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Lyr Req: Old Black Joe (Stephen Foster)

DigiTrad:
BEAUTIFUL DREAMER
BEAUTIFUL HOME
BEAUTIFUL TEAMSTERS
BRIGHTER DAYS IN STORE
CAMPTOWN RACES
COME TO THY LATTICE, LOVE
DON'T BET YOUR MONEY ON DE SHANGHAI
GENTLE ANNIE
GENTLE ANNIE 2
GLENDY BURKE
HARD TIMES COME AGAIN NO MORE
I DREAM OF JEANNIE WITH THE LIGHT BROWN HAIR
I WOULD NOT DIE IN SUMMER TIME
MASSA'S IN DE COLD, COLD GROUND
MOLLY DO YOU LOVE ME
NELLY BLY
OH! BOYS CARRY ME 'LONG
OH, SUSANNA
OLD BLACK JOE
OLD DOG TRAY
OLD FOLKS AT HOME
OLD KENTUCKY HOME
SOME FOLKS DO
THE SONG OF ALL SONGS
UNCLE NED
UNCLE NED
WHEN THIS DREADFUL WAR IS ENDED
WILLIE, WE HAVE MISSED YOU


Related threads:
Opinions: Old Black Joe (49)
Lyr Add: Nelly Was a Lady (Stephen C. Foster) (1)
Lyr/Chords Req: My Old Kentucky Home (S Foster) (10)
(DTStudy) Lyr Add: Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair (Foster) (24)
Lyr Add: Fairy-Belle (Stephen Foster) (1)
Lyr Add: Old Folks at Home (Stephen Foster) (18)
Lyr Add: Ring, Ring de Banjo (Stephen C. Foster) (6)
Lyr Add: Farewell, My Lilly Dear (Foster) (2)
Lyr Add: Massa's In De Cold Ground (Foster) (5)
Lyr Req: Ah! May the Red Rose Live Alway (S Foster (13)
Lyr Add: There's a Good Time Coming (S Foster) (6)
Lyr Add: There Are Plenty of Fish in the Sea (3)
Lyr Req: Uncle Ned (Stephen Foster) (7)
Add Tune/Verse: Old Dog Tray (6)
Lyr Req: Virginia Belle (Stephen Foster) (4)
Lyr Req: Oh Suzanna? / Oh Susanna (30)
Lyr Add: I'll never play the banjo again/Uncle Ned (13)
Lyr Add: White House Chair (Foster, 1856) (5)
Chord Req: Linger in blissful repose (Foster) (3)
New Stephen Foster CD (13)
DTStudy: Beautiful Dreamer (Stephen Foster) (16)
Lyr Req: That's What's the Matter (Stephen Foster) (7)
Lyr/Chords Req: Beautiful Dreamer (Stephen Foster) (4) (closed)
Lyr/Chords Req: Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair (2)
Oh Suzannah / Oh! Susanna (7)
Lyr Add: Massa's in de Cold Ground (Stephen Foster (2)


HSHDOAD@AOL 14 Aug 97 - 03:16 PM
Bert Hansell 14 Aug 97 - 03:21 PM
14 Aug 97 - 03:47 PM
Jon W. 14 Aug 97 - 04:10 PM
Bert Hansell 14 Aug 97 - 04:12 PM
Bob Schwarer phidea@cris.com 14 Aug 97 - 05:12 PM
PattyG 14 Aug 97 - 07:50 PM
Joe Offer 14 Aug 97 - 08:33 PM
PattyG 14 Aug 97 - 10:37 PM
Whippoorwill 14 Aug 97 - 11:45 PM
PattyG 15 Aug 97 - 11:13 AM
Bert Hansell 15 Aug 97 - 11:47 AM
frailer@prodigy.net 15 Aug 97 - 11:13 PM
Marilyn2@msn.com 16 Aug 97 - 04:00 PM
Jerry Friedman, jfriedman@nnm.cc.nm.us 16 Aug 97 - 05:55 PM
Jerry Friedman 16 Aug 97 - 06:04 PM
Dick Wisan 17 Aug 97 - 01:11 AM
Barry Finn 17 Aug 97 - 10:29 AM
dick greenhaus 17 Aug 97 - 12:10 PM
Bob Schwarer 17 Aug 97 - 03:51 PM
Bill D 17 Aug 97 - 04:07 PM
Alison 17 Aug 97 - 09:46 PM
Coralena 18 Aug 97 - 10:30 AM
Justin 18 Aug 97 - 02:20 PM
18 Aug 97 - 04:09 PM
Jerry Friedman 18 Aug 97 - 04:11 PM
Jack 18 Aug 97 - 05:02 PM
Ferrara 18 Aug 97 - 06:09 PM
Sharon 18 Aug 97 - 06:19 PM
Jon W. 18 Aug 97 - 07:32 PM
Dick Wisan 19 Aug 97 - 12:34 PM
Dick Wisan 19 Aug 97 - 12:37 PM
Coralena 19 Aug 97 - 01:19 PM
Bert Hansell 19 Aug 97 - 02:15 PM
Justin 19 Aug 97 - 03:27 PM
Bert Hansell 19 Aug 97 - 04:06 PM
Jerry Friedman, jfriedman@nnm.cc.nm.us 20 Aug 97 - 04:20 PM
Barry Finn 21 Aug 97 - 12:40 AM
Jerry Friedman, jfriedman@nnm.cc.nm.us 21 Aug 97 - 01:58 PM
Ole Bull 20 Sep 97 - 01:23 PM
20 Sep 97 - 04:58 PM
Earl 20 Sep 97 - 05:57 PM
Jeri Corlew 20 Sep 97 - 09:50 PM
Barry 20 Sep 97 - 11:17 PM
Ole Bull 21 Sep 97 - 10:41 AM
Old Cornmeal 21 Sep 97 - 09:54 PM
Barry 21 Sep 97 - 11:50 PM
Earl 22 Sep 97 - 12:56 AM
Joe Offer 22 Sep 97 - 03:12 AM
Earl 22 Sep 97 - 12:19 PM
Jon W. 22 Sep 97 - 01:24 PM
Bert 22 Sep 97 - 03:16 PM
Jerry Friedman 22 Sep 97 - 03:46 PM
Ole Bull 22 Sep 97 - 07:56 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 01 Oct 13 - 04:27 PM
GUEST,kendall 02 Oct 13 - 06:02 AM
Jim McLean 02 Oct 13 - 06:55 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 02 Oct 13 - 12:49 PM
Jim McLean 02 Oct 13 - 01:46 PM
McGrath of Harlow 03 Oct 13 - 01:39 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 04 Oct 13 - 06:14 PM
Jim McLean 05 Oct 13 - 08:56 AM
Jim McLean 05 Oct 13 - 09:11 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 05 Oct 13 - 11:10 AM
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Subject: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: HSHDOAD@AOL
Date: 14 Aug 97 - 03:16 PM

