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'Coon Songs' Your Thoughts About Them

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Stringsinger 15 Oct 12 - 06:25 PM
GUEST,s 15 Oct 12 - 06:18 PM
Joe Offer 15 Oct 12 - 01:27 AM
GUEST,Desi C 14 Oct 12 - 08:24 AM
Joe_F 13 Oct 12 - 09:27 PM
GUEST,Joe in Atlanta 22 Apr 10 - 12:14 AM
McGrath of Harlow 28 Apr 04 - 11:18 AM
Flash Company 28 Apr 04 - 07:42 AM
M.Ted 28 Apr 04 - 12:34 AM
Jim Dixon 27 Apr 04 - 09:50 PM
GUEST,californiaminstrels@hotmail.com 27 Mar 01 - 04:43 PM
GUEST,Sule Greg Wilson drumpath@aztec.asu.edu 27 Jan 01 - 06:12 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 28 Apr 00 - 10:51 AM
wysiwyg 27 Apr 00 - 08:29 PM
SINSULL 27 Apr 00 - 07:30 PM
katlaughing 23 Mar 00 - 06:16 PM
Hollowfox 23 Mar 00 - 04:39 PM
Gary T 23 Mar 00 - 04:39 PM
katlaughing 23 Mar 00 - 03:58 PM
Timehiker 23 Mar 00 - 02:51 PM
Hollowfox 23 Mar 00 - 01:48 PM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 23 Mar 00 - 12:22 PM
katlaughing 23 Mar 00 - 11:21 AM
katlaughing 23 Mar 00 - 11:19 AM
Timehiker 23 Mar 00 - 09:20 AM
RichM 23 Mar 00 - 08:39 AM
Midchuck 23 Mar 00 - 08:32 AM
Timehiker 23 Mar 00 - 08:05 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 07 Mar 00 - 11:19 PM
McGrath of Harlow 07 Mar 00 - 10:00 PM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 07 Mar 00 - 09:22 PM
catspaw49 07 Mar 00 - 05:00 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 07 Mar 00 - 04:44 PM
GUEST,Bill in Alabama (from work) 07 Mar 00 - 07:13 AM
McGrath of Harlow 06 Mar 00 - 07:25 PM
GUEST,Regis Philbin 06 Mar 00 - 09:52 AM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 05 Mar 00 - 01:56 PM
katlaughing 05 Mar 00 - 09:15 AM
The Shambles 05 Mar 00 - 04:53 AM
GUEST,thomas the rhymer 05 Mar 00 - 01:02 AM
Sorcha 05 Mar 00 - 12:43 AM
Rick Fielding 05 Mar 00 - 12:38 AM
Oversoul 05 Mar 00 - 12:11 AM
katlaughing 04 Mar 00 - 11:35 PM
McGrath of Harlow 04 Mar 00 - 07:09 PM
katlaughing 04 Mar 00 - 06:27 PM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 04 Mar 00 - 06:11 PM
McGrath of Harlow 04 Mar 00 - 05:44 PM
Lucius 04 Mar 00 - 03:09 PM
Ebbie 04 Mar 00 - 03:25 AM
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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.


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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


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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-


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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


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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"!


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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.


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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.


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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


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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--


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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.]


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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


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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?


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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?


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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~


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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?


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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


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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.


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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.


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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


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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


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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.


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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


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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


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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-


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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


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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


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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.


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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


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

Curiouser and Curiouser!!!


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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!


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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


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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)


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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...."


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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.


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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"?


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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.


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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


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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


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

The Bigot's Song


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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!


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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...........


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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


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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.


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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


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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.)


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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


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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


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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".


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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.


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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.


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