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Opinions: Old Black Joe

DigiTrad:
BEAUTIFUL DREAMER
BEAUTIFUL HOME
BEAUTIFUL TEAMSTERS
BRIGHTER DAYS IN STORE
CAMPTOWN RACES
COME TO THY LATTICE, LOVE
DON'T BET YOUR MONEY ON DE SHANGHAI
GENTLE ANNIE
GENTLE ANNIE 2
GLENDY BURKE
HARD TIMES COME AGAIN NO MORE
I DREAM OF JEANNIE WITH THE LIGHT BROWN HAIR
I WOULD NOT DIE IN SUMMER TIME
MASSA'S IN DE COLD, COLD GROUND
MOLLY DO YOU LOVE ME
NELLY BLY
OH! BOYS CARRY ME 'LONG
OH, SUSANNA
OLD BLACK JOE
OLD DOG TRAY
OLD FOLKS AT HOME
OLD KENTUCKY HOME
SOME FOLKS DO
THE SONG OF ALL SONGS
UNCLE NED
UNCLE NED
WHEN THIS DREADFUL WAR IS ENDED
WILLIE, WE HAVE MISSED YOU


Related threads:
Lyr Add: Nelly Was a Lady (Stephen C. Foster) (1)
Lyr/Chords Req: My Old Kentucky Home (S Foster) (10)
(DTStudy) Lyr Add: Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair (Foster) (24)
Lyr Add: Fairy-Belle (Stephen Foster) (1)
Lyr Add: Old Folks at Home (Stephen Foster) (18)
Lyr Add: Ring, Ring de Banjo (Stephen C. Foster) (6)
Lyr Req: Old Black Joe (Stephen Foster) (64)
Lyr Add: Farewell, My Lilly Dear (Foster) (2)
Lyr Add: Massa's In De Cold Ground (Foster) (5)
Lyr Req: Ah! May the Red Rose Live Alway (S Foster (13)
Lyr Add: There's a Good Time Coming (S Foster) (6)
Lyr Add: There Are Plenty of Fish in the Sea (3)
Lyr Req: Uncle Ned (Stephen Foster) (7)
Add Tune/Verse: Old Dog Tray (6)
Lyr Req: Virginia Belle (Stephen Foster) (4)
Lyr Req: Oh Suzanna? / Oh Susanna (30)
Lyr Add: I'll never play the banjo again/Uncle Ned (13)
Lyr Add: White House Chair (Foster, 1856) (5)
Chord Req: Linger in blissful repose (Foster) (3)
New Stephen Foster CD (13)
DTStudy: Beautiful Dreamer (Stephen Foster) (16)
Lyr Req: That's What's the Matter (Stephen Foster) (7)
Lyr/Chords Req: Beautiful Dreamer (Stephen Foster) (4) (closed)
Lyr/Chords Req: Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair (2)
Oh Suzannah / Oh! Susanna (7)
Lyr Add: Massa's in de Cold Ground (Stephen Foster (2)


