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Lyr/Chords Req: Blackjack Oak (from Carolyn Hester

Genie 28 Jan 02 - 04:11 AM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 03 Feb 02 - 11:27 PM
Suffet 04 Feb 02 - 09:14 PM
Genie 04 Feb 02 - 11:53 PM
Jon Bartlett 05 Feb 02 - 12:23 AM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 05 Feb 02 - 12:44 AM
Genie 06 Feb 02 - 12:09 AM
Snuffy 06 Feb 02 - 08:41 AM
Dave Bryant 06 Feb 02 - 10:23 AM
Suffet 17 Feb 02 - 10:38 PM
Suffet 21 Feb 02 - 05:58 PM
Genie 23 Feb 02 - 03:16 AM
GUEST,Ray Phoenix 18 Jul 06 - 01:07 PM
GUEST,Taura Thomas 09 Dec 11 - 12:31 AM
Allan C. 09 Dec 11 - 06:05 AM
GUEST,starrywisdom 10 Dec 11 - 08:17 PM
GUEST,Guest 28 Jul 16 - 08:45 AM
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Subject: Black jack Oak
From: Genie
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 04:11 AM

I have an album of Carolyn Hester from ca. 1961 on which she sings "Blackjack Oak," which is a very haunting ballad. There are a few words that I cannot clearly understand in the lyrics and I wondered if someone has an authoritative (i.e., not just guessed) lyric sheet and, perhaps, the chords.

Also, the song is a bit cryptic and I wondered if someone knows any background on the song.

E.g, the song says "I must live in the blackjack oak till my child can have a name," and then later says, "He's gonna act like a hound let loose when he comes from that blackjack tree, and he's gonna walk in wild shoes all over Tennessee." These lyrics suggest but don't spell out an intriguing story. Maybe one of you knows the story.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: Black jack Oak
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Feb 02 - 11:27 PM

Reissued on her Tradition Album, through her website. Couldn't find any lyrics or chords.


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: Black jack Oak
From: Suffet
Date: 04 Feb 02 - 09:14 PM

I knew the words were familiar. They are from Stephen Vincent Benet's epic poem, John Brown's Body, and are sung by Melora, a young Tennessee mountain woman from a pro-Union family. Melora falls in love with and becomes pregnant by Eliot, a handsome Yankee soldier who is captured by the Confederates before he knows he is to be a father. So what else is new?

I believe the tune was written by Fenno Heath for a stage production of Benet's poem. Try searching under alternative titles, such as Melora or Melora's Song.

--- Steve


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: Black jack Oak
From: Genie
Date: 04 Feb 02 - 11:53 PM

Thanks for the background, Suffet.
The thing that puzzled me was the part about the mother living in the blackjack oak "till my child can have a name." I didn't understand how her living in the forest (?) would result in the child having a name. That suggested that parts of the story were missing.

Also, the lyrics seem to mention a plant (?) called "linsey" or "lindsey," but I wasn't sure of the lyric. That's partly why I was hoping someone could post the full lyrics.

Genie


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Subject: Lyr Add: LOVE CAME BY FROM THE RIVERSMOKE (Benet)
From: Jon Bartlett
Date: 05 Feb 02 - 12:23 AM

From "John Brown's Body", Bk 5:


Love came by from the riversmoke
When the leaves were fresh on the tree,
But I cut my heart on the blackjack oak
Before they fell on me.

The leaves are green in the early Spring,
They are brown as linsey now,
I did not ask for a wedding-ring
From the wind in the bending bough.

Fall lightly, lightly, leaves of the wild,
Fall lightly on my care,
I am not the first to go with child
Because of the blowing air.

I am not the first nor yet the last
To watch a goosefeather sky,
And wonder what will come of the blast
And the name to call it by.

Snow down, snow down, you whitefeather bird,
Snow down, you winter storm,
Where the good girls sleep with a gospel word
To keep their honor warm.

The good girls sleep in their modesty,
The bad girls sleep in their shame,
But I must sleep in the hollow tree
Till my child can have a name.

I will not ask for the wheel and thread
To spin the labor plain,
Or the scissors hidden under the bed
To cut the bearing-pain.

I will not ask for the prayer in church
Or the preacher saying the prayer,
But I will ask the shivering birch
To hold its arms in the air.

Cold and cold and cold again,
Cold in the blackjack limb
The winds of the sky for his sponsor-men
And a bird to christen him.

Now listen to me, you Tennessee corn,
And listen to my word,
This is the first child ever born
That was christened by a bird.

He's going to act like a hound let loose
When he comes from the blackjack tree,
And he's going to walk in proud shoes
All over Tennessee.

I'll feed him milk out of my own breast
And call him Whistling Jack,
And his dad'll bring him a partridge nest,
As soon as his dad comes back.


The verses above bear no title, so "Melora's Song" will do as well as any. My ed. of the book is Rinehart and Company, Inc., New York and Toronto, 1954 (1st ed. 1927). Melora is pregnant by a Union soldier: they cut a heart on the blackjack oak before he left.


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: Black jack Oak
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 05 Feb 02 - 12:44 AM

Genie, linsey is a coarse fabric, originally linen, later a mixed fabric as in linsey-woolsey. A very old term, going back to the 15C in print. Often dyed brown to cover up imperfections.


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: Black jack Oak
From: Genie
Date: 06 Feb 02 - 12:09 AM

Jon, Thanks for posting the whole thing. Carolyn Hester does not sing all the lines. Also, your posting clears up some mis-heard or undecipherable lyrics from my Hester recording.

Dicho, thanks also for the info on "linsey."

