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

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


'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them

Related threads:
Offensive lyrics- edit? (54)
What is the etymology of 'Pattyroller'? (39)
(origins) Origins: Free at Last/I Thank God I'm Free at Last (8)
Lyr Req: Give That Nigger Ham (Parker/Woolbright) (23)
Chord Req: Josh White - Run Mona Run (4)
Tune Req: Fiddle tune 'The Patter Roll' (6)
Lyr Req: Oh, Mona (24)
'Coon Songs' Revisited 2014 (8)
Lyr Req: Run, Nigger, Run (92)
Ethics for Performers (35)
Tune Req: I'd Rather be a Nigger than a Poor White (11)
Singing In Dialect (70)
Slavery-Era Song, 'Run, ======, Run' (74)
Racist songs .... arghhhh! (115)
Minstrel Shows, Part Two (78)
Minstrel Shows (117) (closed)
Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs (113)
Trad lyrics that are not PC (17)
Are lyrics offensive (69)
Preserve Politically Incorrect Songs??? (73)
Is 'Piccaninnies' Non-PC ? (94)
'Offensive' words in song lyrics (73)
darkeys - offensive term, or not? (49)
Lyr Add: Run, Jimmie, Run (4)


Oversoul 27 Feb 00 - 10:56 PM
Sorcha 28 Feb 00 - 02:26 AM
Joe Offer 28 Feb 00 - 02:37 AM
paddymac 28 Feb 00 - 04:02 AM
Crowhugger 28 Feb 00 - 06:33 AM
Bud Savoie 28 Feb 00 - 08:04 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 28 Feb 00 - 09:54 AM
Uncle_DaveO 28 Feb 00 - 10:13 AM
Amos 28 Feb 00 - 11:12 AM
richardw 28 Feb 00 - 12:05 PM
Jeri 28 Feb 00 - 12:17 PM
GUEST,Petr 28 Feb 00 - 12:30 PM
Midchuck 28 Feb 00 - 02:15 PM
Amos 28 Feb 00 - 02:26 PM
Midchuck 28 Feb 00 - 02:36 PM
Amos 28 Feb 00 - 02:54 PM
Midchuck 28 Feb 00 - 03:06 PM
Amos 28 Feb 00 - 04:08 PM
Jon W. 28 Feb 00 - 05:10 PM
Amos 28 Feb 00 - 05:24 PM
paddymac 28 Feb 00 - 06:16 PM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 28 Feb 00 - 06:19 PM
GUEST,jofield 28 Feb 00 - 06:31 PM
Uncle_DaveO 28 Feb 00 - 07:40 PM
GUEST,Jim Dixon 28 Feb 00 - 08:08 PM
McGrath of Harlow 28 Feb 00 - 08:32 PM
ddw 28 Feb 00 - 09:15 PM
Troll 28 Feb 00 - 10:05 PM
Crowhugger 28 Feb 00 - 11:01 PM
DonMeixner 29 Feb 00 - 12:09 AM
John in Brisbane 29 Feb 00 - 12:12 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 29 Feb 00 - 02:05 AM
Jeri 29 Feb 00 - 02:22 AM
Crowhugger 29 Feb 00 - 04:00 AM
Troll 29 Feb 00 - 07:27 AM
Grab 29 Feb 00 - 07:46 AM
Troll 29 Feb 00 - 07:55 AM
Bill in Alabama 29 Feb 00 - 08:32 AM
GUEST,jofield 29 Feb 00 - 08:49 AM
Amos 29 Feb 00 - 09:03 AM
canoer 29 Feb 00 - 10:05 AM
Jeri 29 Feb 00 - 12:01 PM
Jon W. 29 Feb 00 - 12:53 PM
Art Thieme 29 Feb 00 - 01:08 PM
Amos 29 Feb 00 - 01:14 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 29 Feb 00 - 01:43 PM
McGrath of Harlow 29 Feb 00 - 02:21 PM
GUEST,jofield, in Paris 29 Feb 00 - 02:50 PM
Troll 29 Feb 00 - 03:21 PM
Troll 29 Feb 00 - 03:24 PM
Liam's Brother 29 Feb 00 - 03:52 PM
sophocleese 29 Feb 00 - 04:56 PM
Troll 29 Feb 00 - 07:54 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 29 Feb 00 - 08:27 PM
Troll 29 Feb 00 - 08:36 PM
McGrath of Harlow 29 Feb 00 - 08:53 PM
Midchuck 29 Feb 00 - 08:54 PM
Art Thieme 29 Feb 00 - 09:03 PM
Oversoul 29 Feb 00 - 09:07 PM
Crowhugger 29 Feb 00 - 09:24 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 29 Feb 00 - 09:44 PM
katlaughing 29 Feb 00 - 09:59 PM
Nathan in Texas 29 Feb 00 - 11:11 PM
Troll 29 Feb 00 - 11:45 PM
Crowhugger 01 Mar 00 - 01:31 AM
Crowhugger 01 Mar 00 - 02:25 AM
wysiwyg 01 Mar 00 - 03:25 AM
GUEST,Roger the skiffler 01 Mar 00 - 03:59 AM
Crowhugger 01 Mar 00 - 04:07 AM
wysiwyg 01 Mar 00 - 04:15 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 01 Mar 00 - 10:51 AM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 01 Mar 00 - 10:58 AM
Art Thieme 01 Mar 00 - 06:24 PM
katlaughing 01 Mar 00 - 06:40 PM
GUEST,jofield, in Paris 01 Mar 00 - 07:10 PM
GUEST,Petr 01 Mar 00 - 08:34 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 01 Mar 00 - 09:19 PM
Lonesome EJ 02 Mar 00 - 02:18 AM
Crowhugger 02 Mar 00 - 09:56 AM
Amos 02 Mar 00 - 12:35 PM
Uncle_DaveO 02 Mar 00 - 12:59 PM
Amos 02 Mar 00 - 01:54 PM
McGrath of Harlow 02 Mar 00 - 01:59 PM
sophocleese 02 Mar 00 - 02:06 PM
Grab 02 Mar 00 - 02:08 PM
GUEST,Petr 02 Mar 00 - 04:06 PM
tar_heel 03 Mar 00 - 03:26 PM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 03 Mar 00 - 03:33 PM
GUEST,Second Banana 03 Mar 00 - 09:25 PM
The Shambles 03 Mar 00 - 09:31 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 03 Mar 00 - 09:50 PM
Lonesome EJ 03 Mar 00 - 10:18 PM
Bill in Alabama 03 Mar 00 - 11:08 PM
Rick Fielding 03 Mar 00 - 11:45 PM
The Shambles 04 Mar 00 - 02:08 AM
Ebbie 04 Mar 00 - 03:25 AM
Lucius 04 Mar 00 - 03:09 PM
McGrath of Harlow 04 Mar 00 - 05:44 PM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 04 Mar 00 - 06:11 PM
katlaughing 04 Mar 00 - 06:27 PM
McGrath of Harlow 04 Mar 00 - 07:09 PM
katlaughing 04 Mar 00 - 11:35 PM
Oversoul 05 Mar 00 - 12:11 AM
Rick Fielding 05 Mar 00 - 12:38 AM
Sorcha 05 Mar 00 - 12:43 AM
GUEST,thomas the rhymer 05 Mar 00 - 01:02 AM
The Shambles 05 Mar 00 - 04:53 AM
katlaughing 05 Mar 00 - 09:15 AM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 05 Mar 00 - 01:56 PM
GUEST,Regis Philbin 06 Mar 00 - 09:52 AM
McGrath of Harlow 06 Mar 00 - 07:25 PM
GUEST,Bill in Alabama (from work) 07 Mar 00 - 07:13 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 07 Mar 00 - 04:44 PM
catspaw49 07 Mar 00 - 05:00 PM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 07 Mar 00 - 09:22 PM
McGrath of Harlow 07 Mar 00 - 10:00 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 07 Mar 00 - 11:19 PM
Timehiker 23 Mar 00 - 08:05 AM
Midchuck 23 Mar 00 - 08:32 AM
RichM 23 Mar 00 - 08:39 AM
Timehiker 23 Mar 00 - 09:20 AM
katlaughing 23 Mar 00 - 11:19 AM
katlaughing 23 Mar 00 - 11:21 AM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 23 Mar 00 - 12:22 PM
Hollowfox 23 Mar 00 - 01:48 PM
Timehiker 23 Mar 00 - 02:51 PM
katlaughing 23 Mar 00 - 03:58 PM
Gary T 23 Mar 00 - 04:39 PM
Hollowfox 23 Mar 00 - 04:39 PM
katlaughing 23 Mar 00 - 06:16 PM
SINSULL 27 Apr 00 - 07:30 PM
wysiwyg 27 Apr 00 - 08:29 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 28 Apr 00 - 10:51 AM
GUEST,Sule Greg Wilson drumpath@aztec.asu.edu 27 Jan 01 - 06:12 PM
GUEST,californiaminstrels@hotmail.com 27 Mar 01 - 04:43 PM
Jim Dixon 27 Apr 04 - 09:50 PM
M.Ted 28 Apr 04 - 12:34 AM
Flash Company 28 Apr 04 - 07:42 AM
McGrath of Harlow 28 Apr 04 - 11:18 AM
GUEST,Joe in Atlanta 22 Apr 10 - 12:14 AM
Joe_F 13 Oct 12 - 09:27 PM
GUEST,Desi C 14 Oct 12 - 08:24 AM
Joe Offer 15 Oct 12 - 01:27 AM
GUEST,s 15 Oct 12 - 06:18 PM
Stringsinger 15 Oct 12 - 06:25 PM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:






Subject: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Oversoul
Date: 27 Feb 00 - 10:56 PM

What are your thoughts about racial stereotypes in recordings from the '20's and '30's? Sure, in some instances they are profane, in certain references they are funny, but they are numerous, too numerous for any serious listener to avoid. Period. How do you face them? Edit your playlist to suit the crowd? Or confront the audience with a bit of the troublesome truth? Does anyone today really care about this issue? I was born in the early '50's and I am sort of indifferent, I don't think people are as touchy as most musicians believe. I got to thinking about this again when I read of a banjo player feeling awkward about some of Uncle Dave Macon's lyrics. Forgive me if this is an old topic, but in my mind this has been an issue for many years.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Sorcha
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 02:26 AM

Coon songs are about RA-coons, in my book, you tryin' to stir up trubblle? They are related to possums, I think! :) ROAD KILL!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Joe Offer
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 02:37 AM

Well, we've had some good discussions on this subject, and I think the opinions covered the spectrum. I tend to edit around the racist references if I want to sing the song for its merits as a song. If I'm singing it as a demonstration of the attitudes of the time, I leave the racist stuff in.
I think there are plenty of good songs from that era that just couldn't be used any more if they weren't edited a bit. I understand the original "Shortnin' Bread" starts out "two little niggers, lyin' in bed...." I don't think it's a horrible betrayal of accuracy to sing it the way I learned it in the 1950's, "two little children..."
Take a look at "The Cat Came Back" at the Levy Sheet Music Site (click here). It's a great song to sing with kids, but I sure wouldn't sing it to kids in its original version.
-Joe Offer-


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: paddymac
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 04:02 AM

I don't really have an axe to grind or view to propound here, but can't help thinking about folk music as a current embodiment of the ancient bardic tradition, and the role it plays is transmitting folk-ways and folk-traditions from one generation to the next. From that perspective, I think Joe's approach to the question is most appropriate, and constructive.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Crowhugger
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 06:33 AM

My concern is less with the blatant racism than with the sneaky stuff. When the racism is obvious, a context-sensitive choice as Joe suggests is more or less easy to do.

I am much more bothered by subtle assumptions, as in this example:

CATFISH JOHN (on a Garcia album, not sure who wrote it)

Chorus:
Mama said, "Don't go near that river,
"Don't be hangin' around ol' Catfish John."
Come the mornin' I'd always be there
Walkin' in his footsteps in the sweet delta dawn.

[the first verse describes memories of magnolias and the south]

However, the 2nd verse - racism is underlined:

Born a slave in the town of Vicksburg
Traded for a chestnut mare
Lord, he never spoke in anger
Though his load is hard to bear
.

Racist assumptions:
(1) Yeah, like any white person is gonna hear a (former) slave ragging on the pr**ks who abused him. That kind of honest talk won't likely happen when the white folks are within earshot.
(2) The notion that not expressing anger is some sort of acceptance of the social order. Any woman can tell you, "It ain't so, Joe."

To my mind, this type of "systemic" racism is the tougher issue because it's often difficult to spot and even more difficult to communicate to those who've not been victimized in this way. When I sing this song, immediately after uttering "never spoke in anger," I make a face that (hopefully) says "who are you kidding! There's an occasional grin of understanding. Very occasional.

$0.02+allthose
s=$0.03


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Bud Savoie
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 08:04 AM

In our hypersensitive age, it is difficult not to offend someone. I suppose that a hundred years ago people took it all with a certain amount of equanimity, if not good humor. I find them very offensive, but I was born in 1944. That may make a difference. Brown University, by the way, has a collection of sheet music for old "coon" songs, all of which have the most offensive stereotypes of Blacks you can imagine. Should the University destroy them? No, that would be an attempt to rewrite history. Do you recall a few years ago when someone wanted to produce an edition of "Huckleberry Finn" with the offensive word bowdlerized?