Rabbi-Sol 04 Jun 04 - 05:15 PM
mg 04 Jun 04 - 05:28 PM
Rabbi-Sol 04 Jun 04 - 05:36 PM
wysiwyg 04 Jun 04 - 05:39 PM
Deckman 04 Jun 04 - 05:46 PM
Deckman 04 Jun 04 - 05:50 PM
greg stephens 04 Jun 04 - 06:16 PM
wysiwyg 04 Jun 04 - 06:18 PM
McGrath of Harlow 04 Jun 04 - 06:23 PM
greg stephens 04 Jun 04 - 06:24 PM
Joybell 04 Jun 04 - 06:56 PM
Bill Hahn//\\ 04 Jun 04 - 09:04 PM
fiddler 04 Jun 04 - 09:13 PM
masato sakurai 04 Jun 04 - 09:30 PM
Joybell 04 Jun 04 - 09:45 PM
MAG 04 Jun 04 - 10:02 PM
LadyJean 05 Jun 04 - 12:35 AM
Megan L 05 Jun 04 - 02:33 PM
Joe Richman 05 Jun 04 - 08:24 PM
Joybell 05 Jun 04 - 08:35 PM
Rabbi-Sol 05 Jun 04 - 11:52 PM
Kaleea 06 Jun 04 - 02:25 AM
GUEST,Rainer (otter-rainer@t-online.de) 08 Jun 04 - 04:07 AM
McGrath of Harlow 08 Jun 04 - 01:34 PM
Rabbi-Sol 08 Jun 04 - 06:20 PM
DonMeixner 08 Jun 04 - 06:45 PM
Rabbi-Sol 08 Jun 04 - 07:02 PM
wysiwyg 08 Jun 04 - 07:42 PM
cobber 08 Jun 04 - 09:25 PM
GUEST 25 Feb 17 - 05:10 PM
Stilly River Sage 25 Feb 17 - 05:41 PM
Joe Offer 25 Feb 17 - 06:04 PM
meself 25 Feb 17 - 09:10 PM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 25 Feb 17 - 11:01 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 26 Feb 17 - 02:23 AM
Steve Shaw 26 Feb 17 - 06:51 AM
GUEST 26 Feb 17 - 09:54 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 26 Feb 17 - 10:07 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 26 Feb 17 - 10:13 AM
meself 26 Feb 17 - 11:32 AM
Big Al Whittle 26 Feb 17 - 06:14 PM
Crowhugger 26 Feb 17 - 08:42 PM
Steve Shaw 26 Feb 17 - 09:05 PM
GUEST,pauperback 26 Feb 17 - 11:35 PM
GUEST,pauperback 27 Feb 17 - 12:32 PM
GUEST,Psychomorris 04 Mar 17 - 07:17 AM
Big Al Whittle 04 Mar 17 - 11:22 AM
GUEST,Don Meixner 04 Mar 17 - 06:15 PM
GUEST,Don Meixner 04 Mar 17 - 06:26 PM
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Subject: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: Rabbi-Sol
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 05:15 PM

I notice in the Mudcat data base listing of Stephen Foster's "Old Black Joe", that there is a footnote about political correctness. Yes, some of Fosters songs such as My Old Kentucky Home or Suwanee River contain offensive words such as "darkies", the same as Al Jolson's songs which contained the word "mammy" which can definitely be construed as being demeaning to African Americans. However the words of the song "Old Black Joe" in and of themselves do not contain anything demeaning, and somehow to me depicts the sadness and suffering of the old African American. I think the fact that Foster himself was from a pro-slavery family casts this song in a negative light. In a recent swing through Appalachia, I stopped at Bardstown, KY., where My Old Kentucky Home State Park is located. Each summer, there is an outdoor musical pageant that is performed nightly entitled "The Stephen Foster Story" and is built around his many musical compositions. I had the good fortune to see this outstanding production. One of the senior cast members, an African American, is featured in the production singing "Old Black Joe". After the show, I had the opportunity to chat with him at length about whether or not he felt uncomfortable doing this number. He emphaticaly said "not at all". He asked me to analyze the words and defied me to find anything racist about them. Since then, I have sung the song regularly to both, black & white audiences with no negative respose whatsoever, only applause. What are some of your opinions on this matter. SOL ZELLER


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: mg
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 05:28 PM

I love the song. I have heard, perhaps incorrectly, that he wrote it for a friend's elderly servant, who felt honored that a song was written about him. This could be folklore of course. I think it is a highly respectful and lovely song. mg


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: Rabbi-Sol
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 05:36 PM

Somehow in my mind, I compare it with Old Man River from the classic Broadway production "Showboat". Paul Robeson performed that song many times. Both songs evoke the same feelings of emotion in me. SOL ZELLER


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: wysiwyg
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 05:39 PM

The sad reality of racism as we have inherited it is that no matter what the intention or origin of a song, many songs from that era evoke such different feelings for x's and o's. Feelings are feelings. Some of them are very painful.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: Deckman
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 05:46 PM

Sol,

This is a very interesting question and one that speaks to a "white"delemma, I believe. I suspect that there are only two sources for direction on this question: Stephan Foster himself, or some timely and thoughtful input from the black community.

