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My Old Kentucky Home problem

Midchuck 18 Aug 03 - 12:25 PM
Jeri 18 Aug 03 - 12:39 PM
katlaughing 18 Aug 03 - 12:53 PM
Kim C 18 Aug 03 - 01:36 PM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 18 Aug 03 - 02:00 PM
GUEST,Kilgarry 18 Aug 03 - 05:09 PM
Jim Dixon 18 Aug 03 - 06:40 PM
Bonnie Shaljean 18 Aug 03 - 07:02 PM
LadyJean 18 Aug 03 - 07:08 PM
masato sakurai 18 Aug 03 - 07:08 PM
Bonnie Shaljean 18 Aug 03 - 07:14 PM
Amos 18 Aug 03 - 07:21 PM
GUEST,Bo in KY 18 Aug 03 - 09:02 PM
Mary in Kentucky 18 Aug 03 - 09:49 PM
Mary in Kentucky 18 Aug 03 - 09:59 PM
Sleepless Dad 18 Aug 03 - 11:08 PM
dick greenhaus 19 Aug 03 - 12:00 AM
GUEST,Cranky Yankee 19 Aug 03 - 02:24 AM
GUEST,Scabby Douglas 19 Aug 03 - 04:41 AM
Escamillo 19 Aug 03 - 06:17 AM
greg stephens 19 Aug 03 - 07:19 AM
masato sakurai 19 Aug 03 - 07:45 AM
Amos 19 Aug 03 - 08:51 AM
greg stephens 19 Aug 03 - 09:01 AM
GUEST,Melani 19 Aug 03 - 04:10 PM
Malcolm Douglas 19 Aug 03 - 04:49 PM
Kim C 19 Aug 03 - 04:50 PM
GUEST,Q 19 Aug 03 - 05:07 PM
Amos 19 Aug 03 - 05:46 PM
Escamillo 20 Aug 03 - 02:46 AM
AllisonA(Animaterra) 20 Aug 03 - 06:48 AM
Midchuck 20 Aug 03 - 07:17 AM
Rapparee 20 Aug 03 - 08:10 AM
GUEST,Bo in KY 20 Aug 03 - 09:00 AM
RangerSteve 20 Aug 03 - 09:16 AM
greg stephens 20 Aug 03 - 09:17 AM
Kim C 20 Aug 03 - 09:44 AM
RichM 20 Aug 03 - 11:28 AM
Kim C 20 Aug 03 - 11:39 AM
Uncle_DaveO 20 Aug 03 - 12:01 PM
CRANKY YANKEE 20 Aug 03 - 06:17 PM
dick greenhaus 20 Aug 03 - 06:40 PM
GUEST 02 May 12 - 11:23 PM
GUEST,mg 03 May 12 - 12:41 AM
kendall 03 May 12 - 07:58 AM
Lonesome EJ 03 May 12 - 10:23 AM
GUEST,mg 03 May 12 - 10:39 AM
GUEST,songbob 03 May 12 - 08:21 PM
Lonesome EJ 04 May 12 - 12:57 AM
Megan L 04 May 12 - 02:50 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 04 May 12 - 02:18 PM
GUEST,Lefty 04 May 12 - 03:05 PM
Tootler 04 May 12 - 06:35 PM
GUEST,kendall 04 May 12 - 07:47 PM
GUEST,JTT 05 May 12 - 03:23 AM
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Subject: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: Midchuck
Date: 18 Aug 03 - 12:25 PM

So us Woodchucks have a gig friday for a wedding rehearsal dinner cookout. It's in Vermont, but a bunch of family members are from Kentucky, and they asked if we could do, among others, My Old Kentucky Home.

I knew the melody but not most of the words. I found them in Best Loved Songs of the American People.

The second line of the first verse is: "Tis Summer, the darkies are gay."

I've never thought much of political correctness, but this seems like a record for offending the most people with the smallest number of words.

Do I sing it as written....?

Peter.


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: Jeri
Date: 18 Aug 03 - 12:39 PM

The version in the DT says "all the folks are gay," but I think it's inaccurate.

