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Origins: Danger Waters - story behind the song?

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DANGER WATERS


Genie 10 Mar 02 - 09:16 PM
ddw 11 Mar 02 - 09:18 PM
hobbitwoman 11 Mar 02 - 09:31 PM
Janice in NJ 11 Mar 02 - 11:19 PM
Dave Bryant 12 Mar 02 - 05:11 AM
WyoWoman 12 Mar 02 - 08:26 AM
Dave Bryant 12 Mar 02 - 08:34 AM
ddw 12 Mar 02 - 06:50 PM
hobbitwoman 12 Mar 02 - 09:23 PM
ddw 12 Mar 02 - 09:29 PM
ddw 12 Mar 02 - 09:32 PM
Dave Bryant 13 Mar 02 - 09:49 AM
Susanne (skw) 13 Mar 02 - 06:02 PM
hobbitwoman 13 Mar 02 - 10:41 PM
hobbitwoman 13 Mar 02 - 10:45 PM
Dave Bryant 14 Mar 02 - 08:03 AM
Murph10566 14 Mar 02 - 09:00 AM
ddw 14 Mar 02 - 08:07 PM
hobbitwoman 14 Mar 02 - 10:33 PM
Uncle_DaveO 01 Sep 07 - 06:55 PM
Joybell 16 Feb 09 - 08:27 PM
Joe_F 16 Feb 09 - 09:05 PM
Genie 17 Feb 09 - 06:27 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 05 Aug 11 - 02:40 AM
Arkie 05 Aug 11 - 03:38 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 05 Aug 11 - 06:04 PM
GUEST,999 05 Aug 11 - 06:45 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 05 Aug 11 - 11:53 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 06 Aug 11 - 02:08 AM
GUEST,999 06 Aug 11 - 12:55 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 06 Aug 11 - 07:03 PM
GUEST,999 06 Aug 11 - 07:37 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 06 Aug 11 - 07:59 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 06 Aug 11 - 08:00 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 07 Aug 11 - 02:03 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 07 Aug 11 - 05:15 PM
GUEST,leeneia 08 Aug 11 - 10:48 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 08 Aug 11 - 06:15 PM
GUEST,leeneia 08 Aug 11 - 07:56 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 08 Aug 11 - 09:27 PM
GUEST,leeneia 09 Aug 11 - 01:21 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 09 Aug 11 - 02:33 AM
GUEST,leeneia 11 Aug 11 - 09:47 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 12 Aug 11 - 05:13 AM
GUEST,leeneia 12 Aug 11 - 09:51 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 13 Aug 11 - 02:36 AM
GUEST,leeneia 13 Aug 11 - 09:04 AM
GUEST,chey.peggy 31 Aug 11 - 02:19 PM
SINSULL 31 Aug 11 - 06:53 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 01 Sep 11 - 12:02 AM
GUEST,kikinw 19 Apr 12 - 12:51 AM
Genie 19 Apr 12 - 02:03 AM
GUEST,Jimbo 27 Dec 13 - 05:19 PM
GUEST,Jimbo 27 Dec 13 - 05:30 PM
GUEST 03 Jan 16 - 08:24 PM
GUEST 03 Jan 16 - 08:27 PM
GUEST,Kiilet 20 May 16 - 05:25 AM
GUEST 09 Jun 16 - 01:27 PM
GUEST 06 Feb 17 - 07:14 PM
Tuvya 14 Aug 17 - 04:57 PM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 14 Aug 17 - 07:43 PM
Joe Offer 15 Aug 17 - 02:51 AM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 15 Aug 17 - 04:30 PM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 15 Aug 17 - 05:22 PM
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Subject: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: Genie
Date: 10 Mar 02 - 09:16 PM

In the recent thread on songs about women's work, this song (Danger Waters) was discussed--is it about childbirth? forced prosititution?

It's an intriguing song, but the story behind it is far from being explicitly spelled out.

Anyone know the history of the song and what it is about?

Genie


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: ddw
Date: 11 Mar 02 - 09:18 PM

I'd be interested in a definitive answer to this too.

I always took the song to be a young woman's lament after the father of the baby she's having rejected her.