In my teenage years, and I did have some (really), I was the 'token white' in an all black theatre group in Seattle. The director, who was also a very close personal friend and mentor, used to enjoy singing this song. And he sang it with much fervor. And I do know that part of his enjoyment, perverse perhaps, was to watch the confused squirming of the other actors.

So again, I as a white man, don't know what to say. I hope some one will speak to this with authority. CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: Deckman
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 05:50 PM

Susan ... I've always enjoyed your insights. Would that we could share a cup of coffee sometime, but I think you live far away from us. Bob


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: greg stephens
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 06:16 PM

This song, and others like it, will continue to produce confused feelings in a lot of people for a long time. It is an incredibly beautiful song. Let us hope that in the natural course of things that it will possible for everybody to enjoy its beauty(though possibly by then it will be so hopelessly old-fashioned that nobody can enjoy it?).


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: wysiwyg
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 06:18 PM

Bob, yes.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 06:23 PM

Here is a previous thread about this song with some interesting contributions (and the text of the song) Ole Black Joe, some don't believe it exists.

I can't begin to see how there is anything in the least racist or offensive in the song. Is the idea that there is cause for offense because the song refers to the fact that it can be possible to have happy times even in a life where we are oppressed? Because that is just common sense, and the common experience of humanity. It doesn't imply that oppression isn't really such a bad thing. It just means that human beings can be incredibly tough and brave, even when things are against them.

One suggestion in that other thread which struck me as really strange was that, if it was "Poor Old Joe" it wouldn't be offensive, but with "Old Black Joe", it is somehow. I just can't get my head round that one.


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: greg stephens
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 06:24 PM

Couldnt agree more, McGrath. The replacement of "old black" with "poor old" seems to be a common way of bowdlerising the song. I think people doing that are seriously missing the point of being politically sensitive, which I hope we should all try to be.


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: Joybell
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 06:56 PM

It's really sad that so many false stories have grown up about Stephen Foster. He was, for one thing - and very importantly, not pro-slavery. He was an abolitionist like the other Northen song-writers of the time and he worked to change the Minstrel Show - advising performers on how their characters should be shown with dignity and empathy. The university where his notes and books are held has an excellent biography of him based on documents FROM THE TIME - not false ideas later written about him. His own books and papers give a clear account of how he felt about slavery. Here's the site: (hope this works): http://www.pitt.edu/amerimus/foster.htm Joy


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: Bill Hahn//\\
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 09:04 PM

So many interesting points.   I believe that songs and/or music has to be taken in the historical time and the perspective in which it was either written or passed down.

Today the song of which we speak may seem "racist" but, rather, we should look at it in a historical perspective.

As to Old Man River---Robeson made some changes to the words that he felt appropriate. He did the same with Amazing Grace (my favorite hymn)---he changed "wretch" to "soul" with the comment that in God's eyes none of us are wretches. Nor should we think of ourselves that way.

Bill Hahn


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: fiddler
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 09:13 PM

I've not read all the posts on thsi thread BUT I love Stephen C Foster songs - I was brought upplaying them on fiddle with me dad on Piano then there was the Balck and White minstrel show!

I get thouroghly p*ss*d off with all thsi PC stuff!

I spied a you maiden so bucksome and gay - out of kilter on two levels.

These sentiments though we recognise as not right now were the norm of the times and should be taken in this light.

I think careful intro or general accptance by an audience that these are songs form the past and old values apply doesn't detract form the poetry or the music ...............grrrrrrr I hate PC praps that 'cos I couldn't give a damm and all folks things and attitudes deserve a listening and consideration - all pigs are equal....

OK off me soap box I'll calm down

Andy


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: masato sakurai
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 09:30 PM

From DDOO-DAH! Stephen Foster's biographer confronts racism found in local composer's songs (University [of Pittsburgh] Times, VOLUME 29 NUMBER 18 MAY 15, 1997):
Fewer than 20 of Foster's nearly 200 songs fall in the blackface category. According to Emerson, Foster himself became increasingly uneasy about his blackface songs and eventually abandoned the style. But the image of the Pittsburgh songwriter as a racist endures in some people's eyes because a disproportionate number of those songs have survived.