As far as songs are concerned, if the sense would be altered by the changed word, it might be better to leave it as is. An example of the reverse might be the banjo tune called "Shaving a Dead Man." It was originally "Shaving a Dead Nigger," but since the race of the deceased is not the issue, why not change it?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 09:54 AM

This is an interesting problem--one that I have wrestled with for years--Much of the great popular music before the twenties came from the context of minstrel shows--which were the source of not only a lot of ragtime music, but much of the humor(jokes and routines that you still see worked into TV sitcoms and cartoons today) --everytime I sing a song with Mandy or Alexander, I flinch a little--

If you want to get the creeps big time, watch the scenes from the minstrel show in "The Al Jolson Story"--you'd like to ignore it, or forget it, but there it is, and too big a part of our musical and entertainment tradition to shove it all into the back of the drawer--

In the forties and fifties movie musicals, they had a big problem, in that people were nostalgic for the music and dance routines of the old days, but it had all been done in blackface--one solution I remember (I think from the film, "Summer Stock") was that the performers in a minstrel number had their normal skin colors, but wore a single red glove--sort of a censors block, letting you you know that something objectionable had been deleted--

Back in the 60's and early 70's, I remember that my black activist friends were fond of pointing out Mickey Mouse, (who really was, like Oswald the Rabbit, and Bosco, one of those horrible little blackface pickanniny characters (can I even use that word?) as an example of how the racist stereotypes were so deeply infused into our culture--

It's really still there, too--even in the most seemingly politically correct places--for example, I was idly plucking my way through Al Jolson's masterpiece of maudlin racist sentimentality, "My Mammy" when I realized, to my horror, that it was no other song than "Puff, the Magic Dragon"--


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 10:13 AM

No, Sorch, Racoons and Possums are not related, for what that may be worth. Possums are marsupial's--America's only marsupial. Racoons are not.

Dave Oesterreich


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Amos
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 11:12 AM

I have fond memories of two sweet lullabies being sung to me as a child, both of them qualifying as "coon" songs; and I never thought of them as being racist in particular, but rather of reflecting the times in which they were written. It depends then on whether you are singing it for an audience that can maintain that critical distinction.

It is wrong headed to rpomote racism or to incite violence, under most circumstances. But it is equally thick, to my point of view, to rewrite history and pretend we have not lived through racism and violence.

That said, I think Joe's approach is balanced and intelligent. I have no desire to step on sensitive feelings, but I think some folks leave their sensitive feelings spread all over the sidewalk...


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: richardw
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 12:05 PM

I think Joe has it -- it depends on why you are singing the song. I have sung songs about Chinese in the goldrush which are horribly racist, but the racism is really obvious and i was using them to point out the racism of the time. I would never perform or record these songs for general listening.

We are currently working on a CD of songs sung in the goldrush of BC and have the "original" version of Yellow Rose of Texas in a diary. It uses the phrase " sweetest rose of color this darkey ever knew..."

We will change darkey to soldier, which fits with the story of who the Yellow Rose was, but will indicate the change in the liner notes.

Seems to me it is always a tough judgement call.

Richard


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Jeri
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 12:17 PM

My opinion on this subject is constantly changing, or I should say "evolving." I believe the songs should exist in the "original" form somewhere, if only to serve as a record of the roots of the song and a snippet of life from the past. As history they shouldn't be changed or made into something polite, epecially if the reason is we don't want to remember something we now find distastful.

Whether to perform songs with racially offensive lyrics, is a whole 'nother question. When you sing them, the song will not be questioned, but your motives will be. Sure, some people will be offended by any use of racial epithets - or what we now consider epithets. Most folks will be wondering what exactly you're trying to say by singing those songs. "Does this guy have a hooded white sheet in his closet?" or "Is this guy commited to historical accuracy, and trying to portray a past way of life?" If your audience doesn't know where you're coming from, you could be in trouble.

I actually was stupid enough to once e-mail a representative of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and ask this very question - what is your opinion on the singing of old songs with words now considered racially offensive? I never received a reply. Maybe he thought the answer was something like "you're going to have to ask each person who hears the song." Maybe he thought the question wasn't worth his time.

Personally, I cringe when I hear words like "nigger," even when I know the singer is far from being a bigot. Maybe it's a good thing I cringe. Maybe it's a good thing I'm reminded of the words and my distaste for them. And maybe it's a good thing to know that people once used the words in everyday speech and song, without any thought or care they might hurt someone. Personally, I'd love to hear the viewpoint of even one African-American on this subject, but that's yet to happen.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: GUEST,Petr
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 12:30 PM

Ive just been listening to the New Ballards Bogtrotters version of Cruel Slavery days thinking that it would be a lovely & poignant song to sing. Its about a slave owner dying and all the slaves are dispersed and families are broken up. All sung from the perspective of the black slave, except its got the word darkies in it. Ill see if I can dig up the lyrics.

On another note when I was in Thailand a few years ago I picked up some toothpaste that feature a caricature of a smiling black mans face (as in a 19th century stereotype) It was originally called Darkie toothpaste. I think it caused a bit of a fuss when visiting Japanese businessmen arrived in the US in the 60's (?) and customs inspectors found it in their baggage. The company still features the same smiling face but it has since been renamed Darlie. Petr.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Midchuck
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 02:15 PM

Ever really listen to the lyrics of "Kingdom Coming" (a/k/a "Year of Jubilo")? It's a celebration of the end of slavery. It makes the "massa" out to be the fool, not the slaves. But since it was written in dialect and has a lot of references to "darkies," you can't sing it in public. And it's such a great song.

I also recall an encounter with this topic on an old-timey music newsgroup. Several well-known and often played old-timey tunes have, or had, the "N" word (Gawd, I feel like a hypocrite) as part of the title. The proposal was made to simply substitute "Elvis" for "that word" in all of the titles. Sounds as reasonable as any solution.

Peter.

Peter.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Amos
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 02:26 PM

Well, that seems reasonable, and I think we should extend the principle to insert Elvis for any word we find to be marginally offensive.

I hope the Elvis on the list won't object, though since Elvis is such a ... well, Elvis-sounding word. I don't mean to cast aspersions on anyone's Elvis. Especially members of the fairer Elvis.

And if I can offer my Elvis by way of making amends, please, all you fair and tender Elvis consider my Elvis at your disposal for any Elvis you might consider appropriate. I will even Elvis your Elvis in order to keep the peace.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Midchuck
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 02:36 PM

Yeah, that's probably where it'd end up.

Peter.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Amos
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 02:54 PM

Sorry -- I know it was a serious proposition...I think you always have to draw a balance between art which has been drawn from real life, and the feelings of those whohave been bruised by it. Compassion without humor is almost as bad as humor without compassion!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Midchuck
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 03:06 PM

Humor without compassion is sadism.

Compassion without humor is political correctness.

It's a hard call as to which is worse.

P.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Amos
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 04:08 PM

Right you are, pal...middle ground for me. Rational blend, and all that...


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Jon W.
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 05:10 PM

I've yet to sing any minstrel songs in dialect in public but if and when I do, "Kingdom Coming" will probably be the first one. I've thought of an explanation for the time and place and I'd like to run it by you fellow mudcatters for your opinions. I have no data to back this hypothosis as of yet. I will use the term "black" for African American because it was the politically correct term I was introduced to and used most of my life. Here is my hypothesis: Minstrel music was the original rock'n'roll. By that I mean that some white performers heard black performers making music, were smitten by it, and wanted to imitate it. They learned to play in the manner, but when they were ready to perform, they found that it would be socially unacceptable to do so unless they caved in to society's bigotry and made the songs into parodies rather than sincere imitations of the black musical style. Minstrel music, whether performed by whites or blacks, became extremely popular in the mid 1800's just as rock'n'roll did in the mid 1900's.

Am I right or wrong?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Amos
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 05:24 PM

Right twice


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: paddymac
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 06:16 PM

Egads! Mickey Mouse is racist? What about Mighty Mouse? Are they perhaps the ying and yang of mousedom? Why can't they just be mice like most folks (well, ok, like I presume most folks) thought they were. All these chinks (as in dents or nicks or flecks of concrete, etc.; no racial slur intended) in the Pillars of Society make this Irish-American want a drink (sorry, no stereotyping intended). I cry out for a pint of the black (merely a measure of opacity, no secret racial slur intended) stuff in my anguish over the deluge (sorry, no anti-biblical undertones intended) of masculine (sorry, no sexism intended) bovine (sorry, nothing against either cattle or vegans) fibrous excreta (sorry, don't wish to offend anyone with certain fetishes) known in the contemporary vernacular as political correctness. Hmm, maybe one of our more creative members might come up with a few new lines for the "Silly Slang Song".


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 06:19 PM

I've gone back and forth on this question. A lot of traditional New Orleans jazz tunes are based on some racist references such as The Livery Stable Blues and Jimtown Blues. Also, the famous Louis Armstrong version of Black and Blue where the chorus goes "I'm white inside but that don't help my case." I think here that context is extremely important. Some of those old "coon" songs are pretty good melodies such as "Rufus Rastus Brown, whatcha' gonna' do when the rent comes round?" or I've Got A Bimbo Down in the Bamboo Ilse. They were commonly used jazz tunes but not so much amoung black jazz musicians, more as stage songs. Some of Bert Williams tunes might be considered offensive today although he is indisuputably one of the great black entertainers. Also, Cantor and Jolson in Blackface have to be recognized as offensive by some and great performers as well. Many early minstrel show actors were black. There was a crossover.

The minstrel show has to be shown in historical context. Even black people had to use the burnt cork to convey the characters to the public. Emmett Miller (white)was one of the great influences on Country Music in the 20's and 30's. He started as a minstrel man and traditional jazz singer) and was able to capture the speech of black people from his native Macon Georgia home. Amos and Andy were very popular during the forties and I used to go to their radio show for CBS in Los Angeles and the people standing in line to see white performers doing black characters were predominantly (75%) a black audience. Of course, this was the forties.

The problem is how do we keep from throwing the baby out with the bath water? It's not an easy problem to solve. You just can't cut out an important part of our musical history but you can't let it become offensive to those who rightly take issue with it.

It's an easier issue about the Confederate Battle Flag which should in my opinion not be flown over the South Carolina Courthouses. This is true for Alabama and Georgia as well.

Frank


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: GUEST,jofield
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 06:31 PM

Correct me if I'm wrong, but were not nearly all the so-called "Coon" songs written by white Tin Pan Alley types? Except for some of their ragtime progressions, there is nothing very african-american about them at all. They are riddled with degrading stereotypical lyrics and plotlines that no self-respecting african-american would have written. Even W.C. Handy's commercial blues ("I wanna talk to that high brown of mine...") managed to retain the earthiness the white audience sought without being self-deprecating.

"Coon" songs were not composed out of any great admiration for black culture. They were composed because they sold sheet music and entertained a racist, white American public by feeding their cruel prejudices back to them as jokes at which they could laugh while simultaneously feeling like they were "getting down" with that "darky" music. OK, there are one or two where the music is so good, you can almost get past the lyrics: "Alexander's Ragtime Band" comes to mind. But by and large, you can take all of them and sink them in the ocean and the world wouldn't be a bit worse. This ain't political correctitude -- it's musical fact.

Where white musicians finally "got it", was in the rural South, where people like Doc Boggs and Jimmie Rodgers just tried their best to capture black music, not parody it. It makes me smile to hear Jimmie sing "Good mornin', Shine!" in "Muleskinner Blues" -- Shine being a Southern black folk hero.

There you have it, James.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 07:40 PM

Minstrel music was the mainstream of American popular music for a period of maybe fifty to sixty years. As such it both reflected and helped create the public attitudes of the time. The Year of Jubilo--not the right name, I believe, but you know the song--was written by a free Negro in the north.

Dave Oesterreich


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: GUEST,Jim Dixon
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 08:08 PM

I don't sing old songs because I'm trying show people what life was like 100 years ago, or whatever. I'd probably fail at that anyway. I sing old songs because they're good songs, fun to sing and fun to hear. They just happen to be old. If people happen to learn something in the process of having fun, that's fine, but I try not to lecture the audience. I figure I'd just bore them and drive them away.

(That's probably why classical music bores me today. As a child, I heard it only when it came along with a lecture. Except when Bugs Bunny played it. That's the exception that proves the rule.)

Now, a song may be good in some ways and not good in others, and when that happens, I don't see anything wrong in changing it to make it better. It's not rewriting history; it's just rewriting a song, for Pete's sake. I have just as much right to rewrite it as the original writer had to write it in the first place! In fact, I think I have an obligation to change whatever offends my own sense of values. If a song has a "message" that you don't personally subscribe to, you have no business singing it.

Music is different from literature. If I were a publisher who wanted to bring out a new edition of "Huckleberry Finn," for instance, I might add some footnotes, but I would leave Mark Twain's text alone. On the other hand, if I were a screenwriter making a film adaptation, I would find it necessary to make a few carefully considered changes. It's OK to have different rules for different media.

I figure that's legitimate because actors, directors, screenwriters, and musicians -- unlike publishers, researchers, and librarians, for instance -- are artists in their own right, and collaborators, so to speak, with the original author. As an artist-collaborator, you have some rights and some responsibilities. Your responsibility is to produce a performance with some integrity, meaning it doesn't violate your own sense of decency or truth. I don't buy the excuse, "I can't help it; I don't approve of it; but that's the way the author wrote it." Yes, you can help it. The fact that you sing a certain song implies that you approve of it. If you don't approve of it, either change it into something you can approve of, or stop singing it.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 08:32 PM

One reason why some songs look uncomfortable and patronising in print in the original version is because of the convention of having spelling intended to indicate dialect. So you get "ebber" for "ever", and "de" for "the" and so forth.