Other meanings?

david


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: hobbitwoman
Date: 11 Mar 02 - 09:31 PM

I thought it was the woman who was doing the rejecting - that the man kept getting her pregnant and finally she said "enough!"

I can't figure out the verse that goes "Give me back me shilling, give me back me shilling, you can stand on your own feet now, give me back me shilling" at all though!

Annie


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: Janice in NJ
Date: 11 Mar 02 - 11:19 PM

Simple. She gave the guy a shilling, probably taking pity on him 'cause he was down and out. Well now he's capable of standing his feet again (i.e. getting a job and supporting himself, and maybe even contributing some child support for the wee one he fathered), and she wants her shilling back.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 12 Mar 02 - 05:11 AM

I seem to remember that there was a punishment for sexual laxity in Africa, where the offender (female - these things never seem to apply to the men of course) was tied up near a tidal river. If the crocodiles ate her she was guilty - if she lived she was deemed innocent and released. Therefore the "Danger Waters" refer to the coming tide - and the crocs !


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: WyoWoman
Date: 12 Mar 02 - 08:26 AM

Wow. That's an interesting one, Dave. I don't know if that's the actual explanation, but it sure sounds better than any of the stuff I've come up with.

I thought it was about abortion. In the Joan Baez songbook that I have, the introduction says:

"This song is typical of the exciting "Highlife" music heard in the cafes of Ghana. It shows the influence of American jazz and Latin American rhythms on West African native musics, indicating a direction in musical diffusion which ethnomusicologists are first beginning to notice after years of studying the movement in the reverse direction, from Africa to America. Its poetry, too, is worthy of notice for it exhibits a fluidity of words and metaphors based on ordiinary speech patterns which strike home directly -- if somewhat savagely."

Which is interesting, but not much helpful in actually understanding the imagery.

ww


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 12 Mar 02 - 08:34 AM

I think that the explanation that I gave came from sleeve notes somewhere - it might have been from the very first Joan Baez album from the mid 1960's. I definitely read it somewhere.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: ddw
Date: 12 Mar 02 - 06:50 PM

Dave's note is interesting, but I'm having a hard time putting it together with the words as I remember them. (Note: it's been a long time since I've heard the song and JB's is the only version, so somebody correct me if I'm wrong)

There's a verse that says:

First me go in a room
Take me momma, no, no
Make me lie on a sofa
Make me have-a me labor.

And another:

And I holler "Why?"
repeat X 2
The tortoise boy no wanna me.

I think if it's not about childbirth, WyoWoman's explanation of an abortion runs a real strong second in my way of thinking.

cheers,

david


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: hobbitwoman
Date: 12 Mar 02 - 09:23 PM

Someone sent me the lyrics to this song awhile back...I can't find them now - I print out too much stuff. But I'm nearly positive the line was "the tortoise boy is no mon ami" which kind of means the same thing I guess.

I can see where it might be about an abortion. Didn't think of that before. That crocodile thing is interesting too...and why DO these things never apply to men of course?? Or is that a whole nother thread? :o)

And lest I forget, Janice, it sounds like she gave him more than a shilling! :o)

Annie


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: ddw
Date: 12 Mar 02 - 09:29 PM

Hobbitwoman,

Can't definitely say what the words are, but throw a little gratuitous French into a song otherwise written in pidjin English seems a little strange to me.

david


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: ddw
Date: 12 Mar 02 - 09:32 PM

Sorry, that should be "throwing a little..."

ddw


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 13 Mar 02 - 09:49 AM

I think that the album which I got the sleeve notes from, was "Joan Baez in Concert" which was first released as long ago as 1962. Has anyone still got a copy ?


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: Susanne (skw)
Date: 13 Mar 02 - 06:02 PM

And, WyoWoman, what's the songbook called and when did it appear? Or has she only ever done one songbook?
Anyway, this is interesting. I like the song but never realised its origins lay in Africa. Can't say that I make more sense of the lyrics than anybody else, though! With little solid info, it can be interpreted in various ways. Maybe that's what it's for ...