Maybe "some of us are gay" or
"and I'm getting old and gray" or
"let's go roll around the hay"


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: katlaughing
Date: 18 Aug 03 - 12:53 PM

Or...it's time to make hay!

Personally, I wouldn't use the original line.


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: Kim C
Date: 18 Aug 03 - 01:36 PM

Mister and I have also faced this quandary, and here's what we do.

We play it as an instrumental. The melody is lovely, and people who know the words will sing along as they wish. Darkies aside, it's a long song with a lot of verses and it's sad.

I did ask a friend who is the education director at a historic site in Kentucky, if we could perform it as written. Her answer to me was, "It's an 1850 event and those are the 1850 words. If anyone has a problem with it, send 'em to me." Sometimes it just depends on where you are.

But for the reasons I mentioned above - we still did it as an instrumental.


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 18 Aug 03 - 02:00 PM

From some of the old threads:

Giac's Suggestion
Mary In Kentucky's Suggestion
Deane L Root's Take on the Subject


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: GUEST,Kilgarry
Date: 18 Aug 03 - 05:09 PM

The way it is sung at University of Kentucky ballgames (even by Happy Chandler, former Governor) is "the people are gay"


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 18 Aug 03 - 06:40 PM

I'd say definitely don't sing "darkies" but you might get away with "gay." "Gay" will make the kids giggle, assuming they're paying attention to the words.


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: Bonnie Shaljean
Date: 18 Aug 03 - 07:02 PM

In the sessions here (south coast of Ireland) the singers I've heard do it as "It's summer and everyone is gay", though there's no way I know of to get around the unintended double-meaning of "gay" unless you just plain change it. "The folks all sing and play"???


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: LadyJean
Date: 18 Aug 03 - 07:08 PM

I will always remember the way the guy we called "Sugar Bear" sang it at Transylvania College, in Lexington, KY. At our first rehearsal, he sang Foster's original word, and, immediately changed it to "Young folks."


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: masato sakurai
Date: 18 Aug 03 - 07:08 PM

The state song of Kentucky version has adopted "the people are gay" in 1986.
For nearly 130 years the song remained unchanged from its original publication. But in March, 1986, a group of Japanese students visiting the Kentucky General Assembly changed the song forever. To pay their respects, the group sang "My Old Kentucky Home." Upon hearing the phrase, " 'Tis summer, the darkies are gay," Representative Carl Hines (Democrat-Louisville), the only black member of the House, was quoted as saying that the lyrics of the rendition "convey connotations of racial discrimination that are not acceptable." Within the week, he sponsored a bill which the House passed, House Resolution 159, which officiated the modern lyrics with the line, " 'Tis summer the people are gay." Hines substantiated the bill, citing that the original lyrics were offensive, showing no respect toward African-Americans. (From here)


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: Bonnie Shaljean
Date: 18 Aug 03 - 07:14 PM

There's also the verse with the line "The time has come when the darkies have to part" which can be sung as "The time has come when old friends have to part" or "old friends must all depart". I think all the suggestions made in this thread are in keeping with the spirit of the song, and don't believe the changes do it any harm.


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: Amos
Date: 18 Aug 03 - 07:21 PM

Wel, that's a good thing, being considerate and all. But ya gotta be real clear that you are singing a different song than the one Stephen Foster wrote in 1850, or whenever.

So I guess whoever is paying the piper should choose which song they want to hear.

A


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: GUEST,Bo in KY
Date: 18 Aug 03 - 09:02 PM

I have it in a collection somewhere (from the '70s, perhaps, but I'm guessing the version from mid-20th century) as "'tis summer, the workers are gay"
Perhaps conveys more of the original meaning without the offensive wording. Mayhap not....


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 18 Aug 03 - 09:49 PM

In regards to George's link above, I *think* I saw "the children are gay" written in a program somewhere, possibly at a UK football game RECENTLY.

Hear Happy Chandler's version here.

GO BIG BLUE!!!!!


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 18 Aug 03 - 09:59 PM

Peter, I forgot..........it's a nice touch to sing "Weep no more my lady" acapella. Everybody knows the words.


