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'In the Pines' revisited

DigiTrad:
IN THE PINES
IN THE PINES (BLACK GIRL)


Related threads:
Lyr Req: In the Pines (14)
Chord Req: In The Pines: Joan Baez version (6)
Lyr Add: In the Pines (Joan Baez/Leadbelly?) (23)
Lyr Req: The Longest Train (7)
To the Pines, To the Pines (14)
Lyr Req: In the Pines (from Jimmie Davis) (11)


Suffet 02 Sep 01 - 08:24 AM
GUEST,leeneia 02 Sep 01 - 10:21 AM
Jeri 02 Sep 01 - 10:37 AM
Jeri 02 Sep 01 - 11:02 AM
Art Thieme 02 Sep 01 - 11:03 AM
marty D 02 Sep 01 - 01:24 PM
Suffet 02 Sep 01 - 09:43 PM
Stewie 02 Sep 01 - 09:58 PM
Mudlark 02 Sep 01 - 11:15 PM
Amos 02 Sep 01 - 11:30 PM
Steve Parkes 03 Sep 01 - 10:44 AM
Amos 03 Sep 01 - 10:47 AM
Art Thieme 03 Sep 01 - 02:31 PM
Stewie 03 Sep 01 - 07:32 PM
Folkdoctor 03 Sep 01 - 11:18 PM
Suffet 03 Sep 01 - 11:47 PM
Ell 04 Sep 01 - 12:11 AM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 04 Sep 01 - 12:17 AM
GUEST,TennevaRamblersfan 22 Mar 04 - 01:35 AM
Mark Ross 22 Mar 04 - 05:46 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 22 Mar 04 - 06:20 PM
Stewie 22 Mar 04 - 07:25 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 22 Mar 04 - 08:24 PM
harpgirl 22 Mar 04 - 09:22 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 23 Mar 04 - 09:52 AM
Scoville 23 Mar 04 - 07:23 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 23 Mar 04 - 08:39 PM
Goose Gander 03 Feb 06 - 04:42 PM
Suffet 05 Feb 06 - 05:39 PM
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Subject: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: Suffet
Date: 02 Sep 01 - 08:24 AM

Yesterday afternoon I heard Eric Levine (of the Disabled in Action Singers) sing "Black Girl" ("In the Pines") while accompnaying himself on a 12-string guitar in the style of Leadbelly. Eric introduced the song with a claim that I have never heard before: the story line is set against the background of a lynching. Consider, for example, this stanza:

Your daddy was a railroad man,
Died a mile and a half from town,
His head was found in the driver wheels,
And his body it never was found.

Note that in some versions it is the "husband" rather than the "daddy" who dies, and in some versions "His head was found round the firebox door" instead of "in the driver wheels." In any case, I had presumed that the father ("daddy") or lover (also "daddy" in colloquial) or husband had perished in a grisly railroad accident. But if that were the case, so Eric argues, why was the body never found? Even if he were decapitated in the accident, the man's remains would be somewhere in the wreckage.

On the other hand, according to Eric, if this were a lynching, anything could have happened. Burning lynching victims, whether dead or still alive, was common, and the ashes could have been left to scatter. Even if the victim weren't burnt, the body could have been buried in the woods, dumped in a lake, left for the animals, etc. Furthermore, the mutilation of lynching victims was also common. Cutting off the hands, the genitals, and even the head are all well documented practices.

Now let me take Eric's scenario a little further. If the father/lover/husband were a railroad man, maybe the mob tossed his head onto the tracks (where it was "found in the driver wheels") or into the cab of a locomotive (where it was "found round the firebox door") as a way of sending a message to the local black populace ("don't think you're more than a n----- just because you got a job on the railroad") or to the railroad compnay ("don't even think of hiring a n----- to do a white man's job").

Finally lets consider the dialogue of the song. The man asks:

Black girl, black girl, don't lie to me,
Tell me where did you sleep last night?

And the woman replies:

In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines,
And I shivered the whole night through.


In light of the lynching scenario, this is no mere tale of a suspicious boyfriend. This instead is the story of a woman who is haunted by terrifying memories. She is frightened, not deceitful. Maybe she heard, saw, or imagined something that led to to believe that the mob was returning for her this time. Her response was to hide out deep in the woods all night. And instead of giving her comfort and support, her boyfriend badgers her with questions and ultimately does not believe her answer.

In any event, whether or not we accept the lynching premise, this is a song which brings together race, sex, jealousy, death, and trains. In other words, it's a nearly perfect American folk song. No wonder it is so enduring.