I am desperately searching for the words to this tune. Just as many do not believe that the film Birth of a Nation exists, likewise, their are those in later generations who do not believe that a song like "Ole Black Joe" ever existed. I would appreciate these lyrics and, if possible, a date of originaial publication.

Thank you


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Bert Hansell
Date: 14 Aug 97 - 03:21 PM

http://www2.tsixroads.com/Corinth_MLSANDY/song8.html


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Subject: Lyr Add: OLD BLACK JOE (Stephen Foster)
From:
Date: 14 Aug 97 - 03:47 PM

Aw, Bert, don't you think the lyrics are worth posting?

OLD BLACK JOE
By S.C. Foster, 1860

Gone are the days when my heart was young and gay,
Gone are my friends from the cotton fields away,
Gone from the earth to a better land I know,
I hear their gentle voices calling "Old Black Joe".

Chorus
I'm coming, I'm coming, for my head is bending low,
I hear their gentle voices calling "Old Black Joe".

Why do I weep, when my heart should feel no pain,
Why do I sigh that my friends come not again.
Grieving for forms now departed long ago.
I hear their gentle voices calling "Old Black Joe"

Chorus

Where are the hearts once so happy and so free?
The children so dear that I held upon my knee
Gone to the shore where my soul has longed to go,
I hear their gentle voices calling "Old Black Joe"

Chorus

I suppose songs like this make people very nervous about being politically incorrect, but I think it's a shame that most of the songs Stephen Foster wrote have been edited out of our history. Certainly, the songs reflect attitudes that are no longer acceptable; but I don't think that it's acceptable to whitewash away part of out history.
On the other hand, I think it's probably good that songs like this are no longer in grammar school songbooks. I learned this song by heart when I was in grade school. Maybe it's just as well my kids didn't. Nonetheless, I think the song should be included in the database. It's part of our history.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Jon W.
Date: 14 Aug 97 - 04:10 PM

I too sang this song in grade school, and I also watched "Birth of a Nation" in high school (1972 or 73). It was a valuable lesson on how Hollywood can make evil appear good. We didn't believe the teacher when he told us that by the end of the movie we'd be cheering for the KKK - until the end of the movie. I don't suppose that kids today would be allowed to learn that lesson due to Polical Correctness.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Bert Hansell
Date: 14 Aug 97 - 04:12 PM

The reason that I didn't post it was that it was on someone else's site and I didn't have time to investigate whether that particular instance was copyright or not.

I agree with you about Stephen Foster. Most of the problems with his songs are with the language. For the times that he lived in he was quite progressive.

We learned the song as "Poor Old Joe" which doesn't carry any racial slur.

I don't see why other songs couldn't be selectively edited in a similar manner.

Bert.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Bob Schwarer phidea@cris.com
Date: 14 Aug 97 - 05:12 PM

Florida's state song is "Way Down Upon the Swanee River" By S. Foster.

Our PC do-gooders are trying to have it banished for the perceived racial content or insensitivity or whatever.

I disagree with changing songs to be politically correct.

It seems now that everything is offending someone or two.

If you want another song, even for stupid reasons OK but leave the original alone

Bob S.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: PattyG
Date: 14 Aug 97 - 07:50 PM

I wonder what they do now with the sheet music for songs such as "Deep River"? It is listed as a Negro spiritual as is the lovely song, (which was sung at my father's funeral), "Going Home". I agree that we've become so politically "uptight", we've lost the flavor of the era that was "just the way things were" at the time. Remember the song (I think) "In The Evening By The Moonlight"? or was that called "Old Folks At HOme"????Hm-m-m...now I've confused myself (how rare.)


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Joe Offer
Date: 14 Aug 97 - 08:33 PM

Is is considered inappropriate nowadays to use the term "Negro Spiritual"? Is there a better term to replace it?
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: PattyG
Date: 14 Aug 97 - 10:37 PM

That's what I mean - doesn't seem quite the same to have it listed as a "black spiritual" or an "African-American spiritual"......you know? What I'm saying though, too, is that I already have, for instance, the sheet music to "Deep River" and it notes that it is a Negro Spiritual. If I were to order the sheet music now, what would it be called???? And do you suppose people get upset about that? (I have no desire to be insensitive, just wondering.)


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Whippoorwill
Date: 14 Aug 97 - 11:45 PM

"Political correctness has made hash of a lot of good songs. Even "My Old Kentucky Home," another Stephen Foster classic and the state song of Kentucky, has been "whitewashed" to read "'Tis summer, the people are gay." Which brings us to another bastardized term. Remember when "gay" meant "happy?"

I don't suppose you could ever make "Kentucky Babe" politically correct, without doing a complete rewrite.