This didn't just happen to somgs about black peole - it was a convention of the time, and it doesn't jusrt happen in comic songs. Yopu have it in Stephen Foster, you have it in stage Irish songs, you have it is Kipling's Barrack Room Ballads. Also in dialact poems by people like William Barnes in Dorset.

There's nothing intrinsically racist or patronising about this kind of thing - but it does serve to distance the song, implying that the people its about are very different from the listeners.

Generally in songs that have passed into general use, the odd spellings have evaporated, and people sing them in their own accents. Of course sometimes the actual sounds they are maming might be closer to the odd spellings - a lot of people think they are singing "The Camptown Races" are singing "De Camptown Races". But that doesn't really matter.

And the same kind of thing happens with other words that like "nigger" and "darkie", not just because they will offend people who don't desrve to be offended (and give encouragement to people who don't deserve to be envcouraged), but also because they put a distance between the song and people who want to sing it. If you want to sing a song about being homesick, these kind of words get in the way of identifying with the sentiments. So you sing "brother" or "sister" instead of "darkie" when you sing "Swanee River".


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: ddw
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 09:15 PM

As somebody who sings a lot of blues, I encounter this dilemma quite a bit, so I'll wade in.

To a large extent I agree with Joe Offer's approach ? pick your audience for some songs, change some lyrics if it doesn't destroy the meaning of the song. After all, IMHO, the blues are as often about the HUMAN condition as they are about the BLACK condition. That's what makes them so lasting, so identifiable by all of us.

I also agree a bit with Jim Dixon ? tho' I would quibble about who should or shouldn't be included in the "artist" categories. If I find a song that I really like for the tune, the instrumental work, etc., but which has words I would never sing in public ? Victoria Spivey's "Black Gal" springs to mind, since I'm working on it at the moment ? I use what I want out of it and rewrite the rest. That's part of the folk process, isn't it? When I perform one of those songs, I sometimes tell the audience that they might recognize the tune (or whatever), but somehow a white man singing
"Black gal, Black gal,
Why your nappy head so hard?"
just ain't gonna make it.

I haven't decided exactly what I'm going to substitute there, but I will substitute because I love the choppy, bouncy guitar work.

I have other songs I have to explain ? which I agree can be boring if you lecture the audience, but can also be brief and save you enormous grief. A song that I have to do that on is ? just coincidentally ? called Black Girl. I tell the audience that when Josh White recorded it in the '50s, black technicians thought it was racist and wouldn't transcribe it from master tapes to records. Similarly, Leadbelly was booed off the stage by a black audience when he started singing the song. But the song has nothing to do with being black, except as a way of addressing the grieving widow. It's a lament ? nothing more, nothing less.

As for the expurgated version of Huck Finn, it was performed here in Windsor a couple of years ago and the snippet of it I heard on CBC radio made me sick. If anybody has read Twain, they know he was arguing AGAINST racism, but to make it recognizable he had to use the racist words people of his day would understand. It seems to me a credit to him ? and all others like him ? that attitudes have changed as much as they have. I classify the people who want to "clean up" Twain's writing in the same category as a really stupid preacher I wonce had cover who wanted to expunge the Shakespeare texts used in high schools. But he wouldn't hear of cleaning up Song of Solomon in the Bible. Go figure!

cheers all,

david


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Troll
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 10:05 PM

I have run into similar problems with the klezmer band that I'm in. There are some very good songs from the 20's and 30's- both from vaudeville and the stage- involving Jews. Songs like The Sheik of Avenue B or Abie My Boy are funny songs but we have been criticised for singing them because they portray Jews in what they consider to be an unfavorable light. At the same time, the old ladies in the audience sing along with them and suggest new ones we ought to learn.

So what do you do? Do you cut a portion of the history of a people out because a few are uncomfortable with it. These are not overtly rasist songs.While they do poke fun at an ethnic group, it is gentle fun and not intended to hurt. Every group of immigrants went through the same thing;fun was had at their expense and then they became an accepted part of the community.

What we have done is to be careful in our selection of material and to deal with the critics on a one-to-one basis, explaining that htis was the way it was inthose days and that we are simply trying to shed light on the Jewish music that was being written at that time.

Still, it is a problem and there really is no good solution. If you try to do music that offends no ones sensitivities, you'll wind up doing only instrumentals and numbering the songs rather than giving them word titles.Thats not where I want to go.

troll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Crowhugger
Date: 28 Feb 00 - 11:01 PM

Jeri,

No post yet from an African-American? What is the source of your belief that none of the posts is from an A-A?

This seems an example of the kind of slippery slope that is so darned ordinary that it goes unnoticed. I see it as a relative of systemic racism. Somehow, at some time, our society has decided that things must have been written or produced by euro-type folks unless it's announced otherwise. The logic of this escapes me. In fact, the emotion of it escapes me too.

Where is it written that we are supposed to declare "whiteness"? I know one 'Catter in person and he is caucasian.

Let me turn the table: It must be that every posting (except Max, and a few others whose pictures I've seen) is from POCs - persons of colour. This is "obvious" because no one opened with something like "well, from a white point of view..."

What colour is introspection?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: DonMeixner
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 12:09 AM

WE can take this to amazing extremes if we wish. I for one don't wish to. I sing The Year of Jubilo and I sing

"Workers have you seen the master"

I sing it like a northern whiteman. I never sing in dialects unless as a broad burlesque. I want to be what I am not what I am perceived to be because of an affectation.

But I think its important to know these songs as they were written. Because of the history they carry and of the age they represent. (Those who forget their history are condemed to repeat it.) At one time, simultaniously nigger had two meanings. One was racist in the south and in the Windrivers, or along the Musselshell it meant hard worker among the mountain men. Doesn't make the word less distasteful for me, but there is a fascination to me.

And just cause you know them as written doesn't mean you have to sing them that way.

Don


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: John in Brisbane
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 12:12 AM

A few years ago I was asked to perform on a recording of Stephen Foster songs. I refused to do so on the basis of the lyrics that were to be used, not the Foster originals, but a PC re-write. To have allowed the censorship, in my view would have been an insult to the composer and the intelligence of today's audiences. On the other other hand, had the intention of the project been to create an album of rugby/naughty songs where the word 'darkies' was meant as a form of derision, then I would clearly have refused to do the original lyrics.

BTW, Darkie toothpaste is still a very popular brand of toothpaste throughout Asia, so much so that its competitors attempt to clone it with virtually idetical packaging and very similar names, such as Darlie. The same thing happens with Colgate, where the name might be changed to (say) Colgade.

Regards, John


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 02:05 AM

It has been written that the minstrel shows were modelled after a sort of entertainnent that black slaves engaged in, where they parodied various and sundry folk, mostly white, with exaggerated movements, funny voices, and all sorts of mocking characterizations--

Stephen Foster's songs were minstrel songs, and, I believe, he had his own minstrel troupe--

I think that the point that rock and roll was a white copy of black music is an important thing to consider--it seems that most of America's popular entertainment is white people trying to imitate blacks--

In the Year of Jubilo was written by an Abolitionist--Henry Clay Work, I believe--

As to the term "shine", it is right in there with "coon" on the list of highly inappropriate racial epithets-- "Pardon me, boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo-Choo? Track Twenty Nine! Boy, you can give me a shine!!"


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Jeri
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 02:22 AM

Crowhugger, you're right - I made an assumption. I assumed that the people posting in this thread were not African Americans. I did this because none of the 'Catters I have met or seen pictures of appear to be black.

Additionally, I assumed that if someone entered a discussion about songs with offensive slang directed at their race, they would wish to identify themselves as belonging to that race to describe their perspective. I certainly would have mentioned being white if the situation were reversed.

In other words, I'd be extremely surprised if someone now said "I'm black, but I didn't think it was pertinent to discussing songs with words referring to my people as niggers or coons."


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Crowhugger
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 04:00 AM

Well, Jeri,

My Mother is half black, er, excuse me African-American, and I've been called nigger and been denied access to various things on that basis. But in my life, all that crapola doesn't have anything to do with how I'm going to approach difficult lyrics. Perhaps it does mean that I'll notice some of the more subtle racism [perhaps?!! ;-) ]

I struggle with brutality in lyrics as a singer, as a caring person, and with awareness that history cannot just be re-written. I do this out of empathy and integrity, and not at all because I am a descendant of black slaves.

The part of me that struggles with appropriation of voice finds it thoroughly amusing that this group of people, probably mostly white, think they have any understanding of the real effect of the period music. Amongst my own, we are singing our history. It only becomes complicated when a bunch of white folks might get their knickers in a twist. When you see "darkies" smirking, usually it's because whiteys think they know what they're talking about in matters of black culture, be it 19th century music or yesterday's police shooting of yet another unarmed black man.

Bottom line: yes there was a post from someone of A-A descent. You didn't know it because there are some things that take way too much effort to explain to "you." These conversations are generally held amongst our own because there is a basic understanding that would take a lifetime to explain. It's almost like spending time at home speaking in your mother tongue after a day at work in English.

So I alternately giggle and groan as I read this thread. After this posting, will anyone remember that I am a person, a singer, a (wannabe) cellist, daughter, dog lover, in-law, niece, tree climber, arranger/composer, quilter, sister, writer gardener? Or am I forever just part-black? My experience says the latter. Which is why I didn't "declare" in my earlier posting.

I'll stop now. I can go a while on the subject, you may have noticed!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Troll
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 07:27 AM

To someone with a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail.If you are looking for racism, you can certainly find it or at least what you perceive to be racism.

But it is not always so. One can see racist sentiments in a song where the writer meant no such thing.Yet, once the accusation is made, that song and that writer are forever called racist. The same holds true for singers.

You can't please everyone. I can't think of a single song-with the possible exception of 'Happy Birthday To You" that someone somewhere wouldn't be offended by.

In the final analysis, make your song choices with sensitivity, be aware of your audience, change 'em if you feel you must, and be aware that somebody won't like it.

troll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Grab
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 07:46 AM

Re Chattanooga Choo-Choo, I'd always thought 'shine' meant 'smile'. Is this where the term 'shine' for blacks comes in (like the aforementioned toothpaste)? Or am I wildly off-key here?

Generally, I'd say it was courteous to avoid singing songs which would be considered offensive by ppl around. I know a few fun but 'non-family' (if you get my drift :-) songs which I wouldn't sing at my local folk club, but there's another place I know of where they'd go down a treat.

But I think there's some songs that just don't work if you're a white person singing them. It'd sound odd if I was to sing about being a hobo in a boxcar, just as a black person singing songs about how they fought in the Irish civil war might sound a little out-of-place - I do think that realism plays some part in it. Same thing as there being some songs which are really women's songs and others which are men's songs. Maybe it's just me - I know that if I don't feel comfortable doing it then it's not going to work properly, though.

Grab.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Troll
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 07:55 AM

RE. Chatanooga Choo-Choo, "shine" simply means "shoe shine" If you're going to get offended by that song, get offended by "boy".

troll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Bill in Alabama
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 08:32 AM

c'mon, folks-- Those of us old enough to remember (barely) a time when train stations, depots, and terminals were in heavy use remember that in most of the larger stations there was always a shoe-shine stand. In Chattanooga Choo-Choo, the speaker asks the shoe-shine boy for information and then says "you can give me a shine." I grant that the shoe-shine stands were usually manned by African-Americans, and I grant that, possibly, that may be where the epithet "shine" originated. But in that particular line of lyrics, the term is perfectly innocuous.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: GUEST,jofield
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 08:49 AM

Exactly. My reference to Shine is of an old folk hero first described to me by an african-american friend from Opalousas, Louisiana. He remembered an old song about a girl drowning who cries out, "Oh Shine, oh Shine, please save poor me." It has nothing to do with shoeshines or Chatanooga Choo-Choo. But, as I said, the character pops up again in Jimmie Rodgers "Muleskinner Blues" -- "Good morning, Shine.", where Jimmie reveals his 'source' -- and his plagerism.

Whoever said that the history of popular music in America is really the history of black music being appropriated and commercialized by whites is right on the mark. The progression goes through Stephen Foster to Al Jolsen, Paul Whiteman, Jimmie Rodgers, and Elvis, with plenty of other names along the way -- listen to early Bing Crosby, for instance.

I would never dither over tunes like "Black Gal", which clearly have very old roots -- "In the Pines" is another version. What I have no time for is the music that was the original subject here -- the so-called "coon songs" of 1890 - 1930 or so. I still consider them white exploitation of the worst kind. No matter what seemingly innocent ditties people learned at camp or wherever, I don't care if I never hear the likes of "Rufus, Rastus, etc." again. As history, I suppose they have some interest. As music -- with but very few exceptions -- they're trash.

James.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Amos
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 09:03 AM

Dear Crowhugger --

I have never seen you, nor your picture, and I know you only from your posts. To my mind's eye, you have always been a spirited, intelligent, sensitive and comely woman. And, in my sort of weird virtual way, I have thought of you as a member of my own extended group or even family on the Mudcat...one of those people I am happy to associate with and belong among.

