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Origins: Our Baby Died Last Night

DigiTrad:
OUR BABY DIED LAST NIGHT


John M. 01 Dec 04 - 04:41 PM
Peace 01 Dec 04 - 04:42 PM
John M. 01 Dec 04 - 05:26 PM
Peace 01 Dec 04 - 05:49 PM
Joe Offer 01 Dec 04 - 06:14 PM
Peace 01 Dec 04 - 06:18 PM
Joe_F 01 Dec 04 - 09:29 PM
Joybell 02 Dec 04 - 02:29 AM
Joe Offer 02 Dec 04 - 02:43 AM
GUEST,viglen 02 Dec 04 - 03:44 AM
sue exhull 02 Dec 04 - 04:02 AM
Joe Offer 02 Dec 04 - 04:22 AM
Moses 02 Dec 04 - 06:59 AM
GUEST,John in Brisbane 02 Dec 04 - 07:39 AM
Amos 02 Dec 04 - 07:54 AM
Joybell 02 Dec 04 - 05:13 PM
GUEST 03 Dec 04 - 01:33 AM
alanabit 03 Dec 04 - 03:18 AM
Joe_F 03 Dec 04 - 09:55 AM
Peace 03 Dec 04 - 10:34 AM
Grab 03 Dec 04 - 11:00 AM
Joybell 03 Dec 04 - 05:21 PM
Peace 03 Dec 04 - 09:43 PM
Charley Noble 04 Dec 04 - 11:18 AM
Joe Offer 04 Dec 04 - 03:32 PM
dianavan 04 Dec 04 - 03:39 PM
John M. 04 Dec 04 - 04:24 PM
Joybell 04 Dec 04 - 05:53 PM
Lighter 04 Dec 04 - 06:47 PM
Joybell 04 Dec 04 - 07:41 PM
Charley Noble 04 Dec 04 - 07:45 PM
John M. 04 Dec 04 - 07:54 PM
Lighter 04 Dec 04 - 07:54 PM
paddymac 04 Dec 04 - 08:00 PM
Joybell 04 Dec 04 - 08:05 PM
Lighter 04 Dec 04 - 08:41 PM
alanabit 05 Dec 04 - 03:39 AM
Charley Noble 05 Dec 04 - 10:45 AM
John M. 05 Dec 04 - 01:07 PM
Lighter 05 Dec 04 - 05:32 PM
Joybell 05 Dec 04 - 07:06 PM
Lighter 05 Dec 04 - 07:13 PM
dick greenhaus 05 Dec 04 - 07:31 PM
Pat Cooksey 05 Dec 04 - 08:10 PM
Joe_F 05 Dec 04 - 08:45 PM
Lighter 05 Dec 04 - 09:35 PM
Joybell 05 Dec 04 - 09:40 PM
alanabit 06 Dec 04 - 04:00 AM
alanabit 06 Dec 04 - 06:57 AM
GUEST,Lighter at work 06 Dec 04 - 07:46 AM
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Subject: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: John M.
Date: 01 Dec 04 - 04:41 PM

Hello everyone,

Here is a song from the Digital Tradition database.

OUR BABY DIED LAST NIGHT

Our baby died last night
It only lived for 24 hours
And it cost a hundred dollars
It was a lousy baby, anyway

Its head had turned into mush
It squushed between our fingers
Its sticky blood still lingers
It was a lousy baby, anyway

It soiled a dozen diapers;
And died for just to spite us
Of spinal meningitis
It was a lousy baby, anyway

I have a version of this song form the Korat AFB (ca 1970) which goes:

Spoken: Boys, my baby died last night.

Sung:

Oh, my baby died
She died of suicide
She died to spite us
Of spinal meningitis
She wasn't a good baby, anyway
So we ate her, yum yum.

Does anyone sing this song? If yes, where / when did you learn the song?

Yours,

John Mehlberg


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Peace
Date: 01 Dec 04 - 04:42 PM

The song is from Pat Sky's "Songs That Made America Famous."