Get off your soapbox, Whip. You can't change it.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: PattyG
Date: 15 Aug 97 - 11:13 AM

Ha! Thanks for my morning chuckle:) You are so right IMHO, of course:)


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Bert Hansell
Date: 15 Aug 97 - 11:47 AM

One day, when prejudice no longer exists and there are no more oppressed minorities, then we'll be able to sing those songs again without offending anyone. Let's work towards that goal.

Bert.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: frailer@prodigy.net
Date: 15 Aug 97 - 11:13 PM

Political correctness aside, to be geographically correct, for most Floridians, it would be: "Way Up Upon the Swanee River."

But, to get to the point. You can't change history. "Old Black Joe" was written to reflect things as they were. It is an absolutely beautiful song about a dying man who happened to have been slave...and nothng is going to change that.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Marilyn2@msn.com
Date: 16 Aug 97 - 04:00 PM

Is there a song called mazza's (sp?) in the cold, cold ground? Thanks, Marilyn Please respond to me email address.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Jerry Friedman, jfriedman@nnm.cc.nm.us
Date: 16 Aug 97 - 05:55 PM

Yes, there's a Stephen Foster song called "Massa's in the Cold, Cold Ground", and the lyrics of that one are truly unbelievable (the slave's tender lament for his or her master). I agree completely with Bert Hansen (except that "Massa's in..." will never be acceptable). But I have no idea what's offensive in "Old Black Joe". There is no hint that the singer found anything good about slavery. My theory is that the song was considered offensive when "black" was a racist word--but since the word has been acceptable if not preferred for thirty years, can't the song be rehabilitated? Is the problem that it's a song by a white man about a fictional black man's experience? I once saw a version of the Uncle Remus story of the Tar Baby in which the "baby" was made sticky with flour paste and glue and stuff like that instead of tar--so it wouldn't be black! This is absurdly misplaced prudishness. I can see eliminating or updating the dialect--but there are in fact babies in the world who are more the color of tar than the color of Elmer's glue. And most American children know that. So why not let it be a fake black baby instead of a fake white baby? On the other hand, the Foster song certainly has BEEN offensive. The book _The Boys of Summer_ (can't remember the author, but it's about the Brooklyn Dodgers of the '50s) includes a story about Joe Black, a black pitcher the Dodgers hired shortly after hiring Robinson and Campanella. In one game that he pitched, the opposing team sang a chorus of "Old Black Joe". Black responded only by throwing a fastball at the head of each of the next nine batters. On another subject, "Goin' Home" is not a spiritual. The tune is from the second movement of Dvorak's symphony _From the New World_ (which I bet my father has in his will for HIS funeral). Dvorak contradicted himself about how much that symphony was influenced by American folk music. Incidentally, the tune has been given other fake-black words, "Massa Dear", now unacceptable. As you might guess, I think the PC word is "spiritual". There may be white gospel ("Wayfaring Stranger, e.g.) but there are no white spirituals.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Jerry Friedman
Date: 16 Aug 97 - 06:04 PM

Lots of apologies! Sorry I forgot that I'd already offered my opinion on the authorship of "Goin' Home", six weeks ago. Sorry I forgot about making paragraphs on this damn thing. And I'm very sorry, Bert HANSELL!


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Dick Wisan
Date: 17 Aug 97 - 01:11 AM

>.Yes, there's a Stephen Foster song called "Massa's in the Cold, Cold
>.Ground", and the lyrics of that one are truly unbelievable (the slave's
>.tender lament for his or her master). I agree completely with Bert
>.Hansen (except that "Massa's in..." will never be acceptable).

They taught it to us in the 4th grade. (late 1930's) I recall it seeming so odd that I asked whether slaves really did love their masters. She said they sometimes did. I couldn't understand that. It seems to me it might have been good for us to learn the song but get a better answer than that.

>.But I have no idea what's offensive in "Old Black Joe". There is no
>.hint that the singer found anything good about slavery.

Right. Dunno how old Foster was when he wrote it, but when you reach a certain age, you understand what he's singing about:

I seem to hear their voices calling...

..... me.

>.I once saw a version of the Uncle Remus story of the Tar Baby in which the "baby"
>.was made sticky with flour paste and glue and stuff like that instead of tar...

Ooof! You know, I wonder if the objection to "tar baby" isn't a confusion with the "tar brush".

>.I can see eliminating or updating the dialect....

NEVER! And don't re-write it, either. What you want to do is get the dialect right. Joel Chandler Harris was working very hard to record the dialect, and it's a real dialect, peculiar to a specific place (alas, I do not remember where). Once, in my life, I had the pleasure of hearing one of those stories read aloud by somebody who knew how --white but brought up in the right place. It's music.

>.As you might guess, I think the PC word is "spiritual". There may be white
>.gospel ("Wayfaring Stranger, e.g.) but there are no white spirituals.

We learned a lot of Negro Spirituals. When we were learning "Jacob's Ladder", however, they told us it was, for a change, a White Spiritual.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Barry Finn
Date: 17 Aug 97 - 10:29 AM

I also learnt Foster's songs (not Anglina Baker or Hard Times) & was told he was the father of American folk music. His take of the plight of the slave was common & he helped it along, next came Jim Crow and then the white minstrials doing black music, that the blacks didn't do yet, & all the time their culture was getting expolited. I've never heard a slave song, a camp leeve song, a prison worksong that was as gentle as Joe or full of kindness & longing for the good ole days as Foster would have it. His songs diffinitly have their place in our history, not because it didn't have slurs & not because it's not a negro spritual (religious escape from oppression), it has it's place beside Jim Crow & his mint jewelip(sp?), alongside of John Brown's body it's real place has been buried for yrs. under the notion that antebellum south was good to the white lipped nigger who knew no better & cared not, as long as they were singing (whistle) while they (you) work (ed). Very little, culturally black, survived, pre & post slavery, & to portray Foster's music as representing a tradition (on no not this traditional thing again) would be an insult to any that remotely have any connection to it's history. The Leeve System along the Mississippi & it's branches took more material & labor than the Great Wall of China, where is the written or oral history or the music of this feat, the black cleared the land & opened the waterways, the south prospered on the back of the black & buried him in a turnrow without a marker in history of the bat of an eye. Foster may not have directly been inoffensive but if you have to ask if the slave loved their master....... I wouldn't say it's all PC. Barry


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 17 Aug 97 - 12:10 PM

I don't recall who wrote it but it went something like this:

Mix me a julep and kick me a hound And we'll all say, "Yassuh, yassuh yassuh" We's gwine dig a hole in the cold cold ground For Mr. and Mrs. Massa.