Now that you have "outed" yourself, I think of you as a spirited, intelligent, sensitive and comely woman, and even more so, one of those people I am happy to belong with and associate with. Thanks for being a Catter. Thanks for climbing trees and playing the cello. Thanks for the post.

Amos

James,

Pure Rufus music _is_ trash, I agree. It was born of a toxic bubble of false and hellacious condescension, hypocrisy and a sort of patently, grimly false gentility which has no place in an honest world. If you find such a world, let me know. I know a lot of people who would be a lot happier there.

A


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: canoer
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 10:05 AM

Hi all,

Just listening and learning back here --

May I say to everyone, it is a pleasure to find people who are willing to put a lot of effort into working on this hellacious problem history has bequeathed us. And 'willing' is the most important part, to me.

Thanks, all.

Larry C.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Jeri
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 12:01 PM

Thank you for giving us your opinion, Crowhugger. There are some times when I feel even talking about a particular subject is going to get me into trouble, never mind what I actually say. I believe once we stop talking because we think others won't understand, or we assume we know how everyone will think and react, that's when the real trouble starts. The more honest viewpoints are presented, the greater the chance of understanding.

As far as "Or am I forever just part-black?" - I doubt I'd think about it unless race was the topic of discussion - and then only to try to understand your perspective. You've written too many other interesting, intelligent posts for me to focus on one.

When I consider singing an old song with lyrics that may be offensive, I don't worry so much about what people think - I worry about how they'll feel. I don't care if some people will wish to correct my speech or tell me a word isn't used today. I care that someone who hears it may be embarrassed, angry, or hurt. I think most of the time, I'm more uncomfortable with lyrics than others would be and make an erroneous assumption based on my own feelings.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Jon W.
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 12:53 PM

So is "darky" anywhere near as offensive as "nigger"? I never thought so but being somewhat naive in that area, I would gladly have my conciousness raised if necessary.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Art Thieme
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 01:08 PM

To me, the term politically correct is a semantic ploy created by the religious right in order to denegrate strongly held points of view of folks they differ with. These day, to say something is P.C. is to say it is completely worthless. That said, I believe the proper term should be ethically correct. By making an ethical feeling political, one instantly relegates it to the scrapheap of disallowed and debunked philosophy. By calling it ethical I am simply saying that this is now a strongly held belief based on having taken a serious look at a difficult topic and balanced the available information and come to a decision of sorts. An example would be how I, personally, have decided about religion. It explains why I am more of an agnostic rather than the complete atheist I used to think I was.

I have made an ethically proper decision when I changed the song printed in Sing Out once as MASSA OB DE SHEEPFOL' (and all of it's lyrics) to the ethically proper title --- to me at least ---MASTER OF THE SHEEPFOLD. I also changed the lyrics to the one verse of CATFISH JOHN for the whole 25 years I sang it. I did that not for any political reason. I did it because it was ethically proper to do that from my viewpoint.

Art Thieme


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Amos
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 01:14 PM

Spot on, Art. The nail has been hit on the head.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 01:43 PM

Crowhugger,

Thanks for the wake up call--it is pretty easy to get up on a soapbox and take on the role of the all-knowing, all-understanding, all-explaining guru--and then caught being simplistic and condescending while there are poeple around who know more and better--

James,

In Muleskinner Blues, when the Captain called one of the muleskinners "Shine" I don't think he was invoking the name of an old folk hero, he was speaking to one of the muleskinners--I didn't realize, until I read Alan Lomax's wonderful and disturbing book,"The Land Where the Blues Began", that the muleskinners who built the Levee were all black, and that they were particularly brutalize by the white overseers-- As for more on the subject of "shine"--I have been looking around for the words to Ford T. Dabney and Cecil Mack's "That's Why They Call Me Shine"--as I recall, it begins with the phrase "Just because my hair is nappy"--Louis Armstrong performed this song for many years, much to the disgust of many of his contemporaries, particularly Duke Ellington--

Troll,

As to your point about many of these references being innocent as opposed to having racist intent--Here are the lyrics to one of Kate Smith's somehow forgotten hits, from the pens of Henderson and Brown, who also wrote "It had to Be You" and other great standards--

"Someone had to pick the cotton, Someone had to plant the corn, Someone had to slave and be able to sing, That's why darkies were born. Someone had to laugh at trouble, though he was tired and worn, had to be content witb any old thing, That's Why Darkies were Born. Sing. Sing, Sing when you're weary, sing when you're blue Sing! Sing! That's what you taught all the white folks to do. Someone had to fight the devil, Shout about Gabriel's Horn, Someone had to stoke the train that would bring God's Children to Green Pastures, That's Why Darkies Were Born"

I would welcome your comments on this bit of innocence--


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 02:21 PM

"there's some songs that just don't work if you're a white person singing them. It'd sound odd if I was to sing about being a hobo in a boxcar, just as a black person singing songs about how they fought in the Irish civil war might sound a little out-of-place - I do think that realism plays some part in it." (That's quoting Grab)

1) I've never heard that hobos in boxcars were particularly likely to be black.

2)There weren't many black people around in Ireland at the time of the Civil War back in the Twenties. But there are a few more these days - and I'm sure there are a few people who'd count as black whose grandparents were involved in it. And I suspect there are black Amwericans wqith a lot more personal understanding of resisting oppression than most of their white compatriots, whatever their ancestry.

3) Men sing songs in the first person as a women, and woman sing songs in te first person as a man. I can't see how realism comes into. What does come into it is whether the singer can show that they can get inside the person in the song, and inside the song.

4) Art's right about the label "politically correct" being a bigots charter to sneer. If we've got to have a label for it when we use language in a respectful and courteous way, I suppose ethically correct is better.

But when we refrain from spitting on the floor in someone's front room, we don't have to give that a label, it's just a matter of not behaving offensively. I can't see much difference. (Next time someone sneers at you for being politically correct, you might just spit on their shoes, and ask 'em if that's ok by them.)

And changing the spelling of "MASSA OB DE SHEEPFOL'" to "MASTER OF THE SHEEPFOLD" is just commonsense, makes it easier for everyone to read including people who might well actually pronounce it was originally written, but wouldn't spell it that way...


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: GUEST,jofield, in Paris
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 02:50 PM

I see what you mean that "shine" may have been a condescending term used by white foremen. I'm still positive that this and the bulk of Jimmie Rodger's blues material was lifted from black musicians -- and came out of him in a wonderfully unique adaptation -- he made the blues his own. I thought the lyrics to the jazz tune began:

Just because my hair is curly,
Just because my teeth are pearly,

Maybe something that seems very clear to me is not so to others: lyrics like these and Bert Williams "Black and Blue" talk about race -- an all-too heavy reality for the singer -- but they do not burlesque or denigrate african-americans, not to me anyway. I can listen to "Shine" (though I prefer it as an instrumental) or "Black and Blue" and sense it comes from a real place - and they're good songs. But "Rufus, Rastus", and the myriad other "Coon" songs that were so popular during the first 20 years of the 20th century are just crude and musically entirely forgettable.

I gather that the comment about "innocent" references to race were not directed to me. A white songwriter's reference to race can hardly be called innocent. When W.C. Handy writes "what's that you say? I can't talk to my brown? A storm last night blew the wires all down...", he's trying to capture the talk of contemporary Memphians. When Irving Berlin writes "it's the grandest band what am, my honey lamb", he's intentionally using the white burlesque fabrication of how black people were alleged to talk, and he's doing it to get laughs and sell sheet music. (Not that W.C. minded selling sheet music either.)

James.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Troll
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 03:21 PM

James makes my point for me.The type of song that I was refering to is a song like Chattanooga Choo-Choo and the use of the word "shine" in that song. As I stated in an earlier thread, "shine" refers to shoeshine.Every train station had a shoeshine stanMany of the songs of the early 20th century were written by people who were insensitive. Most of those songs would not see the light of day in todays media.

Art

"politically correct" became a term of ridicule when the desire to offend absolutely no one,not even inadvertantly, reached the point where,if you said "mankind" when referring to the human race (and even that term was suspect) someone would scream "sexist". I mean COME ON! As I stated earlier, when what you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. I agree that ethical decisions must be made every day. But what I see as ethical might not fit your definition. I have no right to try to shove my beliefs down your throat and thats what the "PC" movement tried to do. One of the PC methods is to use the "if you disagree, you're a bigot" line.

troll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Troll
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 03:24 PM

continuation of previous post.

This is called in Logic "Argumentum ad Hominum". If you discretit the man, you discredit his argument.

troll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Liam's Brother
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 03:52 PM

It don't think much of these songs at all. They were obviously made at a time when science and the rights of man were not as well protected as today and the U.S. Constitution not as strongly enforced.

I've been doing quite a bit of research over the last couple of years into the songs of 19th century New York music saloons and I find that the "delineators of Ethiopian characters," as blackface performers were rather pompously called, almost invariably did uncomplimentary Irish, German and other ethnic songs as well. This was at a time when Irish were considered to be a separate race, 1/2 step up from blacks but a couple of flights of stairs below Anglo-Saxons. The Germans were perceived as fairly solid citizens and usually only had the "mickey taken" out of them over linguistics.

I once heard a guy say, "Some people insist on conforming to stereotypes." I though that was humorous. Are there drunk Irish, jiveassing blacks and dictatorial Germans. Yes. Are they all that way? No. Does further humanity to call attention to stereotypes in song. Probably not.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: sophocleese
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 04:56 PM

Troll, I like your image with the hammer and the nail. There hasn't really ever been a PC movement. Negative connotations of the phrase, politically correct, started with the sneering implication that people were ONLY doing something (recycling, composting, attempting to be sensitive to what other people felt when called particular things) because they wanted to be 'cool' and 'with it'. The ridicule came from both those who were genuinely interested in effecting change and also their opponents who used it to undermine eforts at both useful and unuseful change. If in the year 2000 you use the term 'mankind' you are referring only to male members of the human race. One of the nice things about language is that it can evolve and become more specific when necessary. The ambiguity of having the same term used both to exclude and include has resolved to where we can now all speak of men, women and humans.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Troll
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 07:54 PM

Sophoclees, I fully agree with you.What really got me going with the whole PC thing was that everything got sanitized; as if changing the term used for something somehow made it less unpleasant.

Take mental illness for example. "Emotionally challenged" is a prime example of PCspeak if I may coin a word. It's use doesn't change a danm thing for the mentally ill. To us it's just another way of shoving a very real stigma under the rug. Yes,US. I have a mental illness. It is controllable with drugs and therapy. I won't go into gory details.I fight for acceptance for all who have mental problems and it angers me when someone thinks that they can re-label it and make it all better.And they're doing it for MY sake. I didn't ask them to,and what I see is an attempt to gloss over the real problem by saying,"See. We care. We've done away with that nasty old term and given your problem a nice non-perjoritive name." And nothing has been done to change the way the rest of the population views mental illness. All that happens is that now there is a new perjoritive term and the do-gooders have moved on.

Sorry about the length, but it really upsets me.

troll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 08:27 PM

James,

That may be the beginning, but my line is in there somewhere, too-- I have a performer friend who covers that song, accompanying himself plays tenor guitar, I cringe whenever I hear him sing it--I am the only one, however, I have seen him perform it for politically correct and racially mixed audiences in the large, liberal East Coast city where he lives,(including, on occasion, some nationally well known "Bleeding Heart Liberal" politicians an not raise an eyebrow.

I on the otherhand, have gotten the fisheye for the "pardon me boy" in "Chattanooga Choo-Choo"--Chattanooga, it will be remembered, was a city that was often mentioned in blackface comedy--

Has anyone gotten into any real trouble for singing a song?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Troll
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 08:36 PM

It just occurred to me that the "boy" in Chatanooga Choo-Choo could be a kid with a shoeshine box. It was one of the few ways that an urban kid had to make money back when the song was written. The other was selling newspapers.

Just a thought.

troll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 08:53 PM

Changing the label doesn't get rid of the stigma, it can just transfers to the new label. But it can be part of the process of getting people to think about those kind of things, and working towards getting people to see members of an stigmatised group as people first.

And when people who have a label stuck on them indicate that they want that label taken off, to refuse to comply with that is just bloody bad manners.

I strongly suspect that most of the examples of stupid examples of language described as PC were actually originated and promulgated by people who were trying to discredit the concept of using language sensitively so as to avoid hurting other people.

There used to be all kinds of stories in the press about how loony left councils in England were penalising people for asking for black coffee, or were banning nursery rhymes like "Baah Baah Black Sheep". Most of the time the stories were lies, but that didn't stop them spreading and being used as ammunition.

"If in the year 2000 you use the term 'mankind' you are referring only to male members of the human race." Not where I live. We might not say "Man" as a synonym for "Humanity" - but Mankind, no problem. And I think the term "male members" is one to be used with discretion...


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Midchuck
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 08:54 PM

M. Ted wondered it anyone had gotten into any real trouble for singing a song.

Not really, but I've come pretty close with "The House of Orange."

Peter.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Art Thieme
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 09:03 PM

Victor Jarra and Joe Hill are two who "got into real trouble" for singing their song(s). They were both deprived of their lives for daring to sing points of view that some would say were politically correct in order that those views might be diminished and negated.