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: Sleepless Dad
Date: 18 Aug 03 - 11:08 PM

There was a special about Stephen Foster on PBS awile back. If I remember correctly "darkies" was considered a polite term at the time. Much better than the other words that were used then. And Stephen Foster was given a hard time about mentioning blacks in such a nice way in so many songs.

But of course this is 2003 - I wouldn't use the term either. Depending on the audience I might be tempted to mention in the introduction of this song that changes were made - what they were and why.


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 19 Aug 03 - 12:00 AM

If you must bowdlerize, at least try to retain the sense of the song. THe darkies weren't just "people", "children" , or "workers"--they were slaves Goddam it!. If you must sing it, try "..the slaves were all gay".

And if gay slaves offend you, just hum the damn song.


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: GUEST,Cranky Yankee
Date: 19 Aug 03 - 02:24 AM

BRAVO, MR GREENHOUSE.
Steven Foster was no racist, and at the time the song was written, "Darky" was no more an insult than "Black Man" is today.
Let me refer you to the song, "INGDOM COMING, The year of the Jubilo", written by Henry Clay Work who's father spent some time in prison for helping thousnads, YES THOUSANDS of slaves to freedom on the underground railway. Mr Clay was a "fire-breathing dragon" of an abolitionist. As far as I can remember them, the words to Kingdom Coming, which he deliberately wrote in "Darky dialect". By the way, Dick, he was from Hartford, born in Middletown, Connecticut. (note: the "Muff-stash" was an attempt by "ol Massa, to disguise himself)

KINGDOM COMING
(Henry Clay Work)
   I
Hey, Darkies, hab you seen ol' massa
Wit de muff-stash on his face
Goin down the road some time dis mornin
like he gwine to leave dis place
Must hab seen de smoke from down de ribber
Whar the Lincoln Gunboats lay
He took his hat an' lef' verry sudden
An I 'spect he's run away

(chorus) DE MASSA' RUN, HA HA
DE DARKEYS STAY, HO HO
It mus' be the time ob de Kingdom comin'
an' de year ob de Jubilo!
    II
He's six feet one way, two feet t'odder
An' he weigh three hunbdred pounds
His coat so big he couldn't pay de tailor,
An it only goes half way roun'
He drill so much dey call him Cap'n
An' he got so dreadfull tanned
I 'spec' he's try an' fool dem Yamkees
For to t'ink he's contraband!

(repeat chorus)

       III
De Darkies feel so lonesome libbin'
In de log house on de lawn
Dey move dar t'ings intuh massa's parlor
For to keep it while he's gone
Dere's wine an' cider in de kitchen
an de Darkeys dey'll hab some
I suppose it'll all be confiscated
When de Lincfoln soldiers come

(repeat chorus)
       IV
De Oberseer he make us trouble
An' he drive us round a spell
We lock him up in de smoke-house cellar
Wid' de key trown down de well
De whip is lost, de han-cuffs broken
De massa, he'll hab his pay
He's old enough, wise enough, ought to know better
Dan to went an run away

(chorus)


So, how does this grab you?

Does this, in the slightest, suggest that Henry Clay Work was a racist?
Don't insult Steven Foster by suggesting that he was "Politically incorrect"
Do you know who I think ought to read the entire "My old Kentucky Home", the idiots who run the Kentucky Derby

I think Clay also wrote, "We're Coming From the Cotton Fields"

Do yourselves a favor and type in, "Henry Clay Work" in the "keywords" place and click on "GO"
Then revise your opinion about Steven Foster's song lyrics.

He also wrote, "Marching through Georgia" and "Ring the Bell, Watchman" the origin of the sea song, Strike the Bell" Ring the Bell Watchman heralded the end of the Civil war and the triumph of good over evil.

(repeat chorus)


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: GUEST,Scabby Douglas
Date: 19 Aug 03 - 04:41 AM

It's not only old songs that have this problem.
Kate and Anna McGarrigle's "Work Song" uses the word "darkies" in a song that reminisces about songs like "Old Kentucky Home" and the fact that for a number of reasons, these songs are out of fashion, or difficult to use.

"Songs that may no longer please us,
'Bout the darkies, about Jesus.
Mississippi minstrels the colour of molasses
Strummin' on their banjos, to entertain the masses"

I have tried to sing this songs a ouple of times, and still find it difficult to work out how to do this.


