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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
Paul S 29 Nov 99 - 09:46 AM
sophocleese 29 Nov 99 - 11:10 AM
Art Thieme 29 Nov 99 - 11:16 AM
Ron 29 Nov 99 - 11:20 AM
Midchuck 29 Nov 99 - 11:31 AM
Rick Fielding 29 Nov 99 - 12:29 PM
sophocleese 29 Nov 99 - 01:06 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 29 Nov 99 - 01:27 PM
Ole Bull 29 Nov 99 - 01:40 PM
folk1234 29 Nov 99 - 02:43 PM
Allan C. 29 Nov 99 - 02:45 PM
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
Joe Offer 29 Nov 99 - 04:35 PM
Jeremiah McCaw 29 Nov 99 - 04:48 PM
bunkerhill 29 Nov 99 - 06:10 PM
MAG (inactive) 29 Nov 99 - 06:48 PM
kendall 29 Nov 99 - 06:49 PM
bbelle 29 Nov 99 - 07:27 PM
marcelloblues 29 Nov 99 - 07:44 PM
omidheach@hotmail.com 29 Nov 99 - 08:41 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 29 Nov 99 - 08:58 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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