"Emotionally challenged" (a decent term I think) is simply a term that forces my father-in-law not to ignore his own daughter's (my wife's) horrendous mental problems simply because, in his generation, NOBODY was supposed to admit to or acknowledge mental illness in the family at all--ever. Mentally ill, emotionally challenged, crazy, nuts, psycho ---all are terms that mean the same thing within the cranium of the sufferer. The disease feels the same no matter what term is used. The use of any term for "the disease" says more about the speaker than anything els. And it says nothing about the sufferer of any value at all. I, for one, prefer emotionally challenged. It is, at least, a halting step forward. I will use any term that helps my spouse to get through the next half hour with less symptoms.

Art Thieme


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Oversoul
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 09:07 PM

Just as I thought, this issue roils the waters of much calmer ponds than my own. I must admit that the tin-pan alley stuff was not even a consideration in my mind. Those are just dumbed-down ragtime ditties, aren't they? But you guys are right in putting them in the "coon song" genre. I should have been more specific, what I had in mind were really just melodies with "crude" titles such as HELLO COON and RUN NIGGER RUN. And yes, I recoil at even mentioning these tunes. If I would have learned these tunes as being called something else, like LIBERTY or TATER PATCH this issue wouldn't be - I wonder how many tunes with kind and mysterious titles once meant something entirely different? Any more thoughts on this? This is a difficult issue and I appreciate the wide range of views expressed.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Crowhugger
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 09:24 PM

Troll,

To someone with a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail. Yup. I'm a quilter and there isn't any storage or decorating problem I can't solve with cloth, batting and plenty of thread!

If you are looking for racism, you can certainly find it or at least what you perceive to be racism. Sometimes. And sometimes society is in denial. Especially in Canada.

One can see racist sentiments in a song where the writer meant no such thing. The name for this is systemic racism. Most people don't intend to be racist.

Sophocleese and Troll:

Ages ago I thought long and hard to come up with sass for those who groan about political correctness. Until something better comes up, this is what I say in response to snide remarks or tones of voice about being PC: "Yes, Personal Consideration takes a lot of careful thought, doesn't it?" This generally has something of a shock effect, sometimes it's a complete conversation-stopper. But I simply must do what I can to offset the dehumanization of real people with real feelings and issues.

Troll again:

if you said "mankind" when referring to the human race ... someone would scream "sexist". I mean COME ON! Are we to assume (are you male?) that you feel included when you hear "womankind"?

To the several 'Catters who noticed that I'm first and foremost a person:

*singing loudly, not shouting* THANK YOU!

CH who is never too old to climb the tallest tree she can get into. As I stated earlier, when what you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. And when you're a nail, what does the world look like then?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 09:44 PM

Davecoje.

When I was a kid in school, three recess periods a week, they taught us folkdances in the gym. One of the dances was called "Jump Jim Joe", another was "Turkey in the Straw".

We also spent a lot of time watching civil rights activities, and heard much about the terrible "Jim Crow Laws"--which we were told, were named for a very popular song--I was always puzzled because, thought I was familiar with many songs, I did not know this song--

Many years later, I had a chance to hear recordings of two very old, and notoriously racist songs, "Jim Crow" and "Old Zip Coon" do I need to tell you what songs they were?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: katlaughing
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 09:59 PM

Thank you, Crowhugger and Art! CW, I will send you some stuff I wrote by message on this. My son-in-law is from Antigua and my twin grandsons are what he jokingly calls, "Zebra children", half black, half white.

In the previous thread we had, which I started, called PC And Proud Of it, we finally agreed that ethically conscious was a better term and that PC had been co-opted, as Art pointed out, by the far right.

I am not going to go into the tings I did in that thread nor in the Song Appropriateness thread. If anyone is interested, you can do a forum search and see what was said. Just don't want to be repetitive and have to trot it all out, again.

There is nothing wrong, IMO, with being considerate enough to watch your language. And, you all have been talking about this issue as though it has disappeared. It has not. Security guards in CT, at WalMart and elsewhere put their hands on their guns when they see my BIG, black son-in-law walk by. Whenever a black man is stopped by cops there, he is asked WHOSE car he is driving, NOT for HIS registration, etc. Here I sit, in Wyoming, where my other daughter just told me again, tonight, that her friends, whom she does not consider racist, think nothing of using the N word and a bunch of other equally reprehensible OLD terms which, in my opinion should be let go and disappear from our language.

Crowhugger, as my daughter says when asked if her husband is black, when she is out with the babies alone, "he is Antiguan and we are all of human race." That is how I think of all of you, as part of the HUMAN race and I am proud to know you and consider you my friends.

I am all for humankind.

kat


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Nathan in Texas
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 11:11 PM

Art wrote: To me, the term politically correct is a semantic ploy created by the religious right in order to denegrate strongly held points of view of folks they differ with.
But how easy it is for us to ignore the fact that the term "religious right" is a semantic ploy created by liberal media in order to denegrate strongly held points of view of folks they differ with.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Troll
Date: 29 Feb 00 - 11:45 PM

Art, my heart goes out to you and your wife I sincerely hope that you and she can find peace.

My choice of the term, mentally ill, is a personal one. I use it BECAUSE it forces those who,like your father-in-law and my father, to face up to unpleasant facts. If someone wishes to use some other term to avoid what they perceive as hurtful, that it their right.

For me, personally, I prefer to call a spade a spade.

troll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Crowhugger
Date: 01 Mar 00 - 01:31 AM

Warning: thread creep!

As long as I'm in an "outing" frame of mind, more and more I'm leaning toward calling my particular Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) an illness. Not any particular type of illness, just an illness. Perhaps like asthma or Crohn's disease or arthritis or depression, sometimes I'm too much under the weather to carry on with what I had planned for my life. Sometimes I'm sick for a day, a week, a month. Medication helps to a point, but there are triggers that can do an end run around the meanest meds.

In my experience, only one thing generally makes people more uncomfortable than mental illness, and that is prison. Everyone in my life holds at least some of the typical fears and misconceptions about mental illness or emotional challenges or whatever term works for you. I've found that by just being "sick" sometimes, going to "the doctor" etc., a lot of fears don't get triggered and I am treated less like a weirdo and more like a person. This isn't any 100% solution, but it helps a lot in my circles.

Right now I'm too sick to be able to cook for myself, so tomorrow a friend is delivering Beef Palak and Achari Chicken and some soft onion nan. Just as one would do for a friend recovering from surgery, for example. Just "sick" works well for me. I guess it somehow places the emphasis on the need for support and takes emphasis away from the stereotype of some mental deficit. When it stops working so well I'll be on the hunt for a new approach!

End thread creep.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Crowhugger
Date: 01 Mar 00 - 02:25 AM

Apology to and in defence of Jeri:

I feel I may have jumped on you too hard for the apparent assumption that POCs would identify themselves as such when contributing to this sort of thread. As you said, if the situation were reversed, you would identify yourself as a member of the group under discussion. It so happens that I wouldn't unless I felt a reason to. Which I clearly did when you mentioned the no postings thing after I had posted. **ding! ding! buttons pushed, buttons pushed1**

It is most decidedly not you who pushed whatever race buttons got pushed. You happened to be the one to articulate the apparent lack of postings from POCs. But I don't believe for one second that you were the only person making that assumption. No matter our personal ancestry, our culture is eurodominated, and we all make assumptions within that framework, rightly or wrongly.

I make these assumptions too. Imagine my chagrin when I realized that I was acting on racist assumptions EVEN THOUGH MY FAMILY IS HALF BLACK-LOOKING, HALF WHITE-LOOKING! **Sorry, sometimes I shout when I'm chagrinned.**

Here's what I did: I was on an elevator going to work, knowing I was late but wanting to know just how late. There were two other people on the elevator, one black, one white, both wearing watches. I asked the white guy for the time. After leaving the elevator something hit my gut with a sickening thud. I had positioned myself in the elevator further from the black guy than the white, and in hindsight I realized that I hadn't even considered the black guy as a viable source of information. That was nearly 10 years ago and I remember it like yesterday.

If I can make a subtle race-based choice like that when my family is mixed race and my childhood dolls, 2 black, 1 Innu and 1 white, were all sisters (you should've seen the looks on the faces of my parents' friends when I announced that!), I can surely understand what a difficult challenge it is to tolerate diversity, never mind to expect it and to embrace it!

The elevator episode, and the doll one for that matter, will remain with me forever, always very close to my awareness.

Jeri, I fear I put you on the defensive because of my own issues, and that's not fair. I'm sorry.

CH


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: wysiwyg
Date: 01 Mar 00 - 03:25 AM

I've been *away* fishing and I've looked in on this thread enough to see one huge obvious thing jumping out at me-- no, two.

1. The thread was started by someone who kinda made a mess for himself with inflammatory postings on another topic, and who is taking great care to communicate thoughtfully here. I just don't get that, but I love it that after starting this highly charged topic he came back to post again and apparently wasn't just stirring up an issue for fun. Hmm. (Thanks for coming back, Davecoje. Gotta say, ya got me pretty confoosed, and I know you know what I mean!)

2. 99% of those of you who've posted on this tried really really hard to think and communicate well about this sticky subject and you know what? Mostly what I saw you communicated was how deeply you are committed to communicating with each other without hurting each other. There are tough words here, but so loving, so urgently desirous of contact.

I find these things very significant. Racism discussions are either different here than elsewhere, or different now in our culture than they used to be.

Just curious-- Have any of you taken this discussion out into your 3-D friendships to see what other people think? Do you discuss these ideas with people of other cultures and color groups?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: GUEST,Roger the skiffler
Date: 01 Mar 00 - 03:59 AM

Re:Muleskinner Blues. I was surprised that recent recordings by Lonnie Donegan and Van Morrison used the opening:
Good Morning Captain, Good morning Shine.
which I took to be patronising in context. I'm sure other versions, including Rambling Jack, have it as:
Good morning, Captain, Good morning son
and change "line" to "run" to match the thyme. I'd be happier with the second version.
How you cope with a song like "Shine" I don't know:
Shine away your blueses
Shine away your shoeses
which ends:
Just because my hair is curly,
Just because my teeth are pearly,
That's why they call me Shine
I like the tune but the words need to be set in context as it is sung from the point of view of the shoeshine boy, to avoid offence.
RtS


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Crowhugger
Date: 01 Mar 00 - 04:07 AM

Praise, mostly with my best friend who identifies herself as, among many other things, social activist, community developer, neo-golfer, book lover, loyal friend, and Pakistani. And with my husband and my Mom. Those are the regulars.

At choir practice, we often chew over thorny topics at break, racism, poverty and feminism included. And with my young pianist friend who is dreadfully prejudiced largely out of cultural unawareness. He'll complain bitterly about how "badly" a particular nationality of pianist plays Mozart without even a thought as to how badly he and I would play the music of their culture. I shall remind him of this the complaining gives way to a philosophical, curious approach to the matter. If it's true that you can't change people, I shall die a broken record on this account.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: wysiwyg
Date: 01 Mar 00 - 04:15 AM

CH-- here's the thing. You CAN'T change people, BUT people do change. It's just that it isn't you that changes them, it's life (and God), and their reaction to it, and how they choose to see it.

Of course that is easy to remember at all times.

Good night!!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 01 Mar 00 - 10:51 AM

Crowhugger,

Your suffer from PTSD? I knew there was something I liked about you--I was in an accident 13 years ago and have gone through(and am going through), and I have a stack ofmedical reports with those very same letters on them. I suspect, much of the same stuff that you do--from family Hell to Medical Care Hell, to Social Services Hell, and even Legal System Hell--

They tell us, in such a high-minded way, that the caste system in India is barbaric--what they don't say is that we have a caste system in the West, and the Untouchables are the disabled, and particularly those with a disability that includes pyschological deficits (actually, all disablities have associated psychological deficits)

I have and use a disabled parking placard(I have motor impairments, as well, and my daughter has CP) and it takes a while to get used to the stares that you get--

Anyway, over the years, I have had a great deal of practice trying to explain--well, you know what--if you need any help, in dealing with anything, please feel free to send a personal message--I can help you find resources for almost any sort of problem--


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 01 Mar 00 - 10:58 AM

I don't think anyone would argue with the idea that racial prejudice is a part of American history which is reflected in many of it's songs. To some degree each song that employs it on whatever level is bound to be offensive.

This being said, it becomes more complicated than this. Some will take offense as did members of the militant black community at Louis Armstrong considering him a "tom" which is to my mind the height of intolerance. He was reputed to say in his defense,(and I'm paraprhasing) "I give my contribution to the NAACP every year. If someone busts my chops, they don't get it."

OK, there are certain songs that are riddled with offensive racial content. The other side to this is that along with the attitude of racism, there is a tremendous undercurrent of respect for the talent and contribution of African-Americans and many of these racist songs (maybe not all) are subliminal attempts to offer a tribute, bizarre as this might seem. When the ODJB made it's first jazz recording in 1917 of the Livery Stable Blues, an enormous hit for it's time and introduced the term Dixieland to jazz music, the song itself was a warmed over "coon" song. Yet, I would venture that no member of the ODJB had anything but the utmost respect for the black New Orleans musicians that they had learned from such as Joe Oliver, Louis et. al. The Livery Stable Blues was a novelty number in which the horns sounded like farm animals. But it has racist lyrics. It put dixieland jazz on the map as a popular music form. As a result, it paved the way for Louis and Joe Oliver to become nationally known.

Alan Lomax presented Leadbelly in prison stripes as a "black convict" with the idea of selling that stereotype to urban audiences at the time. Without this marketing, would anyone have ever known about Leadbelly? Was Alan "wrong"?