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: hobbitwoman
Date: 13 Mar 02 - 10:41 PM

Dave, I have a copy of Joan Baez in Concert (Vol. 1) on cd - and you're right - the original album was released in 1962. I have forced my poor aging eyes to read the incredibly small print, and here's what it says:

"Danger Waters: The ethnomusicologists have been tracing African influences on American folk music for decades, but now we find that our folk music, jazz and Latin American rhythyms are being re-exported to Africa and creating new hybrids which in turn will exert a new influence on our music. This lament of a hard-time heroine is from the Gold Coast, created in the "Highlife Cafes" patronized by the poor and less-poor, where a new African-Western-African music of extraordinary poetic and rhythymic strength is now emerging. Beneath the seemingly direct and simple verses is a fluid use of words and images which marks this as poetry of a higher order, a realistic poetry based on the patterns of ordinary speech which makes use of the slashing transitions and many-leveled ambiguities of the finest modern poetry."

I dunno, maybe I'm just tired, but that doesn't make it much clearer to me! It doesn't explain what the song is about - other than a "hard-time herione".

Annie


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: hobbitwoman
Date: 13 Mar 02 - 10:45 PM

David (ddw), isn't "pidjin English" a hybrid itself, made up of a combination of the languages spoken in a particular region? That's why the French made sense to me. Chances are the song's been sung both ways, but if I remember I'll ask the friend who sent me the lyrics in the first place to check; I believe he got the lyrics from the Joan Baez songbook.

Annie


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 14 Mar 02 - 08:03 AM

Ah well, hobbitwoman, then that isn't where I got the "crocodile" angle from - but have definitely read it somewhere in connection with this song.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: Murph10566
Date: 14 Mar 02 - 09:00 AM

Wow - interesting takes on all this...

I remember that the "accepted" translation for our group - (so titillating, 'way back then) came from the lines:

"Hold me tight ! (twice) Danger Water's comin', Baby - Hold me tight !"

The juxtaposition of 'Holding tight' and the subtle(?) double-entendre of 'Coming' seemed to make the metaphor of 'Danger Waters' crystal-clear... at least if you were a teen-ager with all the attendant angst & raging hormones !

Dave's explanation certainly fits, but wouldn't have been nearly as much fun to discuss with Girls back in the early 60's, y'know ?

M.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: ddw
Date: 14 Mar 02 - 08:07 PM

Anne,

I checked my JB songbook this afternoon and you're right on the words. Sorry — I like the song, but it's not one I would sing and I had never actually read the words before.

Re the term "pidjin English" —— I had always taken it as English that just mangles grammar and syntax, not necessarily that mixes other languages into it.

The more I look at the song, the more I think WW may be right about the abortion. I had also misheard the line "Make me momma no know" as "Take me momma, no no."

Not sure how much of a different spin that puts on things, but it seems to add an element of clandestine activity that I hadn't seen before.

cheers,

david


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: hobbitwoman
Date: 14 Mar 02 - 10:33 PM

Murph - interesting theory!! And a plausible one at that.

David, thanks for checking - not an earth-shattering matter to be sure but interesting nonetheless! Your point about "make me momma no know" makes a great deal of sense in light of the abortion theory!

I wonder if we'll ever really know for sure just what this song is about. Look at all the theories that have been raised here already, and they all seem to hold some possibility of accuracy.

Annie


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 01 Sep 07 - 06:55 PM

ddw, "pidgin" is a technical term that refers to a blend language, a stage in the adaptation of two or more languages meeting in an area. The concept is similar to that of a trade language.

Thus the term "English" doesn't necessarily have to go with "pidgin". When the name of an "established" language is added to "pidgin", it's looking at the pidgin through the ears of speakers of one of the contributing (usually dominant contributing) languages. You might just as well hear "pidgin French", "pidgin Dutch", etc.

After a pidgin has been around for some time, and gets more or less standardized, it may become what's called "a creole", which is much closer to what would generally be referred to as "a language".