---- Steve


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 02 Sep 01 - 10:21 AM

1. I think this is mostly the human propensity for making trouble asserting itself again. Why, if someone wanted to disguise a lynching, would they put a head in the wheels of a train, where it would be noticed? Why would a train be standing around unmanned in a podunk town waiting to accept a head?

2. If you have ever tried to compose rhymes, you would discover that it's really hard. They probably rhymed "town" and "found" out of desperation. Where did this verse come from, anyway? Maybe somebody was sick and tired of the verse from the Folk Song ABCDEary which refers to a train wreck and doesn't rhyme at all.

3. If you have ever ridden country roads across the eastern U.S., you will have noticed that a grove of big pines outlined against the sky means that there's a cemetary there. The "girl" of the song is mourning for someone, or she's depressed, and she spent the night among the pines.

4. I've noticed before, that a lot of men can't stand for a song to be out a woman, and they've got to change it to be about their own kind. Changing "husband" to "daddy" is related to this trend. It diminishes to woman to a kid.


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: Jeri
Date: 02 Sep 01 - 10:37 AM

In the Pines (Black Girl)
and
In The Pines from the Kossoy Sisters.

The first definitely has the dead man as "father." The lines

"You caused me to weep, you caused me to moan
You caused me to leave my home"
coupled with
"The longest train I ever saw
Was a hundred coaches long
And the only boy I ever loved
Is on that train and gone."
Lead me to think the "you" is the boy, and he killed her father and took off on the train. Of course, the boy may have left town out of fear.

Here's a question: If the girl knows the father/daddy got killed a mile and a half from town, AND he was killed in a train accident, his body, or bits of it, should have been found. In other words: location of death known, location of body, unknown.

The second has no murder/death, but has a man singing about a woman who's apparently in love with some guy who lives out in the woods and gives her dresses.

I'm not so sure about cemetaries and pines - I haven't noticed a connection. Pines are all over the place where I live. It sounds more like a pine forest to me - especially since the girl says she's going to go live there. Steve, do you have any information on the history of the song?


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Subject: Lyr Add: The Longest Train
From: Jeri
Date: 02 Sep 01 - 11:02 AM

(Sorry, Joe - I didn't want to repost the whole song again, but it looks like this one was missed.)

There's also The Longest Train, another version in which it's the girl, Evaline, who's killed in a train wreck.

I think part of the reason the song has survived as "In The Pines/Black Girl" is because of what's left out. There are mysteries. Some folks will think about what isn't said, and others will use their imagination to fill in the blanks. Maybe that's what makes a perfect folks song!


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: Art Thieme
Date: 02 Sep 01 - 11:03 AM

Most of the verses are zipper verses and can be found in other songs like "Corrina Corrina" and variations thereof), "The F.F.V." (and other railroad wreck songs), "St. James Infirmary" (and variations thereof) etc. etc. --------- Maybe even "The Crawdaddy Song" might be included here also. That would make the song about BAIT---even sushi---and not what you might think on first glance at all.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: marty D
Date: 02 Sep 01 - 01:24 PM

Right you are, Art.

Boy, this reminds me of an interviewer asking Paul McCartney about the 'true' meaning of a song. Sir Paul said 'well I was pretty stoned at the time, and mostly I wanted words that rhymed!'

Bill Monroe's great forties version sure wasn't about lynching.

marty


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: Suffet
Date: 02 Sep 01 - 09:43 PM

I began this thread because I am fascinated with Eric Levine's interpretation. I would never claim that it is the "true" meaning of the song, any more than I would claimm that it is the only possible interpretation.

If there were a lynching, the decapitation would occur because the mob was making a statement of contempt or warning. There would, therefore, be no attempt to conceal the act.

--- Steve


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: Stewie
Date: 02 Sep 01 - 09:58 PM

To muddy the waters a little more, see Paul Oliver's 'Songsters & Saints' page 20 for a discussion of Peg Leg Howell's 'Rolling Mill Blues' that was recorded for Columbia in April 1929. Oliver points out its lyrics appear to have derived from a song cluster in the white tradition that included 'In the Pines' and 'The Longest Train'. The headless body is 'lovin' Corinne' and linked to a mining train accident. Here is Oliver's partial transcription:

The rollin' mill, babe it done broke down
Ain't no shippin' no iron to town

The longest train I ever seen
Run round Joe Brown's coal mine

The engine was at the coal mine hill
And the captain never left town

The train run off the track last night
And it killed my lovin' Corinne

Her head was found in the drivin' wheel
And her body have never been seen

Oliver goes on to refer to Judith McCulloh's unpublished Ph.D thesis for Indiana University (1970), titled 'In the Pines: The Melodic-Textual Identity of an American Lyric Folk-Song Cluster', which was based on the study of 160 variants of the song on record and in print. McCulloh believes the mine references were to mines in Dade County, Georgia, owned by Governor Joseph Emerson Brown in the 1870s. She suggests the railroad accident with the gruesome headless body image probably originated in the Reconstruction period. In Oliver's words, 'Howell was synthesising verses that had been in currency for over half a century'.