Actually, songs like Mass's in the Cold Cold Ground are interesting in that they express sentiments that were common when they were sung: not necessarily what the slaves thought, but what people THOUGHT the slaves thought.

When I first drifted into folk music, you couldn't say "Black"; explicit sex was PI; Rudyard Kipling was a no-no; Songs about wife-beating were OK. Times, and politics change.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Bob Schwarer
Date: 17 Aug 97 - 03:51 PM

Has anyone objected to the title of the movie "African Queen"?

Bob S.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Bill D
Date: 17 Aug 97 - 04:07 PM

To quote from Bok, Trickett & Muir just before singing "The Middle Class Life is the Best of All"

"You don't have to believe EVERYTHING you sing!"


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Subject: Lyr Add: SILLY SLANG SONG (Eric Bogle)
From: Alison
Date: 17 Aug 97 - 09:46 PM

Hi

I remember the last line "Old Black Joe" as being "I hear the darky voices calling..."

On the subject of being politically correct, and being careful of what you say, I thought you'd like this one by Eric Bogle.

SILLY SLANG SONG
(Eric Bogle)

Do you remember the day when if you said that you were gay
It meant with joy, you could sing and shout?
When a fairy was enchanting and dressing up and camping
Was something you did with the Scouts?
That innocent age when an urgent case of aids
Was powdered milk we sent to the Sahara.
A fruit was something nice to eat, a poof was something for your feet
And a queen was an old tart in a tiara.

CHORUS: Ah, look what we've done to the old Mother Tongue
It's a crime, the way we've misused it.
It's been totally tiswoggled, tronged and longed and gollywobbled
And we've strangled, frangled, mangled and abused it.

Ah, those halcyon times when a bong meant a chime
And a buzz was a noise insecticidal
A joint meant something between bones and getting really stoned
Only happened to bad people in the Bible.
When if you had a bad trip it meant you fell and broke your hip.
Cold turkey just meant Christmas at Aunt Dottie's.
Coke was something that you burned, smack was something that you earned
From your mumsy-wumsy when you had been naughty.

The years have gone, I'm afraid, when only eggs got laid,
And only the rhinoceros got horny.
Only kangaroos jumped and only camels humped
Getting stuffed meant a little taxidermy
.
Swinging was for trapezes or Tarzan's chimpanzeeses
Tossing off was something Scotsmen did with cabers.
Now it means something quite obscene while a heavy ugly scene
Is any movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Coda: They're only words, and words are what we use,
When we've got sod-all to say.

Enjoy

Slainte

Alison


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Coralena
Date: 18 Aug 97 - 10:30 AM

Rewrite songs, NO! There are already those who are rewriting history to suit their purposes. This is a very dangerous situation. I am alarmed that anyone here would suggest such.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Justin
Date: 18 Aug 97 - 02:20 PM

I'd like to add my vote pro-Stephen Foster. Language IS important, and we should not use it carelessly in a way that offends, but Stephen Foster's lyrics are not the problem. I remember that, as a very young child, when I first heard, "Old Black Joe", I not only loved the song, I loved the man Old Black Joe, and cried for him.

To Jerry Friedan: Good letter!

When the Dodger pitcher Joe Black threw those bean-balls it wasn't because he resented the words of the song, it was because he knew that the players singing the song were doing it because they were racists and looking for a way to express their racism and hurt him. If he hadn't retaliated, he would have been accepting their "insult".

The author of the book, by the way, was Roger Kahn.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From:
Date: 18 Aug 97 - 04:09 PM

Thanks for the plug and the information, Justin!

If I understand Barry Finn correctly, I agree with his objections as applied to "Massa's in the Cold Cold Ground" or even "Swanee River". I just don't see that they apply to "Old Black Joe". Of course I agree that it should not be presented as part of American black tradition!

It's ironic to see Coralena object to rewriting folk songs--where do they come from, after all? But I know that's not what she meant. If a small change will retain the essence of a song but make it unobjectionable, I say perform the changed version, but keep the original in the history books. However, most people know songs from performances and recordings, not from history books. So maybe performers should say a word or two about the change that was made.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Jerry Friedman
Date: 18 Aug 97 - 04:11 PM

That last one was me again, as was probably obvious. Now that the double-posting problem seems to have been solved, I should find a way to make only one post at a time. (Or maybe in some future version we'll be able to edit our own posts?)


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Jack
Date: 18 Aug 97 - 05:02 PM

The irony of this whole issue is that by changing songs instead of keeping them intact, the ability to use that song as an illustration how people thought is diminished.

History is useful when it reports what really was, not what we wished was, and shunning the truth of the past, especially our recent past, encourages us to shun the truth of our present.

The Foster songs are a great example of sensitivity, extreme talent and blindness to a great wrong in the same individual. It shows to what degree we tend to accept the culture we are raised in as essentially correct, and, if properly taught provides a cautionary object lesson to examine such contradictions in one's self.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Ferrara
Date: 18 Aug 97 - 06:09 PM

My approach to the PC/PI problem has been to learn the original, then think long and hard about where and whether to change it for certain audiences.