Cheers

Steven


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: Escamillo
Date: 19 Aug 03 - 06:17 AM

This is a song I love. Let me ask a question: isn't the singer impersonating a black man, in this song ?? I would bet he IS black, and he is calling "darkies" the people of his own race and social condition. On the other hand, "gay" means joyful. I think that the use of euphemisms may be more offensive than the original lyrics, just because the differentiation is so visible.

I've sung this song always to white audiences (who love black songs here in Buenos Aires), should I be careful if some day I sing it for a black, or mixed audience ? Ok, probably I will not, not because of the color problem, but becasue of the quality. It would be the same as going to sing Neapolitan songs to people in Naples.

Un abrazo,
Andrés


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: greg stephens
Date: 19 Aug 03 - 07:19 AM

masato's post about passing a law to change the words of the song. there is a story you keep hearing(I dont know if it's true) that someone passed a law in America(or possibly tried to pass a law) to say that pi should equal 3. Using the law to change the words of a song seems to come into a similar category: tthe change might be very convenient, but you do kind of wonder if the law can be made to apply to this sort of thing.


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: masato sakurai
Date: 19 Aug 03 - 07:45 AM

From American Experience: Stephen Foster:
Should we change Foster's songs to remove their racist aspects, or not perform them?

Dale Cockrell:
The songs of Stephen Foster are, especially the minstrel songs, are problematic today. And perhaps quite rightly they are. In 1996 I know members of the Yale Glee Club decided not to sing "My Old Kentucky Home" because they considered it to be racially derisive. I think that that's somewhat unfortunate because it's a song that grew out of a minstrel tradition but was critical of the minstrel tradition. And in many ways it's a song that enabled us to begin to undo racial bigotry and prejudices that exist in this country. But I also understand at the same time -- it's the old thing, minstrelsy is many things to many people. But I understand, too, that it's so embedded in the tradition of derision that people want nothing to do with even the association of it. Minstrelsy is certainly something that should not enjoy any kind of resurrection at all today. The associations are certainly too strong there.

Nanci Griffith:
I think we're losing something in not repeating his lyrics or in adapting them, changing them to make them more politically correct, because he was trying to blend some things and create an awareness that we need to remember. It's part of black history and it's part of American history and you can't change history. It's good to reflect on it. I think it's more important to study history as it is, lest we ever repeat ourselves.

Ken Emerson:
Stephen Foster's music today is deeply embarrassing for two reasons. First of all, because of the obvious racial epithets and caricatures and stereotypes that he uses, which were typical of the time and unfortunately are still typical of our time today. Secondly, and perhaps even more embarrassing, is his extreme sentimentality in an age that prides itself on being ironic and cool.
It's important to come to terms with Stephen Foster because we have to understand the racial complexity of American culture. It won't do any good, I believe, simply to sweep Stephen Foster under the rug of political correctness and ignore both the racism that is endemic in his music and the many instances in which his music transcends that racism. How can we understand our past, which created what we are today, without looking this in the eye -- and hearing it in the ear? To this day Stephen Foster's music touches on what unites us as Americans and also on what divides us.

Thomas Hampson:
I think we must find a way to learn and grow from people and respect their context. It's too easy and too unfair to just simply write someone off until we've actually looked through their eyes at their world. That Stephen Foster wrote songs in an idiom that is just simply an anathema to me as an American, to me as a human being in the 1990s, and that I would never possibly think in any form of either wanting to hear or sing -- that's true. The fact that we can see it from both sides and have to see it from both sides is infinitely more important in a questioning process than the right answer.

Josephine Wright:
It would be historically inaccurate for me, as a musicologist, to suggest that we abandon a repertory of music which is so historical because of the racial insensitivity of some of the text. I believe as a teacher, and as a historian, that they should be placed in the historical context and people should understand where these songs fit and why. Personally I would not be singing them as a part of my musical entertainment today, but I have great respect for them and I would introduce them to my students because it's a part of the American culture and American heritage.