Among Foster's most racist blackface songs is none other than "Oh! Susanna." Few people are aware of that today, however, because the song's second verse, with its flippant comment on 500 "Nigga" being killed in a riverboat explosion, is so horrible that it has seldom been sung in the 20th century, according to Emerson.

Other famous Foster songs that have offended and humiliated countless African Americans include "Old Black Joe," "Old Folks at Home" and "My Old Kentucky Home." As recently as last fall, Emerson noted, two black members of the Yale Glee Club threatened to quit if the group sang "My Old Kentucky Home." The club's president burned a copy of the music, a majority of its members voted not to perform the song and the program was changed.

Yet, Emerson pointed out, there is a paradox at work in such stands because some of the most prominent figures in African American history have singled Foster out for high praise.

The abolitionist Frederick Douglass believed "My Old Kentucky Home," awakened "sympathies for the slave, in which anti-slavery principles take root and flourish." W. E. B. Du Bois, a founding father of the National Association for the Advancement of Color ed People, extolled "Old Black Joe" and "Old Folks at Home" (better known as "Swanee River") and insisted that they were not "debasements and imitations." W. C. Handy, the "Father of the Blues," wrote that "the well of sorrow from which Negro music is drawn is also a well of mystery. I suspect that Stephen Foster owed something to this well, this mystery, this sorrow. 'My Old Kentucky Home' makes you think so, at any rate. Something there suggests close acquaintance with my people." Such paradoxes, Emerson believes, lie at the heart of rock 'n' roll and have characterized American popular music from the very beginning in the 1830s. "When Davy Crockett, the coonskin Congressman, visited the jumpin'est joint in New York City," Emerson said, "the fiddling and dancing and drinking in that dive mixed 'black and white, white and black, all hug-'em-snug together.'" Although music and dance began to bring blacks and whites into somewhat closer contact during Foster's time, Emerson said he does not mean that "everything was hunky-dory." In fact, he found in his research that appropriating, imitating and mocking black styles of singing and dancing was a way of asserting white supremacy.


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: Joybell
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 09:45 PM

I too was brought up to love Stephen Foster songs. He was, and still is, loved here in Australia too.
Stephen Foster was born and raised in a state where slavery was illegal. He most surely was not from a "pro-slavery family". He most surely was not pro-slavery himself. I feel very strongly that we should correct these misconceptions about this great song-writer. How could anyone singing songs like for example: "Nelly was a Lady" "Old Black Joe" not notice how the subjects are treated with the greatest dignity.
                                                       Joy


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: MAG
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 10:02 PM

I have been given to understand that this refers to the probability that Foster came up with the melodies from listening to Black musicians -- ie, he lifted them.

I find the lyrics at best silly.

"the well of sorrow from which Negro music is drawn is also a well of mystery. I suspect that Stephen Foster owed something to this well, this mystery, this sorrow. 'My Old Kentucky Home' makes you think so, at any rate. Something there suggests close acquaintance with my people."


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: LadyJean
Date: 05 Jun 04 - 12:35 AM

We have a statue of Stephen Foster and Old Black Joe outside the Oakland branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Poor old Joe is barefoot, and occasionally finds himself wearing a sock or with painted toenails. Across the street is the Stephen Foster memorial theater at the University of Pittsburgh.
I was at a small, largely white, college in Kentucky, and our choir was doing a selection of Foster songs. The baritone who was to sing "My Old Kentucky Home" solo, began, "The sun shines bright on my old Kentucky home, 'tis summer the darkies---young folks are gay". He sang Young folks at the concert. It's rather like when someone subistitutes for the n-word in the Mikado. (It turns up twice in the show. Referring to blackface performers, not Africans.)


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: Megan L
Date: 05 Jun 04 - 02:33 PM

Fiddler you mentioned the black and white minstrel show, yesterday on tv they were talking about how racist it was and people wh had been in it sat meakly appologising. That makes me so angry, it was of its time as was foster people are becoming afraid of their own shadow with all this PC nonscense.


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: Joe Richman
Date: 05 Jun 04 - 08:24 PM

When I was a kid, Lord how I hated that song!!! When we had to sing it in class some of the other kids would leer at me as they mouthed the words "OLD BLACK JOE". By the way, none of us in the class was Black. And only one of us was named Joe!