I'm grossly oversimplifying here, of course. Any linguistics majors who read this, feel free to correct any errors in what I've said. It should be pretty close to a proper description, though.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Origin of song Danger Waters
From: Joybell
Date: 16 Feb 09 - 08:27 PM

Some interesting interpretations here.
Not making any judgement about the Joan Baez recording.
What we have always wondered is -- Does anyone have any information about this song that comes from a source other than the Joan Baez recording and songbook?
Where did she find it? Was it sung the way she sings it? Is there an earlier version on record anywhere? Is it mentioned in a collection from before the Joan Baez recording?
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: Joe_F
Date: 16 Feb 09 - 09:05 PM

I'm not a linguistics major, but I can be a little more specific. Pidgins are languages that traders & natives make up for business purposes -- typically, the traders' vocabulary with the natives' phonetics & syntax. Indeed, "pidgin" is pidgin for "business", in the Pacific pidgin spoken by Chinese-speaking coolies & English-speaking traders. Being a business language, a pidgin has a restricted vocabulary, confined to what is useful for making deals & giving orders. But if a country is flooded with imported laborers speaking different languages, the pidgin is the only language they have in common, so the children flesh it out into a complete language, and that's a creole. It happened in a lot of places -- Haiti & Hawaii come to mind.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: Genie
Date: 17 Feb 09 - 06:27 PM

Interesting theories.   The Danger Waters lyrics in the DT, which are pretty much as I've found them all over the internet, would seem to clear the waters (no pun intended) a little bit.

Apparently, it's "Danger waters comin'," not "Danger water's comin'." It's "Make me mama no [i.e., not] know," not "Make me [a] mama -- no, no!"
Does our heroine not want her mama to know a) she's having sex, b) she's having sex for money, c) she's pregnant, or d) she's having an abortion?   Is she hollering "Have mercy!" at being 'given' three pregnancies? Sex three times in short succession? Has she been hit three times by her man (client)?

Are "danger waters" the amniotic fluid? I.e., is she about to give birth again?

As to Dave B's story/theory about the croc-filled "danger waters," that doesn't seem to fit the rest of the lyrics.   Would a woman tied to a post in a tidal basin be saying "Hold me tight, baby?" (I'd think she'd be asking her guy to "cut me loose.")

(I must say, though, that this African version of "trial by ordeal," if it was really used, is a bit more sportsmanlike than the European and American versions wherein if the accused woman DIED (e.g., drowned), that proved her innocence (fat lot of good it did her, of course), but if she SURVIVED, that proved she was in league with the devil, so, of course, she would be executed.)

And what is a tortoise boy, anyway?


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 05 Aug 11 - 02:40 AM

BTW, don't know if anyone is still interested in this thread and the song, but when I first read this thread I immediately tried looking for the song on YouTube and listened to it. It's great- catchy melody and lyrics. About a), b), c), or d), it could be all three: She (the narrator)had premarital sex, was forced to become a sex worker because her family is particularly strict about their daughter(s)"getting pregnant out of wedlock, and got pregnant and was forced to have a back-alley abortion. Could be that. And the "tortoise boy" could be a metaphor for the boy's slowness at giving her back her money.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: Arkie
Date: 05 Aug 11 - 03:38 PM

While one could take the term " danger waters" literally, it could also be intended in a metaphorical sense. It would certainly imply an impending risk or threat.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 05 Aug 11 - 06:04 PM

So, has anyone have an idea whether there is any information on the origin of the song, such as where Joan Baez found it? There don't seem to be any other versions of it besides hers. And since it's from Ghana a Ghanaian highlife artist will probably have recorded it. She also sang it on an album called "Joan Baez Sings Love Songs".


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 05 Aug 11 - 06:45 PM

A place to look might be info about Arthur A Alberts. He has some stuff in the LoC.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 05 Aug 11 - 11:53 PM

The album is apparently called "The Joan Baez Lovesong Album" and the song (called "Danger Waters (Hold Me Tight)" is credited to Arthur S Alberts, who collected music in West Africa. On the Wikipedia article on the album, the song is credited to J. Browne. Anyone have an idea who that might be? An ethnomusicologist? A Ghanaian highlife artist's manager on a "world music" record label? Does anyone have the "Lovesong Album" and can check the writer's credit?


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 06 Aug 11 - 02:08 AM

Or it is possible that it could be a pseudonym.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 06 Aug 11 - 12:55 PM

They both receive credit, leading one to suspect one did lyrics and the other melody.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 06 Aug 11 - 07:03 PM

999, do you have that album or another album with this song on it to verify that they both receive credit? Since it is a Ghanaian song maybe both receive credit because they copyrighted the lyrics/melody under their own names? Or maybe the song is an *example* to demonstrate what highlife music sounds like?