Here's another angle for you. How racist is it for a white rock and roll group or blues musician to attempt to imitate a black music group? I hear young white singers attempt to sound black and to me it grates as fingernails on chalkboards in the way that I remember the offensive dialects of the minstrel shows. At the same time, I also recognize that there is an unspoken tribute here which compounds the problem. We're all racist to some degree I guess and we're all responsible. The answers are not about banning music but presenting music in a healthy, reasonable and appropriate context so that it communicates the values that most of us cherish, that ALL men and women are created equal.

So it's time for all of us to dismount the Liberal High Horse. BTW, there is a so-called "Christian Right" and in my view, they are neither.

Frank


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Art Thieme
Date: 01 Mar 00 - 06:24 PM

Why dismount the "liberal horse"---high, low or in-between ?? I've found good examples of decent ways for me to be there on that old mount. I even like the person I am as a result.

Art Thieme


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: katlaughing
Date: 01 Mar 00 - 06:40 PM

Me, too, Art.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: GUEST,jofield, in Paris
Date: 01 Mar 00 - 07:10 PM

I think Leadbelly would have become fully as well known without Alan Lomax dressing him up in prison stripes. For someone who's contribution to field recording is immeasurable, for which he is owed our undying gratitude, Lomax fils seems to have had some seriously insensitive moments.

I have heard described a blues workshop at Newport in the early 'sixties where Lomax stood up two country bluesmen of the ilk of Fred McDowell or Bukka White -- he had them stand some distance from one another, possibly on boxes -- and instructed them to have a "carving session", "you know, like you used to do on streetcorners down South". The two singers, whoever they were, were understandably puzzled and embarrassed. If something like this actually happened, it must have felt really clammy, and does not reflect well on the great Lomax.

James.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: GUEST,Petr
Date: 01 Mar 00 - 08:34 PM

An interesting example of unintentional racism (?) occured when a friend of mine when to lunch with some co-workers and as another co-worker arrived someone yelled out his name (Kuhn). Just as he did this a black man came in and looked around to see who shouted. My friend felt like going up to him and explaining what happened. A similar incident happened with another friend whose teenage cousin who yelled "look at all the nickers" at a department store and two black gentlemen in another aisle turned around. In both cases the speaker had no intention of any racial slur although the listener might have thought differently - would this be categorized as systemic racism. In this case the racism may be in the mind of the listener due to an unfortunate coincidence.

I guess I do use the term black as opposed to the PC African American on the other hand I dont consider white to be unacceptable even though people of Caucasian origin are no more white than people of African descent are black. I do think political correctness has gone a bit overboard at times - is visually impaired that much better than blind. I have a blind musician friend and I remember being careful at first and avoiding some words involving sight (not really consciously mind you) and of course avoiding the words tends to draw attention to them if anything. So there is something to be said about being overly sensitive. Petr.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 01 Mar 00 - 09:19 PM

Visually-impaired is more accurate--most "blind" people can make some visual distinctions, and a considerable number of them can actually be taught techniques for interpretting what they see that can significantly extend their mobility and independence--

Impairments can be compensated for creatively--if people are willing to look at them as barriers that can be negotiated, rather than than as life sentences--Blind is blind, but an impairment is something you can work on--


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 02 Mar 00 - 02:18 AM

What was that famous bigot's name who wrote an entire opera depicting the lives of humble negroes in a Southern slum town, right down to their ragged clothing and stereotypical speech? Oh, yes. George Gershwin. Porgy and Bess. Personally, I think " Bess, you is my woman now" and " It ain't necessarily so" are not significantly improved by changing the lines to "Bess, You are my woman now" and "It's not necessarily so". Was Gershwin interested in holding the African-American up to public ridicule, or was his primary interest to create transcendent music in the context of a morality play about nothing less than the nature of love, addiction, and the Good/Evil duality of man's nature?

My belief is that he was creating a musical morality play, in many ways similar to the ones depicted in the minstrel melodramas of an earlier time. The songs of the mid 1800's must be viewed in the context of the time. The basic themes of love, despair, suffering and exaltation were lacking in most of the world of proper white theatre. Opera was quite popular, and it's music is still familiar to us today. But name one song that survives from the popular stage of that era, that did not come from the Minstrel Shows. The attraction to the Minstrel show, I believe, was not based on ridicule and derision, although there were elements of that present. The attraction was due to the fact that issues were presented on a basic human level, and that the music was a hell of a lot more fun than the "white bread" being offered on the acceptable Victorian stages of the era.

The oppression of the Black man in that era, or in this one, is inexcusable. But whether or not you think "gwine to run all night" is a cruel and belittling perversion of black speech, it's still a pretty damn good tune.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Crowhugger
Date: 02 Mar 00 - 09:56 AM

M.Ted:

I have PTSD and I avoid suffering from it as much as I can. Yeah, I know, this is a bit of thread drift, but gee whizzikers, we are discussing the effects of language on people's feelings.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Amos
Date: 02 Mar 00 - 12:35 PM

I think that it is the feeling in the language that must be taken into account. I can't say why off hand, but I have always heard "Bess, You Is My Woman Now" as a kind, loving, compassionate work, with the language of the lyrics simply being a genuine character portrayal. This may be subjective, but I detect not a whisp of malice therein. Crowhugger -- does this seem wrongheaded to you? I want to know.

But conversely you can take many Rufus tunes from 1890-1910 and they are redolent with the kind of mealy mouthed hypocritical condescension I mentioned earlier. And there are lots of shades of gray in between, from those whose "liberalism" is only above thier necks, to those who don't need the language of liberalism because they have always just been that way naturally. They can use identical sentences and feel as different as day and night, so it isn't just the words they use, but what they have put behind them. I can imagine both Martin King Jr and George Wallace saying "We must remember that this is a land of liberty" and sounding as different as Pavarotti and Dylan would sound if they did a duet singing "Old Man River".

A


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 02 Mar 00 - 12:59 PM

Amos, you may have just said the most penetrating post in this whole series, in my mind.

Dave Oesterreich


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Amos
Date: 02 Mar 00 - 01:54 PM

WOBH, Dave! Thanks! **BSEG*


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 02 Mar 00 - 01:59 PM

Caucasians live in places alike A=rmenia, and Georgia and Azerbaijan and in Chechnya where they are being massacred at present by Russians, who refer to the Chechens as "blacks".

Using the term "Caucasian" to mean "white" is as accurate and as offensive as using the term "Ethiopian" to mean "black". And black and white aren't accurate either -if I'm asked what colour I am I tend to say I'm a sort of blotchy pink.

I wish humans were like cats, covered in fur. I've got a black cat, a ginger cat and a tortoiseshell cat who are sibklings. I haven't a clue what colour they arer under the fur.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: sophocleese
Date: 02 Mar 00 - 02:06 PM

Peter Ustinov got into trouble with his passport because he described himself as "pink".


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Grab
Date: 02 Mar 00 - 02:08 PM

Re McGrath - I wasn't implying that all hoboes were black, just that I'm English and middle-class, so it'd be a bit odd for me to be doing the "never had no money, lived in a shack, killed a man in a fight, travelling man" kind of bit. :-) Or I'd not feel quite comfortable with it, anyway - it just feels like the wrong idiom. Although I'm OK with Whiskey in the Jar - make what you will of that...

But there is a fair quantity of early blues centred on the hobo lifestyle anyway (was it Howlin' Wolf who said "you can't play blues if you haven't ridden the boxcars"? Some early bluesman anyway)

Grab.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: GUEST,Petr
Date: 02 Mar 00 - 04:06 PM

Is the term Rufus derogatory? Ive never heard it before in that sense. I just thought it was a name. As for Caucasians, I didnt like using that term in the first place. I think anthropologists today say there is no such thing as race, only that people who live in a certain region tend to look similar to people in that area. P.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: tar_heel
Date: 03 Mar 00 - 03:26 PM

during the time between february 1990,and may of 1992,i was producing a series of tv news stories from the blue ridge moutains areas of n.c.,va.,tenn.,and west va.. in s.w.virginia,near whitetop mountain,lived a man mostly known for his old-time fiddle playing. but also known in his area of the mountains there,as a great coon hunter. i featured him many times playing his fiddle with many folks in the mountains there,but i really wanted to spend a week-end and go COON HUNTING with him. just to be on the safe side,i ran this idea by my news director at the time of my employment at this particular tv station. you would have thought that i had just announced to the world that i was going to do a PRO RACIST NEWS STORY. i could not believe how sensitive the news director was about this issue. his biggest concern was that he was afraid that the story would insult the local blck audience,to whom our news department, aimed much of it's programming. as a result,i never got to do the story... however,many stories have been featured on network tv on the same topic ,which was carried by that tv station,with absolutely no complaints or backlash,or whatever! i,personally,was insulted at the fact that the tv station let a local minority group control what stories we would produce for our audience..... just a passing thought for you...........................


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 03 Mar 00 - 03:33 PM

Leadbelly was discovered by the Lomax family. John Sr. thought it was opprobrious that Alan wanted to present Leadbelly in concerts. This was to cause a rift between father and son. Alan took a lot of heat and was persona non grata in Lubbock Texas for his interest in helping a black man to gain public acceptance. Leadbelly didn't just grow out of the ground. The facts are that if it weren't for Alan, nobody would know who Leadbelly is. How many people know who Iron Head Baker is? As a singer, he was Leadbelly's equal.

The Liberal High Horse is one in which comfortable and simplistic comments are made in a supercillious fashion about such complex subjects as race relations without having to really have them stand up to scrutiny. Many liberals defend an apocraphyl position from the ivory tower. As for me, I tend to be left of center (including liberal) and I am humbled by the information received by black people who have endured real suffering under racism. I have been informed and I think quite correctly that it's too easy to pass judgements on experiences that are limited by the platitudes of the liberal white community.

Frank


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: GUEST,Second Banana
Date: 03 Mar 00 - 09:25 PM

"Bess, you is my woman now," evokes a conviction of absolute and total committal to his woman. Anything less than his choice of words would be false. I completely agree with Amos.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: The Shambles
Date: 03 Mar 00 - 09:31 PM

Well I have sat and read this one way in to the small hours and I feel a lot more knowledgeable because of it. I would like to thank all of the contributors for their comments.

Someone asked about trouble being caused by the singing of songs. This was not in the Victor Jara way of trouble but the relationship between my friend and I was never the same after this following incident.

We went together to a regular gathering where we thought we knew the other people there quite well. Quite out of character for the performer, a song was sung there that my friend stated that he found so offensive that he asked the singer to stop or he would have to leave. The singer, mainly I think, because he was challenged in this way carried on and my friend left. This happened a little too fast for me and I stayed to try and assess what had happened. This was the cause of my friends concern as he thought that I should have left with him. In fact, I did leave very shortly after but he did not know this.

The song was sung in that 'mock' style described here and contained lines like "throw another n***** on the fire", though there may have been some irony intended. I tried to find out more about the song and why he had chosen to sing it but feelings were running high and that didn't happen and we did not go there again. My friend and I did reach some understanding about the events of that night but things were never the same between us.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 03 Mar 00 - 09:50 PM

What was the reaction of the others at the gathering? Have you gone back to this gathering since? Have you ever spoken to the performer about what happened? Just curious--these things have a tendency to have repercussions--


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 03 Mar 00 - 10:18 PM

Amos and Banana...you are both exactly right. The slang used in Porgy's words to Bess are exactly appropriate to his character and the feeling in the song. It is a perfect example of how black accent can be used in a way that does not cast the singer in a negative light. And a perfect example of how blanket statements regarding the prejudice inherent in racial stereotypes (including speech), rings false.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Bill in Alabama
Date: 03 Mar 00 - 11:08 PM

Several years agoI was working with another performer on an ETV documentary about the music of the War Between the States. One of the songs performed was -Year of Jubilo- which was written to be sung in dialect. The singer made some insightful changes and, in my opinion, did a fine job of maintaining the dialect without appearing to ridicule it or to seem condescending. One of the executives at the station insisted that the song be cut from the program. The executive was African-American. We finally agreed to delete that number.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 03 Mar 00 - 11:45 PM

Can't for the life of me imagine having friends who would use the term "nigger" in ANY circumstances. I'm sure some will drone on about "authenticity" and staying "true to tradition", but of course the bottom line is they're trying to shock....and of course let everyone know that "no pinko PC liberals are gonna tell them what they can say". My evil twin would have me wait for an appropriate moment and then as casually as possible use the most vile terms imaginable to describe something or someone they respect. ie: their religious leaders or maternal relative. However my evil twin could get me shot if left unchecked, so simply leaving...and wondering about those who didn't would have to suffice.

Rick


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: The Shambles
Date: 04 Mar 00 - 02:08 AM

The reaction of the others was indeed part of the problem as they were laughing at the (supposed) humour. I have briefly spoken to the singer, who said the song was from the singing of black people and that this made it OK. He claimed that his intention was not racist. The session there was not the same after that, apparently and the pub closed shortly after and the session split to different venues. This split was roughly on the lines of folk v blues but the singer of the song did not attend either of the new ones.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Ebbie
Date: 04 Mar 00 - 03:25 AM

One time at a party a man named McCabe came up to me and said, Do you know how to keep a n*** from drowning? I said, That's not how I would say it but No. He said, Good. Later, I went up to him and said excitedly, Do you know how to keep a McCabe from drowning? He said, No. I said, Good, and walked away. He said, Ebbie, that's sick.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Lucius
Date: 04 Mar 00 - 03:09 PM

Funny, a buddy just got back from the Holocaust Memorial on Washington, and I was lamenting on the fact that we have nothing like this to remember our domestic Holocaust--the extermination of the Indian and enslavement of the African. I'm not endorsing collective guilt, but I think that we always need to be mindful of what we are capable of, at our best and at our worst. Traditional music is a testament to our good and hard times.