Eric Lott:
The relevance of studying Foster is not unlike the relevance of studying Mark Twain and Huckleberry Finn. What you have, in both cases, are works that reach very deeply into major American paradoxes, historical contradictions around race, racism and slavery, and the nature of artistic production. Huckleberry Finn is, I think -- this is hotly debated now -- but it's ambiguous to this day in ways that I think still one could make a fairly defensible argument for withholding [it] from school students until a certain age, 13 and 14, when they're able to deal with certain of the racial implications. Foster is no less ambiguous. When I got Foster's songs in grade school, they're such terrific melodies that it's almost a crime not to parlay the melodies into the classroom setting but if I got the racist lyrics, I don't remember it. And that may just be the condition of being white in America, but I think that there's a kind of evasion of the full implications of Foster.

Fath Ruffins:
There are many instances in my childhood in which people sang Stephen Foster music. At summer camps, there was lots of singing around the campfire. And what do you sing around the campfire? Well, religious songs drop out because everybody at the camp isn't necessarily of one religion. So these classic American songs came to be the music that you would learn at camp or at school or someplace like that. So I learned many of these songs, usually with changed lyrics. That's one of the reasons why I emphasize that the lyrics have changed over the years. The most offensive of the lyrics used words like "nigger" which would have been common in the 1840s or 1850s [but] the lyrics that I was taught didn't have that in them. So actually I loved Stephen Foster songs as a child and basically in a sense, still do. I think that they are catchy, wonderful, popular tunes that really reflect something interesting about the United States. But I think it is necessary to adapt them, maybe by just learning the instrumental, just learning the melody or by changing the lyrics, learning the changed lyrics because to sing them in their original form would be, I think, just perpetuating a stereotype that is no longer useful or no longer helpful or no longer functions in the same way in American society as it did in the 1840s and 1850s.


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: Amos
Date: 19 Aug 03 - 08:51 AM

I wonder if it can be said that those who are ashamed of their history are doomed to repeat it.

Not a wise proposition surely, in an era of wholesale corrections of the past by the PC crowd, and newspeak re-writing history by the "right or wrong" faction centered in DC. I view both these impulses as double plus ungood, myself.

I'm with Nancy Griffith; I believe that altering the past is unworthy and unprofitable.

Of course, you can just stop using those songs or poems or words which you don't want to use. But that's a different proposition altogether.

A


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: greg stephens
Date: 19 Aug 03 - 09:01 AM

There is a famous photo of the great engineer Isembard Kingdom Brunel. He is standing in front of a large boat he has built, with massive chains hanging behind him. His top hat is at a jaunty angle, and he is holding a large cigar. There is a maritime museum in England where there is large reproduction of this picture in pride of place. But the image of the offending cigar has been carefully removed by some skilful computer manipulator.
   Sing the songs, or dont sing the songs. But I don't think rewriting them is an honest option.


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: GUEST,Melani
Date: 19 Aug 03 - 04:10 PM

Times and fashions change. If the original words to a song you are about to sing contain something that is likely to offend somebody, then change 'em. I believe that is known as the folk process.


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 19 Aug 03 - 04:49 PM

No, it isn't; it's called editorial intervention. The deliberate alteration of a song with a known author (whether justified or not) is not what the much-abused term "folk process" was coined for.


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: Kim C
Date: 19 Aug 03 - 04:50 PM

Well, then you get into history vs. PC... if you change the words, will you lose what the author was trying to convey? Old Kentucky Home is a minstrel song, and minstrel music was hugely popular in America in the mid-19th-century. Because of its use of what we now consider inaccurate racial stereotypes, it is rarely studied seriously in spite of the fact that it had a huge influence on the popular music of the time. Stephen Foster and Dan Emmett were some of the first people to actually make a living at songwriting, and they got started with minstrel music.

I stand by my first suggestion - play it as an instrumental and if people in the audience want to sing along, let 'em.


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 19 Aug 03 - 05:07 PM

We can always hope that someday people will become mature enough that they can sing, study, talk about and accept the past without rewriting it.


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: Amos
Date: 19 Aug 03 - 05:46 PM

Kim, I like your suggestion, assuming there is context for playing it.

We cana lways hope, surely, but sometyimes ya gotta lean on 'em a little bit...