In Old Kentucky Home, for example, I keep the word "darky" everywhere when I sing it for myself. I think Foster had a lot of insight when he wrote, "The head must bow, and the back will have to bend, wherever the darky may go...." To me, he was saying that life was innately hard for black people because of the terrible system they lived in. All the same "darky" is a terrible word. Not as hateful as "nigger," but still condescending, insulting, patronizing. So what do you do? In general, I'm fiercely in favor of leaving a song the way you found it. But I cringe when I hear the uncensored versions of some of Foster's songs. I wouldn't want to sing the original words for school kids, for example.

So sometimes I look for a good substitution, eg "wherever the laborer may go."

About GOOD substitutions. If you just substitute "person" or "people" everywhere Foster said "darky," it weakens the song. Anyone interested in comparing ideas on that? (Maybe needs a new thread?)

I think Jeff Friedman's suggestion of discussing any changes we've made and the reason for them is a good one that allows us to recognize the tradition while repudiating the state of mind.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Sharon
Date: 18 Aug 97 - 06:19 PM

Our Folk Society was told we should no longer sing "Mammy's Little Baby Loves Shortnin' Bread. It's Momma's little Baby now.

In s slightly different vein. We were told by some teens not to sing Bille them Cabbage down. turn them hoecakes round, round. Seems that a Hoecake has a different meaning to them. I'm nieve. Is it drug related or what?


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Jon W.
Date: 18 Aug 97 - 07:32 PM

Sharon, interesting your society would find "Mammy" offensive. It is found in other traditions besides the minstrel shows - I've heard it in Irish songs for instance.

I'm not sure about Hoecake, but "Ho" seems to be slang for whore nowadays. Maybe that's the connection.

I've got to agree with most of the comments on Political Correctness. I dislike PC in general and particularly when it comes at the expense of something else. But it's important to know the background of a song so it can be presented in context. We all need to be aware of and be able to see things from other points of view. That is the foundation for true tolerance and sensitivity. I would put the responsibility on the performer to present a possibly offensive song in a sensitive way by giving whatever information is necessary for the audience to see the song from a point of view that will nullify its offensiveness.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Dick Wisan
Date: 19 Aug 97 - 12:34 PM

>.All the same "darky" is a terrible word. Not as >.hateful as "nigger," but still condescending, >.insulting, patronizing. So what do you do?

Come to think of it, is there any word Foster could have used that would not have been condescending, insulting, whatever? When attitudes towards a thing are wrong, no word for it will be right.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Dick Wisan
Date: 19 Aug 97 - 12:37 PM

(oops, pardon the bungle. Should have been:

>.All the same "darky" is a terrible word. Not as
>.hateful as "nigger," but still condescending,
>.insulting, patronizing. So what do you do?

Come to think of it, is there any word Foster could have used that would not have been condescending, insulting, whatever? When attitudes towards a thing are wrong, no word for it will be right.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Coralena
Date: 19 Aug 97 - 01:19 PM

Jerry Friedman- "It's ironic to see Coralena object to rewriting folk songs--where do they come from, after all? But I know that's not what she meant."

Jerry, what do YOU mean by "where do they come from, after all"?

If you were implying that folks do turn and twist and sometimes add their own touch to a song, well, I am aware of that and I plead gulity to that assault on a number of songs. What I object to is rewriting songs and or history. A college professor at the university that my nephew attended told the class that President Nixon attempted a military take over of the goverment and not one student in that class doubted him. Check out a history book or any of the books that are being used to teach the children of this country, you will be shocked. Have you read "1984"? Also, though I am gulity as stated before(singing only for my own amusement),it does bother me when someones' work is tampered with. What a person writes, a song or be it a poem, is a child of that person, born of their laboring of their soul and we should not hack at that and try to change it but apperciate it for what it is and create our own "work" to express ourselves.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Bert Hansell
Date: 19 Aug 97 - 02:15 PM

It's a dilemma isn't it?

We don't have too many choices.

1. We can just not sing the songs and lose some good songs.
I know many songs that I don't sing because they are insulting to a certain group of people. (e.g. songs from "The Exit Visa")

2. We can change a word or phrase so that we don't offend people.
I sing one or two of these, just changing a word or omitting a verse here and there. ("I'm glad we had a nice quiet day")3. We can sing them regardless of who we hurt.
I'm just not going to do that.

Bert


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Justin
Date: 19 Aug 97 - 03:27 PM

Hey, Ferrara,

I'm glad to see you are thinking about the problem and taking it seriously, but my suggestion is:

If it's a lousy song, don't sing it. If it's a good song then sing it as it was written, and if it has words like "darky" that you wouldn't use in everyday conversation, talk about that with the audience. It's a good chance to make a point and start people thinking.

In Foster's case, I don't think he was insensitive. Just the opposite. He used the word to make the song more poignant. In his songs, it is the voice of a slave using the word to describe himself and his friends and family, and it has all of the sadness and bitterness and irony of the man who accepts for his self image the worst of that to which his oppressors have subjected him.

To me, it's the use of the word "darky" that mkes the song so powerful and bitter. Without that word it dissolves into something trivial and not worth singing. If you can't sing it as it was written, just play the pretty melody.

The word, "nigger" in "Ol' Man River" has the same power for me. Of course, it takes a black man to sing it. Frank Sinatra, who did a very nice version, couldn't have used the word. Paul Robeson could, and did. In later years he kept changing the words in an evolution of the lyric that made a political statement (eventually, "I must keep fightin' until I'm dyin'" instead of, "I'm tired of livin' an feared of dyin'"). That was ok. More than ok, it was powerful and inspirational, but that doesn't mean the song itself should change. He didn't do it to improve the song. He was singing his own song.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Bert Hansell
Date: 19 Aug 97 - 04:06 PM

"talk about that with the audience. It's a good chance to make a point and start people thinking. "

Good point Justin.

Bert.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Jerry Friedman, jfriedman@nnm.cc.nm.us
Date: 20 Aug 97 - 04:20 PM

Coralena, I meant that "traditional" folk songs come from a continuous process of revision as they're passed down the generations. As members of the folk, we presumably all have the authority to rewrite them (though for those listeners who care about tradition, performers might want to be careful).