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 06 Aug 11 - 07:37 PM

ME1--please google

Joan Baez in Concert - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Look the page over and notice the tracks are listed on the mid-lower right of the page==particularly track 7. The album is from 1962.

It is possible that one person did the translation and the other the arranging and despite the song being of Ghanaian origin, it got swiped in the 'copyright every darned thing in sight' that seemed to have been the frenzy in those days.

Sometimes the backs of old records show up in google images. Perhaps you will find further testimonial there. Best to you.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 06 Aug 11 - 07:59 PM

Oh yeah, now I see that both Jacob Brwone and Albert S. Ablerts are credited. Thanks for that. But I have a feeling that it might have been in English originally- after all, how many translators of songs from other languages to English are written in pidgin/non-standard English? Ghana (which used to be known as the Gold Coast) was a British colony during World War I.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 06 Aug 11 - 08:00 PM

EDIT: Sorry, that should be "translations."


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 07 Aug 11 - 02:03 AM

And that should also be ''Alberts''.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 07 Aug 11 - 05:15 PM

Does anyone have any alternative explanations of th song's lyrics?


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 08 Aug 11 - 10:48 AM

Joan Baez and her production team were in a good position to find out more about this song at the time she recorded it, but apparently they were not enough interested in the women of Ghana to do it.

It's a great tune, it's sold, and it's brought her publicity, and that seems to be all she was interested in.

For example, they could have asked what the heck "the tortoise boy no mon ami" meant. Is it even in the right language?

As for authorship, I wouldn't be surprised if the African person who composed it wished to keep a low profile. It's definitely a feminist song in a continent that gives short shrift to females. Oh, the author probably wouldn't have been imprisoned or executed, but could have been shunned, beaten, or ridiculed. I'm not surprised we can't find out who really wrote it.

As for the meaning of the song, it's obvious the woman is giving birth, almost certainly to her third child. (make me lie on a sofa; make me have-a a me labor) Whether the pregnancies are the result of marriage, promiscuity or prostitution is unimportant. The fact is that childbirth in such a dirty, casual way (on a sofa!) is dangerous. And having too many children will ultimately kill a woman, one way or another.

Listen with your heart. Somebody was trying to sing about great wrongs that we aren't supposed to talk about.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 08 Aug 11 - 06:15 PM

Leeneia, about what you said about how women may be treated in modern-day West African countries from what I've read about traditional Akan-speaking people in Ghana (the largest ethnic group there). I don't know much about West African cultures, but Akan-speaking people (Azizi could possibly add more stuff) have a matrilineal system of descent, and women (not all, but those of rank) play important roles. Of course, this doesn't mean that misogyny isn't common there, or that in traditional Akan /general west African cultures, women weren't (or aren't) considered subservient to men.

About sexism in general- (although in very traditional Chinese culture, even in Malaysia, where my parents are from, sexism is common because of a preference for boys, who carry the family name), I'm just saying that in *my* experience, (and I've never been to any country in Africa, so I can't say anything about sexism there), I haven't really experienced much sexism. At least not form the teenage boys I know. I've probably been lucky. Also, I'm 17, going to be 18 in two months from now. So I probably haven't experienced as much sexism, subtle or overt, as an adult woman, or girls in previous generations, have.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 08 Aug 11 - 07:56 PM

I'm glad to hear that. But if a woman is giving birth on a sofa (as the song says) and they are keeping it a secret from her mother, then something is wrong. If the mother is about to give birth and she's thinking only about the danger she is in, then something is wrong.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 08 Aug 11 - 09:27 PM

Well, this is a short one. I have a history exam this afternoon. About the lyrics- I think it means "The slow (about money, physically as in walking, maybe) boy is no longer my friend." Meaning the boy is "slow" about giving her back her money- the "shilling". Another thing, I think the prostitution thing is because of it could be a pun on labour as in work, and labour as in birth. Who would make someone give birth on a sofa? That's not to say that isn't probably correct that it's about pregnancy and having a baby, but "Make me lie on a sofa" kind of gives the impression that the narrator is being forced.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 09 Aug 11 - 01:21 AM

Recently I read in my newspaper about a charity that helps young mothers in Africa. They are 'married' to an older man at the age of 13 or 14. (In Muslim cultures, a man can have four wives, or so I read.) They give birth when far too young. I can't recall what part of Africa it was, but tradition decrees that she has to give birth all alone, in a hut. No medical care, no midwife, not even an older relative to comfort her.

