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Origins: Johnny Be Fair

DigiTrad:
ELMA TURL
JOHN ADAIR
JOHNNY BE FAIR
MADAM LA MARQUISE
SHAME AND SCANDAL


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(origins) Origins: songs about girl w/ promiscuous father (45)
Lyr Req: I Was a Gay Spark in my Time (H Imlach) (14)
Song title needed-Shame & Scandal, etc. (13)
(origins) Lyr Add: Red Neck Love Poem (7)
Tune Req: Johnny Be Fair (Buffy Sainte-Marie) (10)
Tune Req: Very vague, but help if you can (7)
Lyr Req: Johnny Be Fair (4) (closed)
Lyr Req: A ballad about illegitimacy? (15)
Lyr Add: Mixed Up Family (Jimmy Driftwood) (4)
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Lyr/Tune Req: Scandal in the Family (8)


Moira Cameron, moirakc@internorth.com 20 Jan 97 - 02:34 AM
Ian 21 Jan 97 - 12:07 PM
Susan of DT 22 Jan 97 - 07:36 PM
dick greenhaus 22 Jan 97 - 09:56 PM
GUEST,dene foye 05 Jul 07 - 10:06 PM
Peace 05 Jul 07 - 11:09 PM
Peace 05 Jul 07 - 11:10 PM
C. Ham 05 Jul 07 - 11:46 PM
Susan of DT 06 Jul 07 - 07:52 AM
Arkie 06 Jul 07 - 05:23 PM
Joe Offer 06 Jul 07 - 05:44 PM
Effsee 06 Jul 07 - 08:11 PM
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Subject: Johnny Be Fair-info
From: Moira Cameron, moirakc@internorth.com
Date: 20 Jan 97 - 02:34 AM

I've found mixed origins for this song. I know Buffy Sainte Marie claims it to be her own composition, but I've come across several sources that site it as traditional. I leaned it from Eileen McGann, who learned it from another folksinger; and both claim it is traditional. I'm told that a few people have recorded it and labeled it public domain.

Could someone give me any concrete info on this?


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Subject: RE: Johnny Be Fair-info
From: Ian
Date: 21 Jan 97 - 12:07 PM

Moira,

FWIW, I learned it as a traditional song also.

That may or may not be a real indication of its origin, unfortunately. For example, a lot of people think 'The Scotsman' is a traditional song, too, even though it's not. I've even had my own work sung back to me as 'Trad' before. I guess the moral of the story is that we, as folk musicians, need to make sure we give credit where it's due - Which it sounds like you're trying to do! :)

Good luck in your quest! - Ian O'Donnell


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Subject: RE: Johnny Be Fair-info
From: Susan of DT
Date: 22 Jan 97 - 07:36 PM

I swear I heard it on a Belafonte record in the 50s (as Shame and Scandal), but have not located the record since. It is sung in the Carribean. I do not know which version came first or how old it is.


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Subject: RE: Johnny Be Fair-info
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 22 Jan 97 - 09:56 PM

Hi- For what it's worth, I've never come across the "Irish" version in any source that pre-dates Buffy Ste. Marie's. She used a variation on a very popular tune usually called The Bigler's Cruise (late 1800s).


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Subject: RE: Johnny Be Fair-info
From: GUEST,dene foye
Date: 05 Jul 07 - 10:06 PM

Shame and scandal was recorded by Odetta in the 50's, but it isn't the same song as Johnny Be Fair...the song scans differently, and is sung in 3rd person, not 1st, and is about a boy wanting to marry. it has the same premise, and is done in the statement/answer format, but that's the extent of it.


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Subject: RE: Johnny Be Fair-info
From: Peace
Date: 05 Jul 07 - 11:09 PM

Johnny Be Fair
© Buffy Ste. Marie

from here.


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Subject: RE: Johnny Be Fair-info
From: Peace
Date: 05 Jul 07 - 11:10 PM

See this also.


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Subject: RE: Johnny Be Fair-info
From: C. Ham
Date: 05 Jul 07 - 11:46 PM

It's not that unusual to see composed songs listed as traditional. There's a Bill Staines song that Guy Carawan credited as traditional on an album he did, and I once had an argument with a Celtic band who sang "Belfast Mill" as a traditional song. They didn't believe me when I told them that the song was really "Aragon Mill" and that it was written in the 1970s by my friend Si Kahn.


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Subject: RE: Johnny Be Fair-info
From: Susan of DT
Date: 06 Jul 07 - 07:52 AM

Look at the four songs listed at the top of the thread. They all tell the same story and they all have an author listed. Johnny Be Fair and Shame and Scandal (yes, there is more than one song of that title) are very similar. Buffy probably just rewrote the older song slightly and claimed it.


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Subject: RE: Johnny Be Fair-info
From: Arkie
Date: 06 Jul 07 - 05:23 PM

And added to the four listed should be Mixed Up Family by Jimmy Driftwood and R.L. Burnside tells a story along the same lines.


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Subject: RE: Johnny Be Fair-info
From: Joe Offer
Date: 06 Jul 07 - 05:44 PM

Back in October, 2000, I posted this e-mail I received from Buffy Sainte-Marie:

    Hi,
    When I was a kid, somebody told me a joke, which was essentially the story as retold in my song "Johnny Be Fair" song. I'm glad to see you wondering about the origins of the story. When I first wrote the song, so many people were taken by surprise, I realized that not everybody had "heard that one". Very few people have ever told me that they'd heard it as a joke or story.
    I've often heard that true folk songs are like antiques: they are preserved and reused because they continue to be useful and appreciated, generation after generation; and their themes are cross cultural and make a sort of "ring true" sense in lots of communities.
    But I don't know any more than the rest of you guys who first came up with this particular story, but I'd like to. Thanks for including me in the quest.
    Buffy Sainte-Marie


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Subject: RE: Johnny Be Fair-info
From: Effsee
Date: 06 Jul 07 - 08:11 PM

"I've often heard that true folk songs are like antiques: they are preserved and reused because they continue to be useful and appreciated, generation after generation; and their themes are cross cultural and make a sort of "ring true" sense in lots of communities."
That is priceless, it's all about we do! Well, us of a certain vintage!


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