Genie

BTW, Carolyn Hester's version of the song is very powerful.


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: Black jack Oak
From: Snuffy
Date: 06 Feb 02 - 08:41 AM

Named after the village of Lindsey in Suffolk, which had important sheep and cloth industries in the middle ages.

WassaiL! V


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: Black jack Oak
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 06 Feb 02 - 10:23 AM

Genie, the part about the mother living in the blackjack oak "till my child can have a name." is obvious. Until the father of her child comes back, the child will be illegitimate (ie "and her baby had no name" from "She was poor but she was honest"). She is therefore cast out until that time and will have to live in the forest.


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: Black jack Oak
From: Suffet
Date: 17 Feb 02 - 10:38 PM

I was right. The music was composed by Fenno Heath for a theatrical staging of Benet's "John Brown's Body."

Click here for program.


--- Steve


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Subject: Lyr Add: MELORA (Benet/Heath)
From: Suffet
Date: 21 Feb 02 - 05:58 PM

At last. Here are the chords in the key of A minor. Chord name appears immediately before syllable on which change occurs. This took a lot of searching, but it is such a lovely song it is well worth the effort.

MELORA
Words: Stephen Vincent Benet ©1927
Music: Fenno Heath ©1951
As performed by Molly Scott, circa 1960

[Am] Love came [Dm] by from the [Am] river smoke,
When the [F] leaves were [C] fresh on the [Em/Em7] tree,
But I [F] cut my [C] heart on the [Am] blackjack oak,
Be- [Em] -fore they [Em7] fell on [Am] me.

Lyrics are as follows, taken from John Brown's Body, but omitting some verses and with a few minor revisions. Very last measure ends on an A major chord rather than an A minor.


Love came by from the river smoke,
When the leaves were fresh on the tree,
But I cut my heart on the blackjack oak
Before they fell on me.

The leaves are green in the early spring,
They are brown as linsey now,
I did not ask for a wedding ring,
From the wind in the bending bough.

Fall lightly, lightly, leaves of the wild,
Fall lightly on my care,
I am not the first to go with child,
From the wind in the bending air.

Good girls sleep in their modesty,
Bad girls sleep in their shame,
But I must sleep in the hollow tree,
'Til my child can have a name.

Cold and cold and cold again,
Cold in the blackjack limb,
The winds of the sky for his sponsor men,
And a bird to christen him.

He's going to act like a hound let loose,
When he comes from the blackjack tree,
And he's going to walk in proud, proud shoes,
All over Tennessee.


--- Steve


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: Black jack Oak
From: Genie
Date: 23 Feb 02 - 03:16 AM

Suffet, Thanks so much for posting the lyrics!

I'm afaid I'd have 'mondegreened" a line or two without you! E.g, I thought it was "... the winds of the sky for his sons were meant, and the birches cursin' him."

The 'folk process" nothwithstanding, I like to verify lyrics when I can.

Genie §;-)


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: Black jack Oak
From: GUEST,Ray Phoenix
Date: 18 Jul 06 - 01:07 PM

The chords I know are different (as is the tune maybe?) I learned this version in 1959 or 60, but not from a recording. I read the entire book (John Brown's Body) as a result, and enjoyed it.

I'm not sure how to solfa this, so I'm adapting it to a specific key. GABcdefgab = SLTdrmfslt. Previewing this, I wish for proportional font so everything would line up, but I've tried to make the timing/mapping of chords/tune to words apparent. Let me know if you have info on this tune, or regarding the tune on the recording. I'd be interested.

Am       D7         Am    G
A.   c.   /d. e d   /c. A. /B...
Love. came. /by. on the /ri.ver. /smoke...

Am       Am          D            Am
c.   e. /g.    g.   /f#.   e d   /e.    c   c
when. the. /leaves. were. /fresh. on the /tree., but I

Am    Am         D          Am
c. e. /g.    b b /a.    f#e /g.. e
cut. my. /heart. in a /black. jack /oak.., be.-

Am       G       Am   Am
e.. A    /A.   G. /A... /... A
fore.. they /fell. on. /me... /... The (leaves are green, etc.)

The second chord in line 1 can be a G, rather than a D. It gives it a slightly different sound for some verses (folk process). Which verses to sing is a singer's choice, as far as I know.


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: Black jack Oak
From: GUEST,Taura Thomas
Date: 09 Dec 11 - 12:31 AM

I first heard the song when my high school English class was studying "John Brown.'s Body". My teacher brought in a recording of the full musical. I still have my written copy, because that song is one of my all time favorites. In my copy the song ends with him walking in "proud" shoes. Another web site used a different word than proud. By the way, I was allowed to play the guitar and sing that song for my poetry test. I nailed it and got an A+.


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: Black jack Oak
From: Allan C.
Date: 09 Dec 11 - 06:05 AM

I spoke with Fenno Heath about this song a number of years ago. He was pleased that so many seemed to enjoy it so much. He said he wrote the tune to sound "folky" and somewhat primitive. It is my favorite from the musical.


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: Blackjack Oak (from Carolyn Hester
From: GUEST,starrywisdom
Date: 10 Dec 11 - 08:17 PM

I remember hearing this song sung on the TV show "Hootenanny" about a thousand years ago and never forgot it. Thanks for finally helping me figure out where it's from.


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: Blackjack Oak (from Carolyn Hester
From: GUEST,Guest
Date: 28 Jul 16 - 08:45 AM

"Brown as linsey" may mean linsey-woolsey, fabric made out of linen and wool thread woven together. If either or both were unbleached it'd be tan or brown.


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