A


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: Escamillo
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 02:46 AM

The text below was taken from "Biographical Sketch", Center for American Music, University of Pittsburgh, at:
http://www.pitt.edu/~amerimus/foster.htm

Should we consider Foster's lyrics only as a generous concession by a white composer impersonating black men ? What do African-Americans think of this ? I know of one, at least, from whom I heard these songs for the first time, who had sung them with deep respect and emotion, with their full original lyrics: Maestro Paul Robeson, the opposite to racism and elitism, and to silly lyrics, and to white color, indeed.

Un abrazo,
Andrés

------------
         At first, Foster wrote ballads and dances for parlor singers and pianists as well as minstrel songs, often referred to as "Ethiopian" songs, for professional theatrical performers. The minstrel songs, like the ballads, had simple melodies and accompaniments, but their texts, written in dialect, depicted African-American slaves as simple, good-natured creatures. Some of his earliest minstrel texts even had crude caricatures and terms, i.e. "Away Down Souf" (1848) and one verse that was later deleted form "Oh! Susanna."

         But as Foster grew more ambivalent about the earlier "Ethiopian" songs, he began offering a different image, that of the black as a human being experiencing pain, love, joy, even nostalgia. "Nelly Was a Lady" (1849) is an eloquent lament of a slave for his loved one who has died, apparently the first song written by a white composer for the white audience of the minstrel shows that portrays a black man and woman as loving husband and wife, and insists on calling the woman a "lady," which was a term reserved for well-born white women. "Angelina Baker" (1851) similarly laments a slave who has been sent away by "old Massa." "Ring, Ring de Banjo!" (1851), despite its apparent surface of frivolity, has the slave/singer leaving the plantation "while the ribber's running high," a reference to escaping while the bloodhounds could not pick up his scent, and traveling to freedom on the Underground Railroad. "Old Folks at Home" (1851), which was to become the most popular of all Foster's songs, conveys a sentiment that had almost universal appeal--yearning for lost home, youth, family, and happiness. Increasingly, the "Ethiopian" songs used the same musical style that Foster created for his parlor ballads.
-----------------


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: AllisonA(Animaterra)
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 06:48 AM

This is a fascinating discussion- I often run into this issue as a music teacher. I tend to lean towards preserving Foster's original words and talking to the audience (or class) about the song, the composer, and the history.
But we have to remember that Midchuck's original question refers to the fact that this is a wedding rehearsal cookout- not a good time to educate the audience! There'll be folks sitting around listening, but others talking, playing ball, having a good social time- the "half-not-listening ear" could pick up a word like "darkies" having heard nothing of the disclaimer before the song. In a case like this, I would advocate a simple change from "darkies" to "young folks", "people", "androids", or whatever seems appropriate- save historical integrity for a more focused concert setting!


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: Midchuck
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 07:17 AM

My conclusion: I'll either skip it, or do it as an instrumental, or sing it as written if nobody's really listening anyway, or sing it as written after lecturing about my reasons for doing so if anyone is listening.

My reasoning: The words as written are in fact likely to be taken the wrong way - without any understanding of the historical changes in word meanings.

If it were a true folk song - where the author were "anon." or "trad." - I could change the words and claim I was "part of the folk process." Since it has a definite author, as a matter of common decency, I need the author's permission to change the words. I can't get such permission because the author's dead. The idea of the Kentucky legislature taking it upon themselves to change the words only means that the Kentucky legislature are a pack of...but what legislature isn't?

I thank you all for your input, though.

Peter.


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: Rapparee
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 08:10 AM

For what it's worth, a friend of mine born and bred in Kentucky, as were her family for several generations back, felt that the change in words legislated by the State was a very good thing. She felt that within the State there was still too much racial hatred to sing it as written at football games, etc. As a single mother she has her hands full anyway, as an African-American she was proud of her heritage and history, as someone whose roots were deep in the soil of Kentucky she was proud of her State -- and most, but by no means all, of its history. When I found records of slave sales in Newport, Kentucky she and I nearly cried together even though the sales were in 1808 ("Two negro boys, ages 6 and 8...").

I'd do it as a long, sad, instrumental.