The baby often dies. Often some part of the mother's body, such as bowel or bladder, is injured, and she can no longer control herself. She is shunned and despised as a dirty person.

The charity operates clinics that repair the damage. Too bad they can't change much else about these girl's lives.

This is not what's going on in 'Danger Waters,' but it gives some idea of what women can be up against when giving birth in a desperately poor country. The woman in the song, who's giving birth on a sofa, may be slightly better off. They may be someone in the house with her to get help if she's dying.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 09 Aug 11 - 02:33 AM

Well, the exam was OK- only did part of it though, but only hope I do better in the real one! Anyway, now I'm home using my mum's computer, because I've got to concentrate on my HSC, and just read Leeneia's post. So, Leeneia- if the narrator is going to die, then the rest of the songs could be her confused thoughts and she's crying out,"Have mercy!" because she's dying or might die. Why would she want her mother to not know, because normally wouldn't a girl's mother *want* to know if her daughter was pregnant? A) unless something else is also going on, or b) she deliberately went somewhere to have a child, out of sight of her family or anyone who might know her. The only thing even remotely resembling a bed in the room she's in is a sofa, so whoever's helping her gets her to lie on that so that she can give birth.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 11 Aug 11 - 09:47 AM

I agree that it's baffling about the mother not knowing. If those words are correct, then she's ashamed of the pregnancy, but we don't know why that is.

These are reasons why I wish Joan Baez and her people had inquired more about the song and its origins before recording it.

The thing about the sofa is that it's not clean. She should be giving birth in a clean, private place. And if there are no medical people around to watch over her, at least there should be a trained midwife, again, very clean, to help her.

There are people who speak of having their baby at home, 'naturally', but things can go terribly wrong in a birth. The mother can bleed to death or get a bad infection, or the baby can strangle on the chord. These are a few of the dangers in 'danger waters.'


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 12 Aug 11 - 05:13 AM

Something else. Further up someone quotes the liner notes from Joan Baez's album, which refers to this song as the lament of a "hard-time heroine". If "hard-time heroine"means what I think it means, then I think we have the answer to why the narrator's mother doesn't want to know.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 12 Aug 11 - 09:51 AM

It's hard to say, Morwen. In many places, just being alive means you're going to have a hard time.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 13 Aug 11 - 02:36 AM

BTW, there is a Jamaican song "Give Me Back Me Shilling", which doesn't have anything to do with this song beyond the line "give me back me shilling." I mentioned in the thread about "Mahalia I Want Back My Dollar."


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 13 Aug 11 - 09:04 AM

Interesting. Perhaps 'shilling' just meant 'money,' not specifically shillings.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: GUEST,chey.peggy
Date: 31 Aug 11 - 02:19 PM

Interesting discussions! Was searching for the origin of Danger Waters (one of my favouritest by Joan) and found this here. But can't help it - it doesn't really sounds like African. Another way is to ask Joan herself about this.....


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: SINSULL
Date: 31 Aug 11 - 06:53 PM

A side note: I heard Shillin as Chillin. Give me back me Children.
Maybe way off base but...


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 01 Sep 11 - 12:02 AM

Just to add more things; Yes, you could contact Joan Baez to ask her, but she (or her contact address) probably receives dozens of emails and letters from fans, and can probably not answer directly. It's also possible that she doesn't remember where she found it because of all the songs she sings, and/or doesn't care about this particular one. Sorry if I sound condescending to any of the older posters on the forum. It's a school day and I'm writing this in a free period. I have to go back for another class. chey.peggy, what do you mean when you say "it doesn't sound like African?"