Now, I'm over it. The words do nothing for me, but the tune sounds good on a fretless gut stringed banjo.

Joe


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: Joybell
Date: 05 Jun 04 - 08:35 PM

We regularly sing Stephen Foster songs for older audiences and although we sometimes try to slip in alternate words here and there our audience never does. Many terms have changed their meanings over 150 years but it's the feel of the songs and melodies that still move us. Everyone understands the nostalgia about "home" and "loved ones" regardless of the setting of a song.
I'm reminded of my first visit to a Cornish Association meeting in Melbourne. A member told me, "Of course you know that "Camptown Races" is a Cornish song?". "Stephen Foster's Camptown Races?" says I. He said, "Of course we know that Stephen Foster wrote it - and also many other songs we sing, but our ancestors took his songs into their homes - They became our songs!"
                                           Joy


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: Rabbi-Sol
Date: 05 Jun 04 - 11:52 PM

At the pageant that I saw in Bardstown, KY, the offensive words are always substituted for. SOL ZELLER


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: Kaleea
Date: 06 Jun 04 - 02:25 AM

Glad to hear that I'm not the only one who loves the songs of Irish-American Stephen Foster. When I am singing/playing at a local nursing home, or at the local living museum representing the late 1800's frontier days, I sing many of the songs of Foster. When I am performing for children in schools, I might not sing some of the songs which could be misunderstood without conversations about the then&now factor. I do believe that children are completely capable of learning about "olden days" & understanding the differences. I just choose not to cause misunderstandings. I do sing some of Foster' songs and the kids always enjoy them, and often have never heard them before. Our nation's folk music-whether composers are known or not-should be passed down for the benefit of future generations. Sadly, little of our folk music is taught in our scools.


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: GUEST,Rainer (otter-rainer@t-online.de)
Date: 08 Jun 04 - 04:07 AM

Hello "mary garvey",
I read your contribution from 2001 about the song " Here is for the next man to die" - You mentioned You have an old tape were a nurse sung it in Vietnam. Would You please contact me by my email address?
otter-rainer@t-online.de

Thank You !!

Greetings from Germany
Rainer


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 08 Jun 04 - 01:34 PM

"...the offensive words are always substituted for"

But what are "the offensive words" in this particular song? This all seems very baffling.   

Obviously it's possible to sing just about any song in a way that can hurt, if that's what you are intending to do. For example, You could sing "How much is that doggie in the window?" as an insult; or indeed any national anthem or nursery rhyme.


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: Rabbi-Sol
Date: 08 Jun 04 - 06:20 PM

Hi McGrath, When I said " the offensive words were always substituted for", I was not referring to "Old Black Joe", which as you quite correctly point out has none. I was referring to the other Foster songs that are performed in the pageant; in particular "My Old Kentucky Home" and "Old Folks At Home (Suwanee River)". Both those songs contain the offensive word "darkies". In the first song the words "old folks" are substituted and in the second the word "traveler" is substituted. The word also appears in the song "In The Evening By The Moonlight", where the words "black folks" are substituted. SOL ZELLER


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: DonMeixner
Date: 08 Jun 04 - 06:45 PM

I am reminded of a story a few years back on NPR regarding the return of The Minstral Show. The interesting thing is they are being done by African-Americans and they are being true to the old style of performance. Mr. Interlocator and a group of fine performers doing "Old Folks At Home", "Alabama ubilee", "Mississippi Mud" and "Old Black Joe" which were staples in the old Minstral Show and were being done again in the revivals.

I guess if a bunch of Black musicians and entertainers are finding it acceptable to preform in the tradition of the Minstral Show it must also be acceptable for me to enjoy the performance. Regardless of who wrote the songs and where the melodies came from.

