM

I find it fascinating--and depressing--that folk music as an historical record has almost disappeared, and that the songs and the singers are being viewed through the lens of today's propriety.

The violent anti-immigration attitudes of the late 1800s; the attitudes oif both pro-slavery forces and abolitionists towards blacks (and vice versa); the anti-Irish (and anti-Jewish and anti-Polish) sentiments that were widely held at various times in our country's history---they're all part of that histor, and the songs of those eras provide a dramatic view of the past. When Henry Clay Work wrote his abolitionist song "Year of the Jubilo", he was recounting the feeling of slaves who were in the process of becoming free--changing "darkies" to "workers" misses the whole point.

Obviously, any song reflecting now-discarded vakues should be introduces properly to provide context. But I, for one, think that these songs should be sung.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 08 May 09 - 01:03 PM

My apologies for not having followed this thread much, but some of the references to early songs with negative racial implications, sparked thoughts of 'The Fair Ellender' which I ironically rather love for it's sheer abundance of grotesque attitudes belonging to the upper classes in England thus depicted, and so comfortably related in this ballad!: mysogyny, racism, avaricious money grabbing and hypocrisy in spades, it's all there:

Lord Thomas and Fair Ellender


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: DonMeixner
Date: 08 May 09 - 02:06 PM

Haven't we discussed this exact line of lyric business about Dublin In The Rare Old Times before? Ihave been to that site several times and never was taken by any reactionary or racist comment.

Pete St.John's history and reputation are without reproach. I believe that the lyric is in St. John's eyes exactly what Azizi is hoping for. Meerly a description and not condemnation.

Don


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: GUEST,JedMarum
Date: 08 May 09 - 04:25 PM

agreed, Don.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: meself
Date: 08 May 09 - 04:48 PM

For Azizi and anyone else who doesn't know the song, give it a listen: Dublin in the Rare Ould Times.

As for the line in contention - I don't think there's any reason to feel that the speaker is a virulent racist - but by the same token, there's no reason to suppose that his attitudes are more liberal than those of any other white working-man of his supposed time and place. I think Azizi is on the money when she says (to paraphrase) that probably the fact that the speaker lost the girl to a Black man is supposed to make the loss sting even more - along with the fact that the Black man was a "student chap". Either characteristic could be a source of some humiliation for the speaker: he loses the girl to a social superior - "a student" - who as such is also less of a "man" - at the same losing her to someone he might have expected to be a social inferior, or at least to be disadvantaged in the competition, not only as a newcomer (presumably), but as a Black man. All of which, to my mind, adds to the strength of the song, rather than detracts from it - however uncomfortable it may or may not make us.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 08 May 09 - 04:53 PM

I saw a lot of old school racism in southeast Texas in the 1940's and '50'. I know what it is. I've always believed that it was well to remember inappropriate behavior so that you knew what it was when you beheld (or heard of) it. In a historical context, a lot of traditional folk material, along with compositions of a few years back, would not pass the P.C. test of today. That was as far as I took it.

It was mostly an intellectual exercise until I was sitting with my four-year-old grandson last week, reading from an old story book that had been in the family. The first section was from Joel Chandler Harris ("Uncle Remus" stories). I soon realized that the only way I could relate the story was by editing the material as I went, line by line, and altering the minstrel show dialect. When was the last time anyone saw Disney's "Song of the South?" Sometimes, it takes a child to bring it home to you.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Jack Campin
Date: 08 May 09 - 06:32 PM

Look at Pete St John's "Spirit of the Gael" for an explanatory footnote to "Dublin in the Rare Old Times".

Apart from the bits that are just plain witless (shamrocks have souls?) the content is unadulterated fascism.

This land is mine
By ancient Royal decree


He can only mean the kings of Ireland, and any decrees they made certainly didn't allocate any land titles to Gypsies or Blacks. He's saying the land of Ireland is not theirs.

And whatever this may be saying through its godawful muddled grammar:

The times have changed, but Irish ways
Are carved in culture's stone
Our Race as one
When peace is won
And no hero stands alone!


you can't read it as being anywhere to the left of Carlyle or Mussolini.