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Barry Finn
Date: 21 Aug 97 - 12:40 AM

I've never seen since I've been born a big buck nigger with his sea boots on

If you sub sailor for nigger it doesn't take from the song, the word was offensive not the content of the song. Ol Black Joe & the like had offensive themes & were propaganda of an oppressive society. Is this the only type of music that survived of those times. Can anyone rattle off the titles of songs by & about Blacks from the same period. Gone are the happy days, the days when my heart was young & gay, when I bounced some white kid on my knee after my own child was torn from my arms & sold or beaten in those pretty cotton fields. If you think this was about a gentle old dying slave thinking back on friends in the field & what a wonderfull life he'd had to resign himself to you missed the turn. I don't think Foster was insenitive, just ignorant, & was probly a victum of his own society, but he documented that society in his songs as did the Nazis in their treatment of the Jews (see earlier thread on Nazis treatment of Jewish songs). See Why Live Music, an oppressor starts by denying the oppressed of their culture, music is one of the first to be altered or denied, then language & beliefs. Would any say that the film that Hitler had taken of the Nazi terror, if done by a great or famous film maker a pice of art or masterpiece or the doctumention of a society gone mad. If the comparison is heavy handed, it's not that it's far fetched only sutle. Who was left to sing for the native Americans. Barry


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Jerry Friedman, jfriedman@nnm.cc.nm.us
Date: 21 Aug 97 - 01:58 PM

There are still about 2 million Native Americans (I think "Indigenous Americans" is a more accurate term) in the U. S. to sing for themselves. Fortunately, and no credit to the people who wiped the others out. Of course, there are a number of tribes with nobody left.

I looked again at the lyrics of "Old Black Joe" again, especially the third verse, and I can see what you're talking about, Barry. The word "free" is particularly ironic. I still think it can be performed with some disclaimer such as, "This song was written about slaves, but a lot of it has nothing to do with the slave experience (except that undoubtedly some slaves did look forward to death). On the other hand, the song still means something to people whose hearts were 'happy and free', so we still like to sing it."


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Ole Bull
Date: 20 Sep 97 - 01:23 PM

And who sings for the thousands of colonists who were tortured alive, butchered or taken into the wilderness by the native americans who were not troubled by the concepts of racial genocide; the farmers and particuarly the wives and babies who suffered so. This is a part of our history which we convieniently forget, ignore or pretend that did not exist. When my genealogical reseach on my own family turned up a dozen or so victems my eyes were opened. Not to get off the subject, please note the importance these "Ethiopian" (minstrel) songs (and plays)were in setting the foundation of our popular culture, no matter what you feel about the use of colloquialisms well accepted in that day. Immagine how they would judge the verbal content of today's popular music.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From:
Date: 20 Sep 97 - 04:58 PM

I agree with you Ole Bull, but would also add this thought. All the PC types who edit or ban the Minstrel tunes in the name of "Racial Sensitivity" often end up hurting the people they're trying to protect. I am reminded that here in Virginia they've banned the state song "Carry Me back to Ole Virginny" which was written by James Bland, a black man. He died in obscurity in Philadelphia in 1911 and was buried in the the Merion Cemetery outside the city, his grave forgotten and overgrown with weeds. In 1946 the Governor of Virginia William Tuck headed a delegation to the cemetery where a new granite monument was raised and a wreath placed in memory of the author of "Carry me back to Ole Virginny". The PC zealots have effectively relegated James Bland to obscurity again where he will be forgotten except to those of us...Black and White who still remember his songs like "Oh, Dem Golden Slippers" and "In the Evening by the Moonlight". As others have mentioned, they will not stop till "Old Kentucky Home" and "Swanee River" are removed from the popular lexicon. I for one favor the disclaimer routine...explain to the audience the nature and history of the tune...warn the "faint of heart" about the words, then give them two minutes to leave. Then let 'er rip as the composer intended.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Earl
Date: 20 Sep 97 - 05:57 PM

I think it's important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. First seperate the songs that were hateful from the ones that were merely naive. I can't think of any Stephen Foster song that were hateful. Preserve the originals in books but to sing them I think it's up to each individual singer to decide what words he or she will sing. Many of these songs, including "Ole Black Joe," are beautiful songs and should not be lost.

Minstrel songs were the begining of American pop music. There were minstel songs written by blacks for a pop audience. Also, blues songs and other songs by blacks for a black audiences in the 1920s and 30s would refer to differences between black people, brown people, yellow people, and white people. They would also on occasion use the "N" word. No one has ever minded that these songs were altered to sing to a modern audience. Often "white folks" was changed to "rich folks", reflecting the politcal agenda of folkies in the forties.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Jeri Corlew
Date: 20 Sep 97 - 09:50 PM

Regarding the whole issue of altering lyrics to be more politically sensitive: Societies have a tendency to try to cover up things that make people uncomfortable. If we do enough of this, eventually all the mistakes will just "disappear" like they never happened. Years from now, somebody will claim that no person with dark skin and hair was ever referred to as "nigger", because if they had, there would surely be examples in the songs of that day.

An explanation of the use of derogative terms is definitely needed in performances. Also perhaps a mention that the terms did not have the same name-calling power that they have today. I believe the "n" word (I'm not typing it twice) was commonly (if insensitively) used without hostility (but with obvious disrespect).

Hopefully, society will some day look upon racism as a strange, terrible, inexplicable part of our past.