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: GUEST,Bo in KY
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 09:00 AM

Just a comment on the tension between "historical accuracy" and the "folk process". I don't think the fact that there is a definite author forbids anyone from changing the words. "Puff the Magic Dragon" has a definite, living author yet I would bet there are as many variants as there are youth summer camps in the U.S. Are they "wrong"? What about the dialect in which Foster wrote the song? Is it historically inaccurate, and an abuse of the song, to sing "the" for "de" or "have" for "hab", etc.??
I say there is enough documentation in archives/songbooks that people can know what the original lyrics were if they wish to look. If the song is a beloved and living part of the people's music, it can and will be adapted to fit a contemporary situation.
FWIW, Mr. Emerson writes above that "the obvious racial epithets ... are still typical of our time today". In my experience, I have never heard anyone, outside of singing a Stephen Foster song, use the term "darkies". I'm sure I would be outraged if they did.

Bo


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: RangerSteve
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 09:16 AM

I heard Garrison Keillor sing it, using the line "'tis summer, the clouds roll away". I've been using that line ever since. No one's been offended yet.


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: greg stephens
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 09:17 AM

Bo in Ky: the word "darkies" appears many times in this thread, and in others. Suely the context of a word is what determines whether it is offensive, not just the word itself. I have heard the word used many many times in my life, sometimes offensively, sometimes not; and on the maore awkward occasions(such as those we are discussing here) when one group of people find it offensive, and one group doesnt. This is not a problem with an easy solution.


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: Kim C
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 09:44 AM

Bo, you didn't know Miss Jane.

Miss Jane lived next door to my grandmother years ago in Cecelia, Kentucky. She was in her 80s when I was a little girl, which means she was born sometime before 1900. She had some little black figurines on her mantel she called "darkies." I believe someone already mentioned that once upon a time, "darkie" was the considered the polite counterpart to "nigger." I also believe, if memory serves me correctly, that Foster composed a few songs containing that particular word as well.


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: RichM
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 11:28 AM

I've been singing "folk songs for 40+ years.
I will not sing lyrics that are offensive to
1)me
2)a social/cultural/racial group

Works for me!


Rich


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: Kim C
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 11:39 AM

Well, Rich, that's sort of my philosophy... I don't want to offend anyone on a cultural level, and I don't want to offend anyone on a historical level either. So I either don't do the song, or just play it as an instrumental.


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 12:01 PM

If one MUST bowdlerize this great old song, seems to me that the best substitute for "darkies" is "home-folks". "The people" is just took generic, and somehow, although in two syllables, just doesn't have the right cadence.

And as to "gay", it has its old meaning still, and I (for one) refuse to abandon it just because it has been widely misapplied in the modern day. The context makes clear, I think, that it's not that modern usage.

In context, "the home-folks are gay" fits the mood of the song, although not the detailed original meaning.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: CRANKY YANKEE
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 06:17 PM

The Stalinist-Leninist communists had a phrase, DIALECTIC MATERIALISM.
This is what they called "History as it should have been"
And:
WE ALL KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM.

Hiram P. Georgensmall esq.
MD DDS lld


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 06:40 PM

Or you could just rewrite the words completely and claim a copyright on words and music.






Like Woody did.


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: GUEST
Date: 02 May 12 - 11:23 PM

Take yourself pen and paper and go over the song...such as, tis summer the children are gay. Like that.


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 03 May 12 - 12:41 AM

The trouble with this song is I think anyway it is not about slaves but people who have been freed and have no real place to go. So it is not about generic people. It is about very specific people. I would never sing the N word...or say it..I am tempted to use the word "darkies" so that people know who the song is about and for, most respectfully written...but I generally don't substitute a word..I just sort of hum for a couple of notes and go on...mng


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: kendall
Date: 03 May 12 - 07:58 AM

My Mother never had a racist bone in her body and she referred to blacks she worked with as "Darkies". It was a term of endearment to her. She would never use the N word.

PC can go too far when you change history. What was, was and you can't really change it.

I have an old 78 with a song called Pickaninny's paradise. Thats what black children were called in those days.

