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The Real American Folk Song is a Rag

wysiwyg 14 Jun 03 - 03:19 PM
Rick Fielding 14 Jun 03 - 03:34 PM
wysiwyg 14 Jun 03 - 04:29 PM
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Subject: ADD: The Real American Folk Song is a Rag
From: wysiwyg
Date: 14 Jun 03 - 03:19 PM

Apparently the debate is older than I realized. Here's the Gershwin opinion.


The Real American Folk Song is a Rag
Words by Ira Gershwin and Music by George Gershwin—1918

MIDI & Information (great site BTW)

As far as we know, this was the first professional collaboration of George with his older brother Ira as lyricist, one that would last throughout George's all too brief life, with the notable exception of Porgy and Bess with a libretto by DuBose Heyward. It was one of a number of songs that nearly 20 year-old George contributed to a musical called Ladies First which opened in October of 1918. It didn't hurt that this potential showstopper was first performed by veteran Nora Bayes, who had also recently introduced George M. Cohan's Over There. George's ambition was to be able to write music that went beyond popular song or Broadway, but it wasn't until Swanee took off two years later that this dream would come to fruition. This song is certainly outside of the box of many popular songs of the late 1910s, particularly in its effective asymmetrical chorus. It is also both predictive yet insightful in the lyrical content, referring to ragtime's nefarious reputation in the early years (Ira was but 3 when Maple Leaf Rag was issued) as well as its permanent status in our musical history. You can hear some developing chord progressions that would later be among George's hallmarks, and a few other Gershwin tricks in the repeat. It is ironic to note that the Gershwin parents originally bought a piano for Ira to learn on, but no sooner had it been placed in their apartment, 12 year-old George pulled right up to it and played some popular songs that he had worked out from watching a friend's player piano. Needless to say he also got lessons, a relief to Ira who felt a little burdened with the prospect of being the family musician. Even though George ended up as the true pianist, their mother frustratingly continued to attribute his success to Ira's contributions and hard work.

1. Near Barcelona the peasant croons the old traditional Spanish tunes;
The Neapolitan Street Song sighs, you think of Italian skies.
Each nation has a creative vein, originating a native strain,
With folk songs plaintive and others gay, in their own peculiar way.
American folk songs, I feel, Have a much stronger appeal.

The Real American Folk Song is a rag, a mental jag, a rhythmic tonic for the chronic blues.
The critics called it a joke song, but now, they've changed their tune and they like it somehow.
For it's inoculated with a syncopated sort of meter, sweeter, than a classic strain,
Boy! You can't remain still and quiet, for it's a riot!
The Real American Folk Song is like a Fountain of Youth:
You tatse, and it elates you, and then invigorates you,
The Real American Folk Song, a master stroke song, is a rag.

2. You may dislike, or you may adore, the native songs from a foreign shore;
They may be songs that you can't forget, they may be distinctive, yet.
They lack a something: a certain snap, the tempo ticklish that makes you tap,
The invitation to agitate and leave the rest to fate.
A raggy refrain any time, sends me a message sublime.

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Subject: RE: The Real American Folk Song is a Rag
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 14 Jun 03 - 03:34 PM

Hey those Gershwyn Boys could write them folksongs couldn't they?

I like the line about folksongs being a fountain of youth....they're certainly not the Bank of America!



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Subject: RE: The Real American Folk Song is a Rag
From: wysiwyg
Date: 14 Jun 03 - 04:29 PM

Got that all vamped out on the banjo then Rick?


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