For a discussion of the interweaving of the songs 'The Longest Train', 'In the Pines', 'Reuben's Train', 'Train 45' and '900 Miles' see Norm Cohen 'Long Steel Rail' Uni of Illinois Press pp 491-517.

--Stewie


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: Mudlark
Date: 02 Sep 01 - 11:15 PM

Since the version I learned, about 45 years ago, included the verse

Can't get no letter, can't hear from my home, makes a long-time man feel bad

it always just seemed to me a great collection of mournful verses....of a possibly unfaithful woman, a parent dying in a bad way, homesickness....and I've always liked it because of that, of all the questions it begs without answering any...


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: Amos
Date: 02 Sep 01 - 11:30 PM

Anyone can imagine a train accident which could result in a head being find near the driving wheel and the body never found. Well, the body not found without a lot of trouble. Drunk and sleeping on the tracks is one possible scenario, and walking home along them is another. And if we are talking about the husband of a Southern black girl from the Thirties or earlier, it is a good bet the body would be "never found" because the effort to find it just wasn't about to be expended on someone of so little concern to the authorities.

And if this "railroad man" -- which could mean anything from a trackwalker to a tie-hauler, and not necessarily an oiler, fireman or engineer -- was the sole support of his wife she might be sleeping in the pines out of depseration, having lost her ability to pay rent.

'Leastwise that's how I always imagined it.

I think it is drawing a long bow to impose the lynching metaphor across these verses, although I can understand the temptation.

A


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 03 Sep 01 - 10:44 AM

There was a film with, I think, James Cagney. A bunch of escaped cons stop a freight train. They execute a man by forcing his head between the spokes of a driving wheel and easing open the throttle so the train moves forwards a foot or two, and the con-rod does the business. You can imagine the details, I expect. (You have to if you watch the movie!)

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, ages ago. It must have been a convenient way of bumping people off. It would be less useful in te UK, as there are fewer handy stretches of unattended and unseen track.

Any views on this?


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: Amos
Date: 03 Sep 01 - 10:47 AM

Jeeze, what a gruesome way to kill a human. Not that there are many nice ways, aside from screwing his brains out, I guess...


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: Art Thieme
Date: 03 Sep 01 - 02:31 PM

Just two points:

1) Stewie---Judy McCulloh is now the head of the University Of Illinois press. This is too much coincidence.

2) The deceased person ought to've quit while they had a head.

Art


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: Stewie
Date: 03 Sep 01 - 07:32 PM

Art, I see what you mean. I did not have Cohen's book to hand when I made the above posting. Having now retrieved it, I note most of his 'Longest Train' chapter is a discussion of McCulloh's findings, and he gives her full credit for lightening his burden in annotating the song. He gives a full transcription of the Peg Leg Howell recording. I have it on an old Matchbox Bluesmaster LP (MSE 205), but it has probably been reissued on CD by Document.

For those who may not have ready access to Cohen or a recording, the rest of Howell's song is:

I didn't bring nothing to this old world
And I won't carry nothing away

It's late last night when my honey come home
I heard a rapping on her door

She got up in her stocking feet
Went tipping 'cross the floor

Tell me, pretty mama, what evil have I done
That make you treat me cold

I've killed no man and I've robbed no train
And I've done no hanging crime

The last sweet word I heard my baby say,
'What more babe can I do?

'I've done more for you than I'll ever do again
Goodbye, my love, goodbye'

Thus, Howell's lyric has components from a number of song themes.

More pertinent to the specific focus of this thread, Cohen gives a transcription of Dock Walsh's 1926 recording of 'In the Pines'. It includes the following couplets:

Now darling, now darling, don't tell me no lie
Where did you stay last night

I stayed in the pines, where the sun never shine
And I shivered when the cold wind blow

The train run back one mile from town
And killed my girl, you know

Her head was caught in the driver wheel
Her body I never could find

Walsh's text also later implies that a mining train was involved:

Oh, transportation has brought me here,
Take a money for to carry me away

Workers who signed up for the mines were given free transportation to the mine site, but had to pay their own way if they left.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: Folkdoctor
Date: 03 Sep 01 - 11:18 PM

Hi this is Eric Levine and it is an honor to roll such a long thread with Steve Suffet now here is my understanding.