Thank god we have outlived those hateful days.
I'm reminded of that old saying: "No man ever needs be a failure; he can always serve as a bad example".


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 03 May 12 - 10:23 AM

We used to sing "young folks" instead of "darkies". Works just fine. But does it imply the young folks are pursuing an alternative sexual lifestyle?


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 03 May 12 - 10:39 AM

the head will bow and the back will have to bend]
wherever the young foilks will go
a few more miles and our troubles all will end
in the fields where the sugar canes grow


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: GUEST,songbob
Date: 03 May 12 - 08:21 PM

"the head will bow and the back will have to bend]
wherever the young foilks will go
a few more miles and our troubles all will end
in the fields where the sugar canes grow"

MG, did you post that to show the stupidity of using the phrase "young folks" universally through the song (it works just fine in the first verse, and is absolutely wrong in this verse, where the subjects are obviously quite aged -- "a few more years to totter on the road" in the original, I think)? Because when you start changing words, you end up with having to change more of 'em as you go through the song.

I'm in a Civil War reenactment ensemble, and we regularly sing "darky" where it appears. We DON'T use "nigger," but luckily, most songs with that word are pretty damn bad, anyway ("Someone's In the Kitchen with Dinah," believe it or not, is truly awful; luckily, it's not related to the lines in "I've Been Working on the Railroad").

Our thought is that "darky" is not in wide usage these days, so most people hearing it FROM PEOPLE IN PERIOD COSTUME usually "get it." If I am not doing a reenactment, I usually change to less volatile, like "It's summer, and everyone's gay" and "wherever the slave, he must go" in the last verse. But if my audience is interested in history as it happened, I will use "darky".

Now, "Kingdom coming" is another story. It's really hard to change that one -- "slavey" fits the scan, but doesn't work in the singing.

Bob Clayton


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 04 May 12 - 12:57 AM

One of the tougher calls in Folk, Bob. In the interest of accuracy, sure I get it. It boils down to how deep in character you need to be I suppose.


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: Megan L
Date: 04 May 12 - 02:50 AM

changing it to young folk Is ageist (not everyone is young)
changing it to all the folks is musicist (what about those who like opera)
Changing it to home folks is locationist (not everone is at home.)
Ok I will stop now and get my coat


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 04 May 12 - 02:18 PM

If properly introduced, no verse in song expresses the never-ending back-breaking, mind-numbing soul-destroying labor of slavery better than Foster's third verse, as he wrote it.

The head must bow and the back will have to bend,
Wherever the darkey must go:
A few more days and the trouble all will end
In the field where sugarcanes may grow.
A few more days for to tote the weary load,
No matter 'twill never be light,
A few more days till we totter down the road,
Then my old Kentucky Home, good night!


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: GUEST,Lefty
Date: 04 May 12 - 03:05 PM

I propose substituting "victim of classist, capitalist oppression" for "darky", audiences really connect to it, expecially if I sing all six stanzas of "The Internationale" first.


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: Tootler
Date: 04 May 12 - 06:35 PM

It should be sung as written, without apology but maybe with some explanation.

If you read all the words of the song, you can see what Foster is getting at. Yes he starts off with this rose tinted view, but at the end of the first verse he starts to take it apart and the real crunch comes at the end of the second verse when he writes

"The time has come when the darkies have to part,"

surely that can only refer to slaves being sold and the group being broken up, quite likely families are broken up in the process.

Then, as Q says, he then goes on to describe the unremitting toil that was the slave's lot.

The song is, in fact, a powerful indictment of slavery.

Sing it as written and if the PC lot complain, give them a copy of the words and tell them to read them properly.


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: GUEST,kendall
Date: 04 May 12 - 07:47 PM

Exactly


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Subject: RE: My Old Kentucky Home problem
From: GUEST,JTT
Date: 05 May 12 - 03:23 AM

Maybe it depends on the context? In normal folk-singing context, the Garrison Keillor version sounds pretty good, and will work fine until it's the norm for black people and white to marry and have children, and until the colour of your skin is no more remarkable than the colour of your eyes or your hair.

In specifically historical contexts, the Stephen Foster words are appropriate, illustrating a long-gone time when one group enslaved another.


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