Jeri


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Barry
Date: 20 Sep 97 - 11:17 PM

Hi Jeri, see ya in spring & hope you had a good trip back. It's not so much the song , the singer or the writer, it was the society that was represented (or resented). A white guy unaware of the plight of the slave (as most were at the time, due to wearing blinders), writing from his own social veiw, about a cultural group, of which he did not understand. His lack of such would help to continue the same veiws held by his peers, therefore reinforcing a myth & misconception of this culture, which would be continuiously be reinforced time & time again, until as already said above, it didn't happen, as they are now saying about Hitler. As for the colonizing colonist, they did pretty well passing on their songs, wealth, good genes, tradition & etc. while depriving others of theirs. As an invading group we certainly were met with less harshness, than had we imposed ourselves on another colonizing society (say England). As for the minstrel show/song they were another sad misrepresention of this society that lasted around 100 yrs. , that was developed by blacks (but not for blacks), and came to be taken as a truth by many black & white over the years. Al Jolson became darker the lighter he got.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Ole Bull
Date: 21 Sep 97 - 10:41 AM

Sorry Barry I can't understand what you're talking about. Whites didn't understand slavery? Nor "Uncle Tom's Cabin" nor the Civil War? Puritan colonists were treated less harshly than those who invaded England, like the Danes, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Normans &c.? Here in New England aboriginal song & culture gets plenty of stage time from what I can see. The neat thing about an interest in old songs is that it can be a focal point in the study of history and social conditions. But some people should maybe spend less time singing and more time reading. I think that "they" understood far better than "we".


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Old Cornmeal
Date: 21 Sep 97 - 09:54 PM

Sounds to me like Barry is doing a fine job of clinging to some modern stereotypes of his own...eh Perfesser Bull?


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Barry
Date: 21 Sep 97 - 11:50 PM

Bull & Cornmeal, I'm not against these songs, but I will not foster the picture painted by Foster, if I chose to sing a song I do try to inform myself before I try to inform others, & some of his stuff was very misleading- as to how a darky would pine for the good ol life as a slave on his death bed & take comfort that his blessed being will be in the glorious company of those he played with in those peaceful cotton fields of home. I don't think I'm being sterotypical here, there were many reasons as to why Jim Crow's live was so long. Bull, I do think whites understood slavery, they didn't understand or care about the black except as a farm animal. As for colonist colonizing here, I meant they were treated better (for a invading culture) by the existing peoples, than they would've been had they tried it somewhere else. Before the last decade I hadn't notice much in the way of stage time for their song or culture. May be you could start a thread on all the songs, from these two groups, that survived & came from their culture & experence. Lomax mentioned that when he started collecting in the south, he'd get sung minstrel show stuff that would be making light or fun of the singers themselves & how he was expected to enjoy this self humiliation, because it was just as much expected from the listener as it was from the singer, and so the circle continues. Barry Finn


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Subject: Lyr Add: NELLIE WAS A LADY (Stephen Foster)
From: Earl
Date: 22 Sep 97 - 12:56 AM

It's unfortunate that Stephen Foster lived in a time when he felt he needed to fill his songs with "darky" imagery. Change "dark Virginny bride" to "young Virginia bride" and this would be an honest emotinal song for anyone to sing.

Nellie Was a Lady
(Stephen Foster)

Down on the Mississippi floatin
Long time I traveled on the way
All night the cottonwood a totin
Sing for my true love all the day

(Chorus)
Nellie was a lady
last night she died
Toll the bell for lovely Nell
My dark Virginnny bride

Now I'm unhappy and I'm weepin
Can't tote the cottonwood no more
Last night when Nellie was a sleepin
Death come a knockin at the door

Chorus

When I saw my Nellie in the morning
Smiled till she opened up her eyes
Seemed like the light of day a dawning
Just 'fore the sun begin to rise

Chorus

Down in the meadow on the clover
Walked with my Nellie by my side
Now all them happy days are over
Farewell my dark Virginny bride


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Joe Offer
Date: 22 Sep 97 - 03:12 AM

Well, Earl, there are some Stephen Foster songs that don't need changing at all. I think "Nellie Was a Lady" is one of those. I really love "Old Black Joe," and I kind of identified with it since it's one of the nicest songs with the name "Joe" in it - but it is uncomfortable to sing it in many situations, because the small-minded could view the singer as prejudiced.

You know, as a theology major who claims to be a liberal, I have similar problems with St. Paul. My personal opinion is that Paul was disgustingly sexist - but you have to look past his flaws to see all the profound ideas he expressed. Maybe that's our problem - we won't listen to others unless they fit our definition of "perfect," and we ourselves are the only ones who come close to our definition. It's easy to demonize people - it's much harder to see the good in them. Overall, I'd say Stephen Foster wrote a lot of songs that should be preserved.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Earl
Date: 22 Sep 97 - 12:19 PM

I have a CD of Stephen Foster song sung by some contemprary classical singers. Most of the songs have nothing to do with race but it does contain "Ole Black Joe" and a few others that may be considered objectionable. Interestingly, the only lyrics they changed were in "Camptown Races" where "Gwine to run all night" became "Goin to run all night". Maybe more acceptible but it doesn't sound quite right.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Jon W.
Date: 22 Sep 97 - 01:24 PM

Let us not forget the major role that white northern European male dominated society played in the abolition of slavery in the USA and world wide. The British (including at that time the Canadians) were among the first to renounce slavery (Scots and Irishmen, feel free to disagree) and provide safe harbor for the few African-american slaves who were able to escape. Despite that they are now despised by the PC bunch as colonists and imperialists. The Union troops who bled and died to abolish the institution should not be excoriated because their army was not integrated. People are products of their time and circumstances, and if we are seeking better understanding of historical facts, we ought to know someting about the people's feelings, attitudes, and beliefs. Folklore, songs and stories in particular, are usually accurate mirrors of the (often anonymous) author's attitudes and should be recognized and preserved as such.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Bert
Date: 22 Sep 97 - 03:16 PM

"Folklore, songs....., are usually accurate mirrors of the ..... author's attitudes"

I feel that they also they reflect the singers' attitudes, so I will continue to try to avoid singing songs that will offend people.