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: GUEST,kikinw
Date: 19 Apr 12 - 12:51 AM

I thought that "have me labor" on the sofa meant a prostitute having sex.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: Genie
Date: 19 Apr 12 - 02:03 AM

I thought that too. Either that, or it referred to childbirth.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: GUEST,Jimbo
Date: 27 Dec 13 - 05:19 PM

I too was fascinated by the lyrics. Did some digging on Google etc following up some of the pointers given in earlier posts and found that Joan Baez based her song on a song by Jacob A. Browne And The Greenwood Singers, a Liberian based group that did Cafe Music. Long and interesting story behind the credits on the song, if you do a search for Guthrie Alberts (a descendant of the Arthur S Alberts credited as a writer of Danger Waters) you'll see his website which explains a bit more about the history (Arthur Alberts being an American stationed in West Africa during World War II who then returned in 1949 to record some of the local music including "Hold Me Tight" (which is a precursor to Danger Waters)). He has rereleased Hold Me Tight and although I didnt purchase the track I was able to listen to a couple of 30s samples and scribbled down the following lyrics:
me go buy you slippers
me go buy you shimmy
and i tell you say
make yo mommy no know (repeated)
and i tell her say
make me go no home
and we lay on sofa make her get me labor
and the other wine (repeated)
"tortoise boy no mon ami..." (repeated)

Seems to me that the lyrics here (which are only part of the song) seem to talk about a man who buys gifts for a girl that he's having a secret relationship with. Interestingly here the phrase seems to be "make her get me labor" which sounds more like sex than childbirth. Also the phrases: "me go buy you slippers" and "me go buy you shimmy" have the same sound to them as Danger Waters' "give me back me shilling". Also it seems the story is being told from the male point of view here rather than the female point of view in Danger Waters.

I guess this shows that the lyrics were fluid and evolved over time. If I do download the full "Hold Me Tight" track, I will post up what I learn from the rest of the lyrics!


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: GUEST,Jimbo
Date: 27 Dec 13 - 05:30 PM

Was too curious so ended up buying the track from cdbaby

Here are more complete lyrics (many of the lines are repeated 4 or 5 times after each other). Also I'm not sure of the accuracy and there was one word I couldn't understand.

hold me tight
danger water coming baby
hold me tight

and he holler why
tortoise boy non mon ami
me go by you slippers
me go buy you shimmy
and i tell you say
make yo mommy no know
and i tell her say
make me go no home
and we lay on sofa make her get me labor
and the other wine*4
"tortoise boy no mon ami..."

give me back my shilling
you can still [?] make it
give me back my shilling

and i gie em one
and i gie em two
way I gie em three time
he holler lord have mercy (and) (repeat)
tortoise boy non mon ami

hold me tight
danger water coming baby
hold me tight


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Jan 16 - 08:24 PM

Easy as heck: The tortoise boy is a strange freak in this woman's village, having a humped back that makes it look like he has a shell, or he's a guy who catches and sells tortoise meat, to make his living. Either way, this woman gets the hots for him. He's good in bed, giving her three orgasms, to the point where she hollers, "Lordy have mercy!" Unfortunately, she gets pregnant and has to give birth, in private, aided only by her shelled lover. She worries that her mother will find out. Since the tortoise boy is her lover, and the father of her child, she gives him a few shillings to help him out. He then rejects her, no longer being her friend, as she sings, and leaves her behind, wanting her money back. No mystery, at all, although y'all seem to like to take every little line apart so have at it, if it gets you off.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Jan 16 - 08:27 PM

As far as the "Danger Waters" bit, she is scared by the events in her life, and wants her lover to hold her tight, although he eventually rejects her.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: GUEST,Kiilet
Date: 20 May 16 - 05:25 AM

Jus kill em or let them ask for mercy


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Jun 16 - 01:27 PM

MorwenEdhelwen1
I think you are right, and the title is referring to the 'waters' coming out before birth. They mean the mother might soon die.


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: GUEST
Date: 06 Feb 17 - 07:14 PM

Ok, I just found this interesting thread in trying to learn the meaning of the words. That last comment, "They mean the mother might soon die" isn't true of amniotic fluid coming out. Water "breaking" is a normal part of the birth process. So...I like the theory that it could be a hump backed boy but it makes more sense to me that it's someone who sells Tortoise meat or shells.