I suspect the guy isn't actually a committed fascist; he realized there was a lucrative market for this sort of garbage in the American plastic-Paddy scene and being entirely devoid of principles he just went for the fast buck.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: meself
Date: 08 May 09 - 06:52 PM

I'm no authority on the man or his songs - but those bits seem very much like what you get in a lot of Irish songs that I've always understood as expressing pride in being Irish as opposed to being English, and/or expressing nationalistic sentiments that only make sense in the context of perceived oppression by another nation. Nationalism, of course, can always slide toward chauvinism.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Ernest
Date: 09 May 09 - 09:45 AM

I think Catter meself got it right when it comes to the narrators/ singers feelings.

Maybe it is a mistake taking the narrators/singers view for the composers/songwriters. Those ballads often were not freely invented but inspired by a real incident or a person the author had met. In this case it would have been an extenuation leaving out this persons flaws. Certainly the Dublin of the "rare ould times" hasn`t been a purely bucolic place but one where also poverty existed, which often goes together with bad education which often goes together with prejudice like the one shown in the song.

So it might have been honesty instead of racism that made the author include it. It gives the song a realistic edge and keeps it from sentimemtality. Anyone who would have been into writing songs for the fast buck would probably have avoided controversial statements.

Unfortunately I don`t know "Spirit of the Gael". Does it mention Sinti and Roma or Afroamericans at all?

Regards
Ernest


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: goatfell
Date: 09 May 09 - 10:19 AM

maybe the lassie loved blackmen how is this racist, what you're saying is that the reason she ran off with a student chap who was black is wrong but these are just my thoughts, I'm not being racist I don't really care what colour of skin, or which God you beleive in or not all I'm intrested is what the person is like inside.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 09 May 09 - 10:28 AM

"Spirit of the Gael" is on Pete St John's website.

I've never heard anyone sing it, but he's obviously proud of it or it wouldn't be there. It's a direct political statement, and certainly doesn't suggest St John was using an unreliable narrator in "Rare Old Times", as Ernest suggests.

He could have written something with the inclusive spirit of "The Freedom Come-All-Ye" or "Both Sides the Tweed". He chose not to.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Ernest
Date: 09 May 09 - 11:23 AM

I still disagree with the thought that it is a direct political statement. If so it would have been contradicted by the line "the gargle dimmed me brain".

And "Spirit of the Gael" while far from being a great song does not say anything negative about Sinti and Roma or Afroamericans (or other groups of people).

The biography part of Pete St. John`s website says that after moving to the USA he

"...became deeply involved in the Peace Movement and International Civil Rights before returning to his native city of Dublin in the late 70's.

Finding the face of his city greatly changed he began writing songs in a very distinctive and unique style depicting the social conditions around him. Redundancy became the core element of his work and the city soon recognised his talent with the major folk artists recording his songs with great success."

This does not sound like it is meant as an direct political statement. To me it sounds mor like the realization that the narrators character does have his prejudices.

Regards
Ernest


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: JedMarum
Date: 12 May 09 - 02:30 PM

right on Ernest.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: GUEST,kendall
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 06:13 AM

The way I heard that song was...some folks say that a TRAMP won't steal but I caught three in my corn field I'm on my way, I'm going back to Alabam.
One had a bushel, another had a peck one had a roasting ear tied around his neck I'm on my way...


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: GUEST,DWR
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 02:10 PM

Right, Kendall. I don't know if that way was original with Cowboy Copas or not, but that's who I first heard sing Alabam' somewhere about 1960 or 61.   I even had the privilege of hearing Cope do it from the stage of the Grand Ol' Opry at the Ryman. Wonderful memories. . .

It wasn't until years later when reissues of the old stuff became more common that I heard Frank Hutchison do Coney Isle. I heard that and thought, Whoaa! Cowboy Copas did a direct "lift" for Alabam'. I have not researched as to whether Coney Isle was original with Hutchison in 1927 or whether he got it from someone else, but he sure didn't sing tramp in Coney Isle.

Point is though, that back at the time we were listening to Copas, we couldn't have known the history of the song, at least most of us couldn't. Our late friend, Dr. Bill McNeil, would certainly have known, but the average person like me had to wait until the reissues came out for the light bulb to come on.

You can hear Hutchison at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdILtctzofs and Copas at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Rku2HjUFqU That's especially nice, as it's a great recording of a LIVE performance, not just a recording set to pictures.


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Subject: RE: Racist songs .... arghhhh!
From: Bill D
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 02:33 PM

The first time I ever heard that line, it was "hippie"... it was several years before it dawned on me that it was originally a racial line.


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