Clearly, these postings show that folk is a living tradition. Songs about trains and cowboys naturally give way to songs about subways and data processors. If a tune is too good to die because of a line or two of archaic terms, like most of you, I'll change it. Since the only regular performing that I do these days is in a classroom, I find myself adapting quite a bit. I eagerly anticipate the "learning moment" when we can discuss the original text, but it may be a while for my first graders.

Now, I'm not out to offend, lecture or apologize, but I think that there is a time for political incorrectness. Especially when flying a symbol of slavery over a statehouse is considered politically appropriate. I try to pick my battles. Oh, and this is a great thread. Thanks for starting it.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 04 Mar 00 - 05:44 PM

"Can't for the life of me imagine having friends who would use the term "nigger" in ANY circumstances."

Well there are some black people who like to use it from time to time, and I reckon I well might, if I was black, as a way of defying racists.

But that aside, in my experience the only people I've heard use the words, and a bit more commonly "darkie", have been old people who really aren't being racist in any intentional way. The real racists I've come across tend to use terms that look inoffensive, but in an offensive way, with a nod and a wink and a nudge.

The crucial thing is the intent behind the words, but that's a lot harder to deal with. "Paddy" and "Mick" can be used as an offensive way of talking about Irish people, but equally it can be used in a friendly, or purely neutral way. I don't think that I'd have any time for someone who wanted to stop us singing "Paddy works of the railway". If someone uses "Paddy" in an offensive way, I don't think the right way to deal with it really is to try to censor the language. Physical or verbal force is a better way, directed at the person, not at the language.

The only difference with "Nigger" is that, apart from the odd exception I gave above, it's not going to be used in a friendly or purely neutral way, so the physical or verbal force should come quicker.

And once the racism is done with - I read somewhere that by 2002 over 50 per cent of children born in California will be of "mixed parentage" (what other kind of parentage is there one might ask, but I take it that means "race"), so I can't see how it can really last for all that much longer in historical terms)- all the various words that are used to offend will cease to have that power. I say hopefully - but I think realistically, in the long run. I mean, I'm sure that Normans and Saxons used to be very offensive to each other.

But to come down to a rather frivolous question - how come "coon" ever took on this kind of meaning anyway? It makes as much sense as "squirrel" or "porcupine". Or "possum".


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 04 Mar 00 - 06:11 PM

I think it's important to note that DuBose Heyward was the author of the book for the musical Porgy and Bess and much of the dialogue came from his first-hand knowledge of the apposite speech patterns.

Frank


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: katlaughing
Date: 04 Mar 00 - 06:27 PM

Kevin, the only thing I would like to point out is that, because of the colour of their skin a "paddy" or a "mick" could camoflauge themselves and maybe escape persecution etc. Anyone with so-called black skin could not masquerade as anything but black. That as well as the fact that people of colour were enslaved in such a widespead way for so long, in my mind, makes the "n" word, for I refuse to print it or say it, much worse. It really did come down to white vs black as far as how one was/is treated in society.

We just had our one and only American of African descent principal quit his job due to what he says was blatant racism...people saying things like "I suppose you're going to turn this school into a n****er school, now." In that instance and many more, the only thing anyone sees is the skin colour.

With respect,

kat


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 04 Mar 00 - 07:09 PM

No, kat, I wasn't equating anti-Irish racism (of which there's a fair amount about in some places) and racism towards black people. The fact that it's easier for Irish to "pass" is only part of it (my son told me that at one time at school he would let people think his name was Scottish), there's a different history to it, and a different resonance.

And part of that is reflected in the way that terms like "Paddy" and "Mick" can actually be used in a friendly way. This means that just going for the term itself isn't the answer here - you've got to read the intention behind its use, and that is more complicated.

With "nigger" there is normally a racist intention out in the open. But the same intention can be trailed by people in formally inoffensive ways. The important thing is to identify the racist intention, whatever words are being used, and react appropriately. (If sometimes the same words were being used without a racist intent, maybe in a historical context, or perhaps by a foreigner, a quite different reaction might be appropriate.)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: katlaughing
Date: 04 Mar 00 - 11:35 PM

I understand what you are saying, Kevin, but in my opinion, the N word has such negative connotations, that no matter the intent, it is a terrible word to utter and/or hear. I have friends who are of African descent and a white friend from down South; they all use it, the blacks maong themselves and the southerner to describe "ignorance", which she steadfastly says was the meaning of the word when and where she grew up in Louisiana. Personally, I find it offensive no matter the intent and wish people would never use it, again.

Thanks for clarifying your point, Kevin.

kat


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Oversoul
Date: 05 Mar 00 - 12:11 AM

I started this and I can't stand to read anymore about it! Black people in my neighborhood and workplace kind of dig me playing my banjo and that is that. I don't sing so there is no problem here. They don't give a shit about White guilt, and I say AMEN! Nobody knows the difference between "Run Nigger Run" and ... well, "Cumberland Gap". "Tater Patch" and "Hello Coon", nobody gives a damn. Singing racial stuff is probably just another non-issue. Catchy tunes from long ago are just too lame to be offensive.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 05 Mar 00 - 12:38 AM

This seems to be a pattern Dave. The discussion here has been interesting, and well-thought out (as it was in the other thread that just got "too much" for you). You just may be "way too cool" for this turf.

Rick


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Sorcha
Date: 05 Mar 00 - 12:43 AM

Well then Good on Ya, Dave, cuz your attitude here leaves a lot to be desired. I'm glad your neighbors don't pick up on this from you...........


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: GUEST,thomas the rhymer
Date: 05 Mar 00 - 01:02 AM

the interesting thing about so many songs.... is the context, the history that stretches soooo long.... but offensive intent, it will always give sway.... to mistakes made of prejudice day after day.

sometimes a good introduction makes the song inoffencive, and it becomes a good time to tune up!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: The Shambles
Date: 05 Mar 00 - 04:53 AM

The Bigot's Song


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: katlaughing
Date: 05 Mar 00 - 09:15 AM

thomas the rhymer, well put, you should get yourself a "cookie" and join us as a member


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 05 Mar 00 - 01:56 PM

The Sunday New York Times has an article on Dubose Heyward, the man who is responsible for the characters and the dialogue of Porgy, the play, the Porgy and Bess, the musical. It's well worth a read.

Frank


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: GUEST,Regis Philbin
Date: 06 Mar 00 - 09:52 AM

Final Answer: Times change and so should songs. Listen to the field recording version of "Traveling Man" by Phineas Rockmore recorded by John Lomax. It's full of references to the traveling man being a "coon." Then listen to later versions by Pink Anderson (himself an old Black man when he recorded the song in 1960), Paul Geremia, Roy Bookbinder, Doc Watson, David Bromberg, etc. The coon references are gone, a great song remains.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 06 Mar 00 - 07:25 PM

But I still ask my trivial question - why on earth is it "coon" in the first place? Is it something to do with food, like the French being called "Frogs" and the Germans "Krauts" and the English "Limeys"?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: GUEST,Bill in Alabama (from work)
Date: 07 Mar 00 - 07:13 AM

McGrath-- I have read that the term came from a particular early tune in early traveling minstrel shows, which featured a song/dance combination, and the title of which was *Old Zip Coon*. It is quite similar to *Turkey in the Straw*, and apparently most of the minstrel shows which traveled through the South featured this number. As early as 1837, the song had become popular enough to be widely printed and circulated in a collection of minstrel pieces which included another popular song associated with the minstrels, called *Jim Crow*. While this may not make a strong case for the origination of the term as applied, I believe that it explains the spread of its use.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 07 Mar 00 - 04:44 PM

"Zip Coon" and "Jim Crow" were the names of characters that were portrayed in the minstrel shows, as were "Rastus" and Sambo- and they were the subject of jokes and stories--I suspect that here and their people are still telling jokes that start out.."It seems that Rastus...."


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: catspaw49
Date: 07 Mar 00 - 05:00 PM

Well I still tell Rastus stories. Mainly because he was the town handy-man back home.....a white guy. Also the biggest fool around the little place. He once had a wallpaper steamer blow-up in the mid 50's and it burned down the house he was working on. He had decided to "punch up" the kerosene with a little white gas. His comment later was, "Shur got thet wallpaper off."

I was a bit older before I realized that calling someone a "Rastus" had racial significance.

Spaw (I realize that there's a good bit of ol' Rastus in Cletus, now that I think about it)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 07 Mar 00 - 09:22 PM

"Jim Crow" was the character created by a white minstrel show performer named "Daddy" Rice. He was reputedly popular on the stage. His song was something like "Turn around, turn around, jump real slow, every time I turn around I jump Jim Crow" or something to that effect. The tune is sort of doggerel I think but apparently the act caught on hence the name.

There is an early jazz tune called the "Jimtown Blues" which probably is a derogation for the black section of town.

Frank


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 07 Mar 00 - 10:00 PM

In the Jackdaw of Rheims (in the Ingoldsby Legends) the term Jim Crow comes up - is this sheer coincidence, or does it have anything to do with the American use of the term?

And at last in the odoun of sancity died;
When as words were to faint
His merits to paint,
The Conclave determined to make him a Saint;
And on newly made Saints & Popes, as you know,
It's the custom, at Rome, new names to bestow,
So they canonized him by the name Jim Crow!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 07 Mar 00 - 11:19 PM

Curiouser and Curiouser!!!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Timehiker
Date: 23 Mar 00 - 08:05 AM

I don't intend to reopen an old thread, but, I've suggested this one as a topic for discussion with the university history club I belong to. I've refreshed the thread to make it easier for the club members to locate it. I have to say that I am mightily impressed with the quality of the discussion I've seen here. I'm sure glad I found you folks.

Take care, Timehiker


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Midchuck
Date: 23 Mar 00 - 08:32 AM

Wouldn't it make some sense to start a "chapter two" on any thread that hits a certain # of posts? You get a situation where the threads that are the most interesting and long-lived are the most annoying to wait to load.

Of course, you would need some link to the prior thread so people new to it could get themselves up to speed....

Peter.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: RichM
Date: 23 Mar 00 - 08:39 AM

Hey, I like coons! Love their dark eyes and faces.

What I don't like is when they put their cute furry little bodies into my garbage cans.

;) Rich


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Timehiker
Date: 23 Mar 00 - 09:20 AM

Peter,

It would make more sense to do it that way. Unfortunately, I don't know how to put the links into the messages. Should anyone take a notion to educate me and other "computer challenged" members, please start another thread. Like Peter said, this one is already huge.

Take care, Timehiker


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: For Timehiker's Class'Coon Songs' Two
From: katlaughing
Date: 23 Mar 00 - 11:19 AM

Above is the previous thread, which is being discussed by Timehiker's university history club. Itw as getting too long.

Sorry, I don't like the title of the thread, but for continuity I've used it.


Messages from multiple threads combined.
-Joe Offer-


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: katlaughing
Date: 23 Mar 00 - 11:21 AM

Here is a link to a new thread so this one doesn't get any longer. Please post to the new one.

Thanks for letting us know of your efforts, Timehiker and welcome to the Mudcat.

katlaughing


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 23 Mar 00 - 12:22 PM

McGrath,

I think that (and this is conjecture) that the ewarly pictorial racist stereotypical cartoon of black people resembles that of a raccoon. I also believe that this gross distortion bears no real resemblance to any black people I have ever seen.

An offensive term is still an offensive term because it demeans people because of their race, culture or lifestyle. But the tunes that contain these words are often infectious, historically significant as music and can be altered successfully without hurting their initial expression. The pateroller song may have an offensive intent as say the Nazi drinking songs or ugly parodies. I think intent has a lot to do with the utility of a song. If the intent is not offensive, than an alteration will not change that.

Frank


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Hollowfox
Date: 23 Mar 00 - 01:48 PM

According to Steve Sanfield (Adventures of High John the Conqueror, 1989, Franklin Watts/Orchard Books), the term "coon" came about during slavery times, when the slaves would sometimes pilfer corn, melons, etc. from the masters' gardens for their own use. When the overseers asked what happened to the produce, the slaves would say that raccoons must have gotten it. The overseers suspected the truth, and started refering to the slaves as "coons". "Although the term later became a bitter racial slur, it was at first a begrudging recognition of cleverness and audacity."//This has been an interesting thread, but there seems to be an "all or nothing" thought regarding performances. Early in this thread I learned why the Yellow Rose of Texas was yellow. For most concerts, campfire singalongs, etc, there's no real need to either change the word "soldier" back to "darky" or to stop the performance to explain that a word has been changed. On the other hand, I don't think that the knowledge of this change should be lost. The origins, development, and changes in a song have their place; they are commonly found in books, on recording notes, at workshops, and (ideally) in the background information that a singer has about a song.// As for "PC"..."In practice, labeling minorities with euphemisms is often tantamount to polishing the chip and transferring it to the other shoulder. There may be better uses for shoulders." (John Ray, (London) Times Literary Supplement, 2/25/94, in a book review on dwarfs in ancient Egypt and Greece). No I'm not saying we should stick with offensive nouns, this is just about the "PC" thing.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: For Timehiker's Class'Coon Songs' Two
From: Timehiker
Date: 23 Mar 00 - 02:51 PM

Thanks, Kat,

I agree it's not the best title, but it certainly got people talking. The discussion on the thread was great. Now I'm anxious to see what the students have to say. Thanks again for the link.