For example, when I worked in the Middle East I heard a lot of parodies that were offensive to Arabs and Islam. You won't hear me singing them either.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Jerry Friedman
Date: 22 Sep 97 - 03:46 PM

Ole Bull (are you a fiddler?) writes:
>And who sings for the thousands of colonists who were tortured alive, butchered or taken into the wilderness by the native >americans who were not troubled by the concepts of racial genocide; the farmers and particuarly the wives and babies who >suffered so. This is a part of our history which we convieniently forget, ignore or pretend that did not exist.

When I was in school 25 years ago, this was far from forgotten--indeed it was emphasised much more than the number of Indians killed. I don't know how things have changed.

Certainly all those killings should not be forgotten. But it's also worth remembering that contact with the Europeans and European-Americans slowly reduced the indigenous population of the Americas by 90%, through outright massacre, war, starvation, disease (which toward the end of the process some whites spread deliberately), and despair caused by bereavement and cultural destruction. The death toll during the past 500 years has been over 100 million. (This information is from an article in Science magazine a few years ago; it called the deaths of the indigenous Americans due to European settlement the greatest disaster in history.)

Of course this doesn't make the deaths of Ole Bull's ancestors any less sad or painful. Here a Navajo friend of mine might say that you can't rank suffering, that you can't say a million deaths outweigh a thousand. (Folk music provides good examples--a song protesting a fare increase on the Boston subway may be more popular than one about the Battle of the Somme.)

As for whether whites understood the plight of the slaves--I think it's obvious that initially most didn't, or why would Uncle Tom's Cabin and abolitionist speakers like Frederick Douglass have had any effect at all? What they did was open people's eyes. There was a gradual increase of awareness from the seventeenth century when slavery was widely accepted through 1865 when it was outlawed--and the attitudes that made slavery possible are still found, though rarely. However, I believe it's now possible to sing "Old Black Joe" looking at those attitudes critically rather than adopting them.


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Subject: RE: Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exits
From: Ole Bull
Date: 22 Sep 97 - 07:56 PM

It is most refreshing to see that this group is quite thought-provoking and also tolerant. Some would not respond so articulately. Thanks for your interesting conversation. You may think me unsensitive but why (in Foster's context) should "dark Virginny bride" be offensive? I find it to be quite empathetic and a sincere affectionate display. Who even today considers dark skin to be a slur (it's often a complement). Am I to think that whites should not be poetical about the saddness and conditions of another race?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Old Black Joe (Stephen Foster)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 01 Oct 13 - 04:27 PM

An excellent rendition of this song by Kenneth Spencer, bass, is available on youtube.
An African-American, Kenneth Spencer is little known today. Most recordings of his songs currently available, on vinyl, are German. He sings spirituals and Foster songs in German; interesting to listen to (youtube).


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Old Black Joe (Stephen Foster)
From: GUEST,kendall
Date: 02 Oct 13 - 06:02 AM

I remember singing Old Black Joe in grade school, and thinking, "This is sad", others thought it was funny.We had no black people in our town so they were not real.

Except for the hateful ones, which should be avoided, I think you can't change history, and some songs serve to support that old saying, "No man ever needs be a total failure; he can always serve as a bad example."


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Old Black Joe (Stephen Foster)
From: Jim McLean
Date: 02 Oct 13 - 06:55 AM

Some years ago I was researching Scottish melodies and found Old Black Joe was very similar to the Scottish tune "Saw ye My Father" also known as "The Grey Cock". The spiritual "Saw ye my Saviour" was printed many years before Stephen Foster wrote OBJ and was undoubtably used by him for OBJ.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Old Black Joe (Stephen Foster)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 02 Oct 13 - 12:49 PM

Looking at the scores, the resemblance is slight and seems purely coincidental.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Old Black Joe (Stephen Foster)
From: Jim McLean
Date: 02 Oct 13 - 01:46 PM

Writing in The Musical Quartely, Jan - Oct 1936, George Pullen Jackson says, "The tune of the religious song above, Saw ye my Saviour, is the old Scotch air Saw ye my father or Grey Cock, according to Gilchrist (Publications of the (English) Folk Song Society, vol Vlll) and is found in both Scotch and Enlish versions. In 1834 the same appeared in Foster's own state in the German Kirchen-Harmonie, Chambersburg, Penna., p. 42, under the title Lobet den Shopfer." Jackson was comparing Old Black Joe with the melody of Saw ye my Savior.
He goes on to write ".... other echoes of the same old Scotch folk-tune appear in .....".
I noticed many examples of Scottish melodies used by Foster, too numerous and thread drifting to print here.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Old Black Joe (Stephen Foster)
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 03 Oct 13 - 01:39 PM

There's as much and as little reason for anyone to object to old Black Joe as there would be to a song about old Joe who as bald, or had a beard.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Old Black Joe (Stephen Foster)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 04 Oct 13 - 06:14 PM

Additional versions of "Grey Cock- Saw Ye My Father and "The Lover's Ghost posted.
Melodies (inc. scores in Bronson) bear little resemblance to the score of "Old Black Joe," except that they are all composed for verse in quatrains.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Old Black Joe (Stephen Foster)
From: Jim McLean
Date: 05 Oct 13 - 08:56 AM

I'm sorry, Q, but the first four bars of "Saw ye my Saviour", for instance, are almost identical to OBJ.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Old Black Joe (Stephen Foster)
From: Jim McLean
Date: 05 Oct 13 - 09:11 AM

There are, by the way, a few songs called Saw ye my Saviour. I'm talking about the one set to the tune Crucifixion, #16 in Spritual Folk-Songs of Early America. It also occurs in Olive Leaf, p. 203, where it is called "a Scotch air".


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Old Black Joe (Stephen Foster)
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 05 Oct 13 - 11:10 AM

As a kid, I used to love Jerry Lee Lewis's version. It was on the flip side of one of his rockers!

Jerry Lee meets Old Black Joe!


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