Don


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: Rabbi-Sol
Date: 08 Jun 04 - 07:02 PM

Don, 10 or 15 years ago, these folks would probably be referred to as Uncle Toms by their fellow African-Americans. In my particular business (charter buses), I have a lot of contact on a daily basis with the Black community, both with customers and drivers; a close relationship that goes back some 43 years. A strange phenomena is that it is perfectly OK for a black person to use the "N" word when talking to another black person, and I hear it used on a daily basis. However, it it totally offensive and bigoted for a white person to utter that same word, in any context whatsoever. I am curious as to whether these minstrel shows use the original words or substitute politically correct non-offensive words. SOL ZELLER


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: wysiwyg
Date: 08 Jun 04 - 07:42 PM

I just choose not to cause misunderstandings.

Bravo. In life, a lot of things are as simple as that. It's certainly preferable, IMO, to an attitude where one person's message to or about another person is, "YOU should not feel what you feel." To me, that attitude-- reducing complex human relationships to a term as simplified as "PC"-- only says, "I don't care if you misunderstand, but I expect you to understand that I don't understand why this hurts you."

The reality is, there is a reality to deal with, and part of it is that people don't deal well with things that hurt. If you don't address that when you jump on what's hurting, such as in the wonderful way Kaleea describes, people are gonna hurt more, not less, and deal less well with things than they already are.

It's great to insist on one's own rights ("I'm gonna play this and to hell with how people feel"), but why not take an action that serves the common good, instead?

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: cobber
Date: 08 Jun 04 - 09:25 PM

When it comes to substituting words to Stephen Foster songs, nobody beats the Australians. After all we took Beautiful Dreamer and substituted the bloody lot to come up with A Pub With No Beer.


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Feb 17 - 05:10 PM

Greetings.

I no longer have any patience for the ignorant and ill-informed, the curse of our current society, steeped only in fashion and rejecting of intellectualism or any hint of something out of the corrupted past.

Having said that, while I no longer try to win over cretins to appreciate greatness in music (I've been teaching for 40 years) I will happily engage the open minded.   

Anyone who considers songs like, Old Black Joe, or, My Old Kentucky Home, in poor taste is aside from being ill-informed is to me, dangerous -- a portent of the fall of a civilization that has, quite simply lost it's mind.   A cursory glance at any Super Bowl half-time show should confirm this.    Let them revel in the putrid odor of their stupidity.

"Old Black Joe" is a poignant, lovely, dirge, if nothing else. But it is so much more.   It resonates in all people, around the world, who can identify with the awesome sadness that accompanies the passage of time, the fate of all men who are reconciled to the inevitable, and who, in the face of the inevitability, embrace it.   Loss, the harbinger of death, comes to all, and this song gives dignified voice to that experience. Hence, the song embraces the sublime.   

Thank you!


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 25 Feb 17 - 05:41 PM

Your post would perhaps read better if you didn't assume you had to insult all who might read it before expressing your opinion. Is this how you hope to inoculate yourself from argument? Most of us here understand that art may have universal appeal but it is also representative of it's time and of the thoughts of the day.

The same thing can be said of bawdy songs.

Just say what you have to say next time, don't belabor the point by second-guessing everyone here.


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: Joe Offer
Date: 25 Feb 17 - 06:04 PM

I love this song, but I feel compelled to apologize every time I sing it. For better or for worse, many people think that it's racially offensive to sing Stephen Foster songs. I don't feel right to judge their being offended, but I hate to see these good songs lost because of the way people judge them.
I haven't figured out a good way to handle this dilemma.
-Joe-

Here are the lyrics we have in the Digital Tradition. I see that the initials next to the explanatory notes are "JO," so I guess I was the source of the lyrics back in 1997.

OLD BLACK JOE
(S.C. Foster, 1860)

Gone are the days when my heart was young and gay,
Gone are my friends from the cotton fields away,
Gone from the earth to a better land I know,
I hear their gentle voices calling "Old Black Joe".

cho: I'm coming, I'm coming, for my head is bending low,
I hear their gentle voices calling "Old Black Joe".