Take care, Timehiker


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: katlaughing
Date: 23 Mar 00 - 03:58 PM

Both really valid postings, Frank and Hollowfox, but

PLEASE POST TO THE SECOND THREAD ON THIS SUBJECT (below) Timehiker and Midchuck brought up a valid point about long threads taking time to load. With Timehiker's students coming here, let's try to facilitate their time to the best advantage.

THANKS for understanding.

kat


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: For Timehiker's Class'Coon Songs' Two
From: Gary T
Date: 23 Mar 00 - 04:39 PM

I don't know much about the music being discussed, but I was interested in Hollowfox's info on the origin of the epithet "coon", pasted below:

According to Steve Sanfield (Adventures of High John the Conqueror, 1989, Franklin Watts/Orchard Books), the term "coon" came about during slavery times, when the slaves would sometimes pilfer corn, melons, etc. from the masters' gardens for their own use. When the overseers asked what happened to the produce, the slaves would say that raccoons must have gotten it. The overseers suspected the truth, and started refering to the slaves as "coons". "Although the term later became a bitter racial slur, it was at first a begrudging recognition of cleverness and audacity."

I always wondered about that, and I'm the type who likes to know how various words and phrases got their meanings. Now there's another piece of trivia stuck in my head.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: For Timehiker's Class'Coon Songs' Two
From: Hollowfox
Date: 23 Mar 00 - 04:39 PM

Sorry I posted on the other thread. I was so proud of finding both the book citation and the quote that I forgot to switch over.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: For Timehiker's Class'Coon Songs' Two
From: katlaughing
Date: 23 Mar 00 - 06:16 PM

It's okay, you guys, don't worry, we've all done that, esp. when finding out such great historical data which we can't wait to share!**BG** Thanks, kat


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: For Timehiker's Class'Coon Songs' Two
From: SINSULL
Date: 27 Apr 00 - 07:30 PM

Recently, on eBay, the sheet music for "Mammy's Little Coal Black Rose" went up for auction. My grandmother used to sing it to me as a child. I can remember thinking how beautiful it was that the child's mother thought she was a rose. So I go the eBay section and find many postings for "coon" music. Almost without exception, the sellers apologized in advance for inflicting this racist propaganda on the buyers.

I bought "Rose" and found myself explaining to the seller why I wanted it in the first place. Now the question is do I hum it softly in the confines of my bathroom or dare to sing it aloud?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: For Timehiker's Class'Coon Songs' Two
From: wysiwyg
Date: 27 Apr 00 - 08:29 PM

There is always HearMe, SINSULL, until someone figures out how to throw tomaters through a modem.

I think it takes a modem speed we just don't have yet-- the Speed of Tomaters.

~S~


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: For Timehiker's Class'Coon Songs' Two
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 28 Apr 00 - 10:51 AM

I have heard that before, though it seems more like an illuminating story than a provable fact--

The use of the name "Coon" in minstrelry, as mentioned in the previous, goes back to the character of" Ol Zip Coon"-- This is what intoduced the name to popular usage--

It is also worth note that African and African-American folktales are often concerned with the adventures animals--I wonder if there is anyone familiar with these sort of tales to know if there were stories about raccoons?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: For Timehiker's Class'Coon Songs' Two
From: GUEST,Sule Greg Wilson drumpath@aztec.asu.edu
Date: 27 Jan 01 - 06:12 PM

Yep; Coon is a hardy, tough, wily animal that can eat almost anything, take a heck of a beating, and survive. Given the day-to-day challenges of living under chattel slavery, it would be a blessing to invoke the power of that animal onto someone! Of course, just as many things, when it translates from one culture to another, much is lost and/or confused.

In traditional AfrAm culture, "Do Your Thing!" means "show us your stuff! You're among friends; demonstrate your creativity: dance, talk, sing. And do it with style! Make a statement, given the confines of decorum and propriety for this situation". When "Do Your Thing" "crossed over" into pop culture, it became synonymous with "I'll do what I damn well please, and you have no right to criticize".

By the way, I think more "Coon Songs" should be done, for two reasons: 1.) If the songs are done in public or recordings, and contextualized, their "power" will lessen, as folks have to deal with their own emotional reactions to such stuff. 2.) It's a reminder to all to not let U.S. culture backslide to those mentalities--which it can, and has a tendency to do, every time whites feel "threatened" (that is, have to share with a "new" group of immigrants, or neighbors).

I'm proud to say that Mike Seeger (of the New Lost City Ramblers) called me up with just such a question: "should we include "Colored Aristocracy" in our farewell CD?" I explained the history and context of the term "colored" to hi, and we agreed that the title should stay as is. And I love to play that tune, and "Run, Nigger Run" and "Buffalo Gals" (napppy-headed gals) and "Yalla Rose" and all that great Americana. If you don't feel bad about singing the Stones' "Brown Sugar" or Ricky Martin's "La Vida Loca"--which each speak about white guys having sex with melanized women, and how good it is--why shirk and worry about the old tunes?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: GUEST,californiaminstrels@hotmail.com
Date: 27 Mar 01 - 04:43 PM

I sing the old music because of its merits as music, but when we formed a group to do period stuff in public, we had to find a balance. The racism goes much deeper than burnt cork and ebonics, including many instances of citing a (presumably Black) bumpkin describing something he does not understand. (E.g. a cutaway coat--"His coat's so big that he can't pay the tailor, and it don't go halfway 'round." Kingdom Comin'). Etc., etc. That's racial stereotyping too. But I rationalize singing those lines unaltered by the thought that after all this time, no one in the audience will take it that way unless somebody (like me) explains it. My rule of thumb is just to drop "de" Black dialect and the obvious epithets. Where I go from there depends on the audience. If we're doing a "wallpaper" gig, then we won't sing Kingdom Comin' or "Little Log Cabin Down the Lane." But if we are performing for an audience that will pay attention to intros, we will do both, d-word and all, because not doing them is throwing the baby out with the bath water. If you get past the word [Darkey] & listen to the words, you have two very insightful glimpses of human (not just Black) nature, "Kingdom" at a sadly naive moment when it was thought that Emancipation would fix everything, and "Down the Lane" in a poignant moment when it is realized that there is no free lunch, and even Abolition had a down side. Beyond the many worthwhile things said in previous posts, I agree that victimization is a bit overdone at times. I recall an African American talk show participant complaining about being called "colored." When I was a kid, that was the polite choice, and no offense was meant. I guess he let his NAACP membership run out! Thanks for this forum!!

Chicken Charlie


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: MAMMY'S LITTLE COAL BLACK ROSE
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 27 Apr 04 - 09:50 PM

From The Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music:

MAMMY'S LITTLE COAL BLACK ROSE
Words, Raymond Egan. Music, Richard A. Whiting. 1916.

I heard a pickaninny crying down in Tennessee one night.
His little heart was nearly breaking just because he wasn't white.
Then his dear old Mammy kiss'd him and she said, "Chile, don' you sigh.
Weep no more, my baby." Then she sang a Dixie lullaby:

CHORUS: You better dry your eyes, my little coal-black rose.
You better go to sleep and let those eyelids close.
'Cause you're dark, don't start a-pining.
You're a cloud with a silver lining.
Tho' ev'ry old crow thinks his babe am white as snow,
Your dear old mammy knows you're mighty like a rose;
And when the angels gave those kinky curls to you,
They put a sunbeam in your disposition too, that's true.
The reason you're so black, I 'spose,
They forgot to give your mammy a talcum powder chamois.
So don't you cry, don't you sigh,
'Cause you're mammy's little coal-black rose.

And then I saw that dear old mammy kiss those baby tears away,
While in her arms the baby nestled happy as a child at play.
Then she whisper'd, "Mammy loves you. You're as sweet as possum pie.
Go to sleep, my honey, while your mammy sings a lullaby:" CHORUS

[A recording by Harry Macdonough and the Orpheus Quartet, released in 1917, can be heard at The Virtual Gramophone.]


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: M.Ted
Date: 28 Apr 04 - 12:34 AM

Thanks for posting that, Jim--another one for the collection--I grabbed the MP3 too--nice to have others around who find this stuff entertaining--


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Flash Company
Date: 28 Apr 04 - 07:42 AM

As I have said before, what a lot of words!
Way back in there someone refers to the ODJB being influenced by Joe Oliver and the like. True, but Nick LaRocca went to his grave still insisting that the music played by the ODJB was a white invention, and all the coloured artists copied them.

FC


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 28 Apr 04 - 11:18 AM

That song Jim posted got me curious, so I googled Raymond Egan and came up with http://www.songwritershalloffame.org/exhibit_bio.asp?exhibitId=241 this biography.

Any society in which a song like that could be anything but charming would need to be a pretty sick society. I suppose you could see it as a kind of barometer of that kind of thing.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: GUEST,Joe in Atlanta
Date: 22 Apr 10 - 12:14 AM

Probably most of the "coon songs" were written by "Tin Pan Alley" type whites for minstrel shows, such as "Old Zip Coon" (same tune as turkey in the straw)& were played as a stock character theme songs, so the audience would know the stereotype of the character, without having to waste time developing the character. Kind of like when Darth Vader appears in "Star Wars", a menacing tune is played, to show he was evil, without having to go through his whole biography. Old Zip Coon was played when a character sort of like a pimp from an early '70's Blaxploitation film came on the stage in a minstrel show.
    Anyway, some "coon songs" are really songs from black slaves. Some of the ones that sound the most racist are actual black slave songs. The two that come to mind are "Run, Nigger, Run" and "Nigger in the Woodpile". They sound racist, because they use the "N-word", but that's what gives them away as genuine. The white songwriters of the 19th century considered the "N-word" as not only unsophisticated, but impolite. They substituted words like "Darkie". Unfortunately, their songs were full of ridicule for blacks, and contributed more to racism, than the "N-word" ever did. The white writers weren't trying to be politically correct, they were just trying to make themselves out to be sophisticated.
    Then as now, blacks often refer to themselves as the "N-word" in secular lyrics.
    Most of the songs commonly accepted as slave songs are gospel ones. This is because they were written down by missionaries who weren't interested in writing down the secular folk songs they heard.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Joe_F
Date: 13 Oct 12 - 09:27 PM

I am a white liberal American, getting on 75, and I somehow managed to get well into adulthood before I heard that "coon" was slang for a black person, tho eventually I found out that it was all over the English-speaking world. However, I heard "Old Zip Coon" from my mother when I was little, and it is perhaps worth noting that, at least in that version, there is no reference to race in it at all. It is one of those songs that are nominally about themselves:

Oh, there was a man with a double chin,
Who performed with skill upon a violin,
And he played in time, and he played in tune,
But he never played anything but "Old Zip Coon".
"Old Zip Coon" he played all day,
Till he drove his friends away,
And he played in time, etc.

It was, as others on this thread have noted, TTTO "Turkey in the Straw".

Also, on the face of it, there is no reason to suppose that a person called Zip Coon was black (or named after a raccoon for that matter). "Coon" is a well-established surname in English, and a glance at Google reveals that it has various origins -- one of them being as a form of "Cohen"!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 14 Oct 12 - 08:24 AM

I've not heard the word 'Coon' since I was at school in the 60's, I didn't like it then and I don't now. But, I, being Irish, was the victim of daily racism when I came here in 1960. Fact is we don't do history or racism any favours by pretending racism never existed, and still does, but believe my by 60's standards, it's a hundred times better now. And I believe it's the role of a Folk singer to educate others through such songs, by far the best way to fight racism is not censorship but by telling it like it is or was, so use the real words


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Joe Offer
Date: 15 Oct 12 - 01:27 AM

My grandparents has the surname "Coon," so I might be a little more sensitive than some about the term. However, the standard term for this type of song is "Coon song," and I think it's a bad thing to euphemize away reality - especially in a forum that deals with folklore.

-Joe-


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: GUEST,s
Date: 15 Oct 12 - 06:18 PM

The minstrel days and "coon songs" are from different eras. Minstrelsy depicted African American slave (and freemen) as childlike and simple, in patronizing fashion. Once slavery ended, and ex-slaves became economic rivals in America, the image changed, and paternalism ended as "coon songs" were born.

So I sing antebellum songs (like "Kingdom Coming" and "Yellow Rose of Texas" -- and the "soldier" version is NOT to avoid saying "darky," but because it became a soldier song, right up into the Civil War), and I am willing to sing "darky" in actual language of the day. But I avoid those where the image is more negative, and will not sing "nigger," though I've been known to change the term where I can.

And "Someone's in the Kitchen with Dinah" is NOT originally from "I've Been Working on the Railroad," but is instead a minstrel song with much use of the term "nigger."

Bot


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: 'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them
From: Stringsinger
Date: 15 Oct 12 - 06:25 PM

You can change the lyrics. Kingdom Coming was an anti-slavery song.

Many of the songs are so racist that it's impossible to revive or revise them.


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

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


Mudcat time: 22 February 4:39 PM EST

[ Home ]

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