The other idea I wanted to suggest is that "Make me mamma no know" could be about the original sex that led to the birth...and maybe indeed it isn't multiple births, but multiple occasions of forced sex...maybe just consensual sex, even...


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: Tuvya
Date: 14 Aug 17 - 04:57 PM

"tortoise" boy? Taurus boy? Tzuris boy? Sore-ass boy?

"danger waters" = semen?

album notes say: "Toris buy din mona me" means "Strange boy has confused me"   ?????


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 14 Aug 17 - 07:43 PM

Oy...

Where I came from it was Hold Me Tight - Dainga Wata (lit. "next month") and "Yoruba Boy."

Party song. It's done as a duet. It's the 'client' who wants his money back because she's afraid she's already preggers… again.

Yoruba Singers - Danger Wata


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Subject: RE: Help: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 15 Aug 17 - 02:51 AM

I found a Joan Baez recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLe82dCbKl4

The Digital Tradition lyrics are a good transcription of the Baez recording:


DANGER WATERS

And I holler why, and I holler why
And I holler why, the tortoise boy no mon ami

First he give me one, then he give me two
And he give me three and I holler "Lord have mercy"

First we go in a room, make me mama no know
Make me lie on a sofa, make me have-a me labor

Give me back me shillin', give me back me shillin'
You can stand on your own feet now, give me back me shillin'

Hold me tight, hold me tight, danger waters coming baby hold me tight
hold me tight, hold me tight, danger water coming, baby, hold me

@love @courtship @baby @sex @African
recorded by Joan Baez
filename[ DANGWATR
TUNE FILE: DANGWATR
CLICK TO PLAY
SOF

Phil pointed out a recording by the Yoruba Singers. Does the song appear in songbooks or in other recordings?
I didn't find it in Roud or in the Traditional Ballad Index.

The song is on pp 156-157 of my copy of The Joan Baez Songbook, published in 1964 by Ryerson Music Publishers, a division of Vanguard Records. Here are the notes:
    This song is typical of the exciting "Highlife" music heard in the cafes of Ghana. It shows the influence of American jazz and Latin American rhythms on West African native musics, indicating a direction in musical diffusion which ethnomusicologists are first beginning to notice after years of studying in the reverse direction, from Africa to America. Its poetry, too, is worthy of notice for it exhibits a fluidity of words and metaphors based on ordinary speech patterns which strike home directly, if sometimes savagely. (also quoted above by WyoWoman, who was last seen in Seattle).
Notice that in the link Phil gave, the boy is a "Yoruba boy," not a "tortoise boy." the Yoruba people are in Nigeria and Benin.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Origins: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 15 Aug 17 - 04:30 PM

Leslie Charles (Billy Ocean) sang Caribbean Queen, European Queen or American Queen depending on the audience.

I wouldn't invest too much in the "Yoruba" angle. Just a play on the band's name. I've also heard it as Aruba Boy and Tortugas Boy just no YouTube (yet.)


MorwenEdhelwen1:

"BTW, there is a Jamaican song "Give Me Back Me Shilling", which doesn't have anything to do with this song beyond the line "give me back me shilling." I mentioned in the thread about "Mahalia I Want Back My Dollar."

A Tortuga, Tortoise or Turtle boy was someone who wore a "Brodie" or "M1" helmet out in the midday sun. Potential 'clients' all.

Always thought this one reflected Roaring Lion's Marianne / Mary Ann in theme and the "shillings" lyric a kind of shout out to calypso (Netty Netty) but that's just me thinking. Could be the other way around or nothing at all I s'pose.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Danger Waters - story behind the song?
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 15 Aug 17 - 05:22 PM

From the album, "Songs of the African Coast: Cafe Music of Liberia" recorded in 1949 in Monrovia, Liberia by Arthur Alberts and performed by the Greenwood Singers.

Hold Me Tight

The woman leaning over the keys on the front cover is Congress Woman Malinda Jackson Parker the real mad genius behind the Greenwood Singers.

Poking some fun at U.S. Army "Health & Safety" films: Cousin Mosquito (Parts #1 and #2)


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