Why do I weep, when my heart should feel no pain,
Why do I sigh that my friends come not again.
Grieving for forms now departed long ago.
I hear their gentle voices calling "Old Black Joe"

Where are the hearts once so happy and so free?
The children so dear that I held upon my knee
Gone to the shore where my soul has longed to go,
I hear their gentle voices calling "Old Black Joe"


I suppose songs like this make people very nervous about being politically
incorrect, but I think it's a shame that most of the songs Stephen Foster
wrote have been edited out of our history. Certainly, the songs reflect
attitudes that are no longer acceptable; but I don't think that it's
acceptable to whitewash away part of out history.
On the other hand, I think it's probably good that songs like this are no
longer in grammar school songbooks. I learned this song by heart when I
was in grade school. Maybe it's just as well my kids didn't. Nonetheless,
I think the song should be included in the database. It's part of our
history. JO

@aging @nostalgia
filename[ OLDBLACK
TUNE FILE: OLDBLACK
CLICK TO PLAY
JO
oct97


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: meself
Date: 25 Feb 17 - 09:10 PM

I find it curious that this thread was apparently resurrected after thirteen years by an anonymous guest so that he could sputter and rage about political correctness and the decline of civilization ... !


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 25 Feb 17 - 11:01 PM

Guest: "I no longer try to win over cretins to appreciate greatness in music (I've been teaching for 40 years) I will happily engage the open minded."

[Irwin Corey voice]

The cretins I have met in life have all been remarkably open minded people but I confess the subject of Foster never came up.

There is "quality" (fair ball or foul, measured by the millimeter) and there is "perceived quality" (home or away; the color of your cap; Cubs or Indians.)

Teachable moments in a target rich environment. Accentuate the positive. That's what I always say.

[RIP to the one true authority]


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 26 Feb 17 - 02:23 AM

Old Black Joe was on the flip side of one of Jerry Lee Lewis's early rock hits, and I loved it.
Years later I bought a huge Jerry Lee box set which contained an "undubbed" version of the song ( which was minus the added backup vocals by a group of female singers from the single version) and I felt this gave the performance an extra layer of romance and nostalgia.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tJ0uaCpeao


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 26 Feb 17 - 06:51 AM

Reminds me of a relatively recently-resurrected thread on the song "Ma Curly-headed Baby" which, down the years, has also often been bowdlerised in order to remove "offensive" allusions. Not when I "sing" it to my grandson it hasn't!

I wonder why we ever do this. Surely not because the original may deprave and corrupt audiences? That would just be patronising. In order to avoid offence? Well no-one has the right not to be offended. The sentiments of these songs are lovely even if the words are a bit outmoded in parts. But recognising that sort of thing is one of the factors that have helped to inform what I hesitatingly (in today's climate) refer to as our advancing enlightenment in dealing with racism, misogyny and other forms of discrimination, at least in the words we choose in order to talk about them.

Opera is full of stereotypes, Shakespeare isn't entirely innocent and the Choral Symphony is full of references to, er, "brotherhood." But "we all know what they meant" and we're not about to ditch them or start meddling with the texts.

Sing 'em loud, proud and original. Or don't sing 'em. It's up to you!


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: GUEST
Date: 26 Feb 17 - 09:54 AM

Agree with you 100% Steve.
I often sing The McGarrigles wonderful "Work Song".. the word darkies is in it, but it is there in context. Should this wonderful song be rewritten ? When these discussions come up I am reminded of L P Hartley's opening line of his novel The Go Between.."The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there." I think we need to keep that in mind.


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 26 Feb 17 - 10:07 AM

Talking about offensive/un-pc words.
I understood that to refer to black people as "colored" was considered offensive but I've heard lots of American blacks refer to themselves as "people of color".
Now, what the heck is the difference between " colored" and "people of color"?


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 26 Feb 17 - 10:13 AM

Here's the Jerry Lee Lewis late 1950s single version.

Jerry Lee sings Foster


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: meself
Date: 26 Feb 17 - 11:32 AM

So ... what is point of this thread? There doesn't seem to have been a dissenting opinion expressed since sometime in 2004 - thirteen years ago. Can we not just assume that everyone is in agreement and move on?

Or not. I guess it's all pretty harmless ....


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 26 Feb 17 - 06:14 PM

I used to be a teacher in Brum. of course a lot of the teachers were Welsh.. ....the city of birmingham being just a burn down the A5 - five or six hours behind a tractor.

Anyway, something of a racial stereotype, but the Welsh are always getting into choirs. And for some reason the Stephen Foster songbook seemed to be a big part of their repertoire.

