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Origin: Venezuela (John Jacob Niles)

DigiTrad:
BLACK IS THE COLOR OF MY TRUE LOVE'S HAIR (1)
BONNY FARDAY
DOWN IN YON FORREST
I LEARNED ABOUT HORSES FROM HER
LASS FROM THE LOW COUNTRY
THE SMART SCHOOLBOY
VENEZUELA (PASS AWAY TIME IN)


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Proselytizing (55)
Lyr/Tune Add: The Deceived Girl -Child9 (1)
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Lyr Req: Venezuela (John Jacob Niles) (6)


GUEST,Ian HP 17 Jan 01 - 02:05 PM
Don Firth 17 Jan 01 - 05:07 PM
Ian HP 21 Jan 01 - 06:16 AM
dick greenhaus 21 Jan 01 - 10:48 AM
Deckman 21 Jan 01 - 11:10 AM
Charley Noble 12 Oct 12 - 04:57 PM
GUEST,Lighter 12 Oct 12 - 05:10 PM
Charley Noble 13 Oct 12 - 10:46 AM
GUEST,Beachcomber 15 Oct 12 - 10:19 AM
GUEST,999 15 Oct 12 - 10:30 AM
GUEST 15 Oct 12 - 10:50 AM
MGM·Lion 15 Oct 12 - 11:54 AM
MGM·Lion 15 Oct 12 - 12:01 PM
GUEST 16 Oct 12 - 07:54 AM
GUEST,Beachcomber 16 Oct 12 - 08:08 AM
Charley Noble 16 Oct 12 - 09:12 AM
GUEST,Beachcomber 17 Oct 12 - 08:08 AM
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Subject: VENEZUELA - authorship
From: GUEST,Ian HP
Date: 17 Jan 01 - 02:05 PM

On the Mudcat database it says that VENEZUELA was written by John Jacob Niles. I have sources that say it is English trad. Can anyone shed any light on this? Recordings, collections, etc.?


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Subject: RE: VENEZUELA - authorship
From: Don Firth
Date: 17 Jan 01 - 05:07 PM

I can't vouch for this story, but here is what I've heard:

John Jacob Niles said that while he was sitting in some bistro in Marseilles, he heard a group of Barbados sailors (what Barbados sailors were doing in Marseilles, I'm not sure) singing Venezuela, and he learned it from them. Some years later, Burl Ives recorded the song, but apparently didn't properly credit Niles. Niles sued him for breach of copyright and won! Ives said, "I thought you said you learned it from a bunch of sailors." Niles responded, "I lied! I wrote it!"

When Richard Dyer-Bennet sang a concert in Seattle a few decades ago, he alluded to this incident and told the audience that, true or not, he is always very careful to give proper credit to John Jacob Niles before he sings the song.

Niles claimed to have written a large number of songs that everybody assumes are traditional, including Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair, despite the fact that there is ample evidence that most of these songs were kicking around in one form or another long before Niles chose to grace our planet with his presence. Good songs. Interesting singer. Strange Man. He gave a whole new dimension to the expression "credibility gap."

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: VENEZUELA - authorship
From: Ian HP
Date: 21 Jan 01 - 06:16 AM

Mmm. Thanks, Don. This confirms what I and, now I realise, many others thought of the man, as illustrated by previous Mudcat thread I've discovered. Thanks.


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Subject: RE: VENEZUELA - authorship
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 21 Jan 01 - 10:48 AM

Just a few words in JJs defense: He recorded in a time when one couldn't sell a record of this type of material unless it was called "folk". A bit later he realized that he couldn't make any money from other people singing his somgs unless he claimed authorship.

Certainly, his claims are not reliable from a scholarship perspective. But is this so different from Oscar Brand copyrighting Yankee Doodle or Pete Seeger copyrighting Cindy? In anycase, he wrote (or adapted) and introduced some fine songs.


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Subject: RE: VENEZUELA - authorship
From: Deckman
Date: 21 Jan 01 - 11:10 AM

Also to Niles credit, listen sometime to his artful phrasing. If you can get used to his conter tenor range, and I like his voice, you'll soon hear that his phrasing of the words is utterly (sorry about that) perfect. He's worth studying. CHEERS, Bob Nelson


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Subject: RE: Origin: Venezuela (John Jacob Niles)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 12 Oct 12 - 04:57 PM

Don-

"John Jacob Niles said that while he was sitting in some bistro in Marseilles, he heard a group of Barbados sailors (what Barbados sailors were doing in Marseilles, I'm not sure) singing Venezuela, and he learned it from them."