1. I learned the song as a kid from a Leadbelly record, in the 6th grade I really had no interpertation, great fast bass runs.

2.Mabey about 30 years later I was in the Open house Coffee House run by Matt Jones the civil rights singer and a man came in who played and sang very well and used to work with Harry Belafonte. He gave as a scholorly introduction to In The Pines and said basically that is was a song about a lynching. All of a sudden those words made sense and the more I said them to myself the more sense it made.

I don't exactly remember which verses he sang but I know the Leadbelly Version. It is always possible for people in the folk process to change words and meanings, to reconstruct,to hide ,to use denial or any other DSM related action on the song or to just plain understand it differently. It is I am sure you know like a rumor that goes for decades or centuries. But I must say I was upset to hear "little girl" instead of "Black Girl" even as a kid that sounded wrong. Now there is a conference on racisim in South Africa and the USA just can not deal.

Folkies Folkies don't lie to me Tell me what were the words you heard

Thank you

Eric Levine


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: Suffet
Date: 03 Sep 01 - 11:47 PM

Eric, thanks. I, too, am uneasy when I hear "Black girl, black girl..." transformed into "My girl, my girl..." or into "Little girl, little girl..." It takes half the punch out of the song.

Is the song set against the background of a lynching? Could be. Even the background of the railroad accident is chilling enough. In either case, the father or lover or husband fell victim to something more than a random incident. He was killed by a social-economic system that led both to the speed-up (the reason for so many railroad and other industrial accidents) and to endemic lynching.

--- Steve


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: Ell
Date: 04 Sep 01 - 12:11 AM

I first heard this song sung by Long John Baldry, many years ago, when I was entirely ignorant about the blues, and it made a lasting impression on me. I was confused by the singer's hard and bitter words to a young woman who had obviously suffered a terrifying loss and then spent the night cowering in the cold and forbidding forest. The words,"Black girl, black girl, don't you lie to me..." sounded particularly shocking when sung by a white man, though of course I later realized that Baldry's sources were the original blues singers. The song stuck with me, and I eventually came to see that it evokes an existence where violence was sudden and unpredictable,even by today's standards. The undercurrent of fear in the lives of poor blacks at the time would have affected relationships at all levels, as writers like Toni Morrison have made clear. The explanation of the lynching makes perfect sense to me. The fact that it's not explicit adds to the power of the song, and blues singers were very familiar with the practise of encoding messages, just as the early gospel singers put their hope for freedom into gospel songs. As for the song being a "zipper song", the folk tradition is full of songs where old lines are used to new effect. This song seems to me to be far too bitter and powerful to be only about betrayed love.

Ellen

p.s. This is my first post, after lurking for a few weeks. This thread, and the one on "Raglan Road" made me really think.


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 04 Sep 01 - 12:17 AM

Four versions are on the Max Hunter site, all collected in Arkansas. They concern a man whose girl left him, or his jealousy because she accepted gifts from another man. I have always assumed that the song came from the piney woods of Arkansas-East Texas and the extension of that region into Missouri (no evidence, just a feeling). Versions quoted here with train verses seem to be a mixture, they do not hang together. "Black Girl" suggests that the tune was employed differently by whites and blacks to suit their disparate experiences. A third theme is the railroad and separation. A fourth is concerned with a railroad accident and a fifth with mines. There doesn't seem to be enough yet to indicate that a lynching was involved in any of the versions. This is all conjecture and unfortunately I don't have Cohen's book yet, but it does seem to be a folk song cluster as McCulloh proposes, with many strains by different versifiers. What is compelling about all the versions is the tune, which is haunting and memorable.


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited/ original version
From: GUEST,TennevaRamblersfan
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 01:35 AM

Yes, can anyone answer which version was recorded by Tenneva Ramblers in 1927?

Thanks!


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: Mark Ross
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 05:46 PM

There is a version on the RAILROAD IN FOLKSONG put out by RCA in the '60's, but I can't remember if the version used is by the Tenneva Ramblers or the Mainers. The interesting thing about this version is that although the melody seems to be sung in waltz time(3/4)the instrumental sounds like it's being played in 2/4. Is my memory and/or my hearing going bad?