Old Black Joe.........the memories come flooding back!


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: Crowhugger
Date: 26 Feb 17 - 08:42 PM

Tunesmith, to your question, it matters to some and doesn't to others. Perhaps it may matter more to a generation that lived with the label "colored" literally on bathrooms and water fountains, or "no coloreds" at lunch counters, restaurants, stores, or to people who were raised on the importance of stories about those times.

Just as there isn't a monolithic white opinion about anything, there isn't one view of what is appropriate or right or comfortable to all black people. And nope I didn't say Afro-something, or Negro or coloured. I'm part black. I care far less what word people use, apart from n....r and m...y, and far more whether they are belittling, judgemental, aggressive (macro or micro), dismissive, deny POC the right to express ordinary everyday anger, or other subtle and overt denials of the right to be human. Yes I sometimes declare that I'm part black (it's not self-evident to most people, so most of the time I'm under cover with no intention to be so). Some people will hissyfit that I don't capitalize the B of black. Some will wring and writhe that I don't say Afro-Canadian. Yah, whatevs. Mostly I find that doing things with love, care and honesty buys a whole lot of good will. None of us can stop someone else wanting or needing to be angry. They're entitled. Let's be glad when it's not us who have that to express, and rest easy in knowing we approached the question with our best love, care and honesty. If we do that, we may still feel that angry person's pain. But we probably will not have caused it, rather will have reminded them of it.


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 26 Feb 17 - 09:05 PM

I'm a white bloke, and black seems fine by me until someone tells me different. Trying all the time to accommodate ethnic origins every time I characterise someone is laborious and fraught and forces me to focus way too much on an attribute that I really don't want to dwell on. I'm far more interested in them as a person and I would hope they'd see me the same way.


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: GUEST,pauperback
Date: 26 Feb 17 - 11:35 PM

Guest, patience is a virtue. Persevere.

Emotive picture vision of a poor old white haired man with his gnarled hand on a partially open garden gate pausing as he's listening to the voices calling, maybe even mine. Very vivid. A good memory.

My dog in the fight: my pioneer progenitor died of smallpox. Neighbors would gallop past their house, no-one would come near except one, a Negro from New York, thank God. He infected a cow to make a serum and inoculated my family using a broken piece of glass and had them take everything out of the house and burn it and scrub the entire house with lye. I envision him as a younger Old Black Joe.

Interesting where this gentleman came from especially since blacks weren't allowed in that state. Providential.


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: GUEST,pauperback
Date: 27 Feb 17 - 12:32 PM

Here's an interesting story for those interested :)
 George Washington, founder of Centralia 


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: GUEST,Psychomorris
Date: 04 Mar 17 - 07:17 AM

Paul Robeson sings 'Poor Old Joe' rather than 'Old Black Joe' in my opinion it does not detract from this lovely song in anyway.
I believe he may have changed it because of the negative attitudes of the time and the fact he was a radical person with much to be admired for. Unfortunately words can express both positive and negative connotations. Being on the receiving end of negative attitudes can never be a good thing. Say kind words you here kind echoes.


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 04 Mar 17 - 11:22 AM

Mind you it would change the whole character of the piece - if you called it - Young Pink Dickie.


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: GUEST,Don Meixner
Date: 04 Mar 17 - 06:15 PM

I recently found an exceptional recording of Old Black Joe done by The Sons of the Pioneers. I have never had a problem with these particular lyrics.


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Subject: RE: Opinions: Old Black Joe
From: GUEST,Don Meixner
Date: 04 Mar 17 - 06:26 PM

I don't know where the edge of this debate lies. I have done The Year of Jubilo for years. Since Howie Burden did it on his fine Folk Legacy recording, Cider in the Kitchen. Is told by one person the the melody alone was racist. I was reminded that Rev. Billy James Hargis identified Windy And Warm as a communist inspired song. As I recall the only change made in Jubilo was Darkies was changed to Workers.
Years ago when I was more involved with Mudcat we had similar discussions over any of the songs that mentioned Gypsies. I believe that in performance we have to be more careful of context and his we introduce our songs.

Don Meixner


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