You've got the story about right. I just picked up a book edited by John J. Niles titled Songs My Mother Never Taught Me, The Macaulay Co., New York, © 1929, pp. 114-118. Niles collected the songs while he was a World War 1 pilot hanging out with friends in Boulogne, France. They "...encountered some officers of a Venezuelan sailing vessel. The officer were white, but the crew were mostly black -- Barbadoes -- who spoke English much better than a lot of us whites, and sang bewitchingly." Their ship was called the Alcadel." Niles only wrote down four of the many verses which were sung that night.

In no way does Niles claim authorship of this song in his book.

I had no idea that John Jacob Niles had served as a pilot in World War 1. At the same used bookshop in Richmond, Virginia, I picked up another songbook he had edited titled Singing Soldiers, © 1927, primarily work songs of Black soldiers.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origin: Venezuela (John Jacob Niles)
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 12 Oct 12 - 05:10 PM

In support of Niles's claim is the fact that no earlier version of "Venezuela" has ever been found in any form.

Another one from the same book is "He-Hey, Why do We Pay?" It would take some very fast talking to persuade me that this was a "traditional" song.

I suspect that even with the help of co-editor Doug Moore, Niles couldn't fill up a whole book with genuine American soldier songs of WW1, particularly the printable kind. So he occasionally made up his own in what he took to be the proper spirit.

A few songs from the book are sung in the background of the 1932 movie "Ace of Aces," starring Richard Dix.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Venezuela (John Jacob Niles)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 13 Oct 12 - 10:46 AM

Lighter-

I suspect that Niles didn't record many of the songs he collected exactly as they were sung; he was writing them down as he was listening to them, sometimes not in the best performing space. Sometimes he was able to interview the singers afterwards and clarify the words. The songs themselves were not necessarily "traditional" but more likely topical: labor songs or blues songs whose verses changed from time to time depending on who was leading the song, and where it was being presented. This situation is not much different that the recording of "sea shanties," which tend to have a consistent first verse and chorus and then range all over the board with verses from other shanties and unique verses created on the spot.

I have no reason to believe that Niles composed any of the songs (or verses) of what he published in the two books mentioned above. He does mention his regret at not being able to publish some of the more bawdy verses, an admission which should not be surprising given the prevailing censorship of bawdy lyrics in the 1920s.

I do agree that later in his career that Niles composed some songs that he initially claimed to be traditional.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: Origins: (To Pass away the time in) VENEZUELA
From: GUEST,Beachcomber
Date: 15 Oct 12 - 10:19 AM

Venezuela was written , according to the archive (linked above) by one John Jacob Niles, but does anyone know what the origin of the song is ?
I first heard it many years ago from a yachting friend who sang it in a rather plaintive fashion , accompanying himself on mandolin. I haven't heard a commercial recording of it.It would hardly pass muster as a Politically Correct lyric nowadays ?


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Subject: RE: Origins: (To Pass away the time in) VENEZUELA
From: GUEST,999
Date: 15 Oct 12 - 10:30 AM

http://sniff.numachi.com/pages/tiVENZUELA;ttVENZUELA.html

That will take you to lyrics and music notation if you need them, and even if ya don't :-).


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Subject: RE: Origins: (To Pass away the time in) VENEZUELA
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Oct 12 - 10:50 AM

It is also done a few times on Youtube.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Venezuela (John Jacob Niles)
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 15 Oct 12 - 11:54 AM

new thread on this topic just started. Worth combining them, Elves?


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Subject: RE: Origins: (To Pass away the time in) VENEZUELA
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 15 Oct 12 - 12:01 PM

There is another, older, thread, recently refreshed and added to, currently going on. I have suggested to the elves on that one that this might be combined with it.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Origin: Venezuela (John Jacob Niles)
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Oct 12 - 07:54 AM

Tommy Makem recorded a nice version of this song. Helps to be a good singer to perform it. Regardless of who wrote it, it's a great song.
-Rand.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Venezuela (John Jacob Niles)
From: GUEST,Beachcomber
Date: 16 Oct 12 - 08:08 AM

Terrific, It's great to get all this information about a song that has been rattling (lightly) around my brain for many years. Thanks to all who bothered to respond.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Venezuela (John Jacob Niles)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 16 Oct 12 - 09:12 AM

Beachcomber-

At times Mudcat really does a great job of tracking down the origins of a song. Sometimes it takes years, ten years in this case, to do the job. Happy to hear that you appreciate our work.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origin: Venezuela (John Jacob Niles)
From: GUEST,Beachcomber
Date: 17 Oct 12 - 08:08 AM

I do indeed appreciate the "service" that Mudcat provides and all from a willingness to be helpful to strangers by " strangers," in many cases.
It's not the first time I have had reason to be grateful to you, thanks Charley and all Mudcatters.


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