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 06:20 PM

Don't have the Tenneva Rambler's version, but Norm Cohen, in "The Long Steel Rail," that their title was "The Longest Train I Ever Saw." He also says that their recording was the first to have the 'six-o'clock-nine o'clock' couplet,
The engine passed at six o'clock,
And the cab it passed at nine.

Clause Grant, a member of the Ramblers, said he had written the above couplet in Macon, GA, while the band was in a car waiting at a crossing for a 150-car train. See liner notes to Puritan 2001. From "The Long...," p. 496, in discussion of "The Longest Train."

It may have been mentioned before, but the 'Black Girl' verse was first collected in 1917 by Sharp and Karpeles, from Lizzie Abner, KY.


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: Stewie
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 07:25 PM

Guest, the Tenneva Ramblers' version is on the Country Music Foundation 2CD set of the Bristol Sessions. I can transcribe the lyrics some time if you want them - mostly floaters.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 08:24 PM

Lyr. Add: In the Pines
Dock Walsh version, 1926

In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shine,
And I shivered when the cold wind blow.

Oh, if I'd minded what grandma said,
Oh, where would I been tonight?

I'd-a been in the pines, where the sun never shine
And shivered when the cold wind blow.

The longest train I ever saw
Went down the Georgie line.

The engine it stopped at a six-mile post,
The cabin never left the town.

Now darling, now darling, don't tell me no lie,
Where did you stay last night?

I stayed in the pines, where the sun never shine,
And I shivered when the cold wind blow.

The prettiest little girl that I ever saw
Went walking down the line.

Her hair it was of a curly type,
Her cheeks was rosy red.

Now darling, now darling, don't tell me no lie,
Where did you stay last night?

I stayed in the pines, where the sun never shine,
And shivered when the cold wind blow.

The train run back one mile from town
And killed my girl, you know.

Her head was caught in the driver wheel,
Her body I never could find.

Oh, darling, oh darling, don't tell me no lie,
Where did you stay last night?

I stayed in the pines, where the sun never shine,
And I shivered when the cold wind blow.

The best of friends is to part sometimes,
And why not you and I?

Now darling, oh darling, don't tell me no lie,
Where did you stay last night?

I stayed in the pines, where the sun never shine,
And I shivered when the cold wind blow.

Oh, transportation has brought me here,
Take a money for to carry me away.

Oh darling, now darling, don't tell me no lie,
Where did you stay last night?

I stayed in the pines, where the sun never shine,
And I shiver when the cold wind blow.

April, 1926, first commercial recording, Dock Walsh, Columbia 15094-D; CS 9660.
Frank C. Brown obtained a text from Pearl Webb, North Carolina, in 1921-1922, that included the 'In the Pines,' longest train couplet, and 'transportation' verse. Other versions he collected in 1921 also had the couplet about the long train on the Georgia, Georgie, Georgy line.

Song and notes above all from "The Long Steel Rail," Norm Cohen, pp. 491-502.

This one also has not been transcribed into Mudcat.

The first recordings


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: harpgirl
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 09:22 PM

...interesting variant...rich... I mean Q!!!


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 09:52 AM

I'm sure this must have been mentioned already, but "Black Girl" was a big UK pop hit for a band( The Four Pennies"?) in the 60s.


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: Scoville
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 07:23 PM

RE: Jeri at the top of the thread.

The boy could have been in the baggage coach, too (in a coffin).


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 08:39 PM

The study by Judith McCulloh of 160 texts concluded that "The Longest Train" cluster and the "In the Pines" cluster once constituted two different songs that have been yoked (folked?) together. See "Long Steel Rail," Norm Cohen, p. 493.

Since everyone seems to want to add an interpretation-
Eliminating the train and the railroad accident, that leaves the In the Pines cluster, which I could speculate is a murder ballad. The boy found that the gal was cheating on him 'in the pines,' and he killed her. He wants to hightail it out of town but doesn't have the money for transportation. The cold wind- or is it the memory? causes him to shiver.
Naow ain't thet more likely?


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: Goose Gander
Date: 03 Feb 06 - 04:42 PM

I wonder if Little Red Bird could an ancestor of In the Pines . . . .


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Subject: RE: 'In the Pines' revisited
From: Suffet
Date: 05 Feb 06 - 05:39 PM

Greetings:

Whatever its antecedents, I still agree with Eric Levine and Matt Jones that the racialized version of In the Pines, the song which we call Black Girl, tells of a lynching.

--- Steve


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