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: John M.
Date: 01 Dec 04 - 05:26 PM

Yes, I know that Pat Sky recorded a version of the song but did Sky adapt a underground folksong as the Korat reference would place the song in Vietnam as early as the 1960's.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Peace
Date: 01 Dec 04 - 05:49 PM

www.wirz.de/music/skydsc.htm

or google

Illustrated Patrick Sky discography

On this site the titles of songs on his various albums and CDs are listed along with authors of said songs. He is listed as the writer of "Our Baby Die" [sic]

Bruce Murdoch

If you need further info, I think that site lists a way to reach Pat. If you do, say hello from me.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Joe Offer
Date: 01 Dec 04 - 06:14 PM

John, I think I've seen this song in an old sonbook, perhaps earlier than the Patrick Sky recording. I checked the "usual suspect" songbooks, and didn't find it. I'll keep looking.

I think Gargoyle knows this song - maybe he can enlighten us.

-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Peace
Date: 01 Dec 04 - 06:18 PM

It's possible that the words in Sky's version are his and that they parody a traditional song. Any chance of that?


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Joe_F
Date: 01 Dec 04 - 09:29 PM

There's a version in _The New Song Fest_:

A week ago our baby died.
He died committing suicide.
Some say he died to spite us,
Of spinal meningitis.
'Twas a nasty baby anyhow
And cost us forty dollars
And only lived three hours.
We didn't send it flowers,
Because it wasn't ours.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Joybell
Date: 02 Dec 04 - 02:29 AM

Hildebrand says lots of university students were singing it in 1958. He learned it from Dave Hubble(?el)when they shared a room while working at a Phoenix resort. Some girls from Minnesota were also singing it he remembers. Dave was from around the Phoenix area.
Here it is as he learned it:

Last night our little baby died
He might have died of suicide
He died, I think, to spite us
Of spinal meningitis
He was a naughty baby anyway
Sooooo we ate him.

Cheers Joy


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Joe Offer
Date: 02 Dec 04 - 02:43 AM

Thanks, Joe - Song Fest has it in the 1948 and 1958 editions. Same lyrics as what Joe posted, except that the baby died a year ago. So, we have it back to at least 1948, which means that the song is probably older than I am, which means that I am surprisingly young.

allmusic.com says Patrick Sky was born in 1940, which means he was eight when Song Fest came out. I guess that rules out attributing the song to him, unless he was really precocious.


-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: GUEST,viglen
Date: 02 Dec 04 - 03:44 AM

Is it just me or does anybody else find this song particularly distasteful. And yes, I do have a sense of humour but this is stretching it to the limit - or is it some sort of political/protest song and I've missed the point?


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: sue exhull
Date: 02 Dec 04 - 04:02 AM

No its not just you viglen, I think the song is sick, I love jokes/funny sons, ruder the better, but this isnt either, its just very bad taste.   sue


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Joe Offer
Date: 02 Dec 04 - 04:22 AM

I'll agree that it's a disgusting song - but it's an interesting challenge to try to see where it came from and when. There's a fine line between what's funny and what's disgusting. I think this one crosses that line, so I wouldn't sing it - but I've sung You're Always Welcome at Our House all my life. I stopped singing the Berrymans' Squalor because too many people disliked it, so it just didn't work.

-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Moses
Date: 02 Dec 04 - 06:59 AM

I, too, find the words disturbing and distasteful. I can't imagine why anyone would write them let alone sing them.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: GUEST,John in Brisbane
Date: 02 Dec 04 - 07:39 AM

Yes, I find the song disgusting and disturbing, but I sincerely thank those responsible for adding it to the collection and support any endeavours to research more detail. At some unknown point in the future one of us may require songs about racial vilification, genocide, infanticide or songs which glorify domestic violence. I may even add this one to my repertoire if in some way its singing helps the world to accept his rights and my gratitude for my own disabled son.

Regards, John


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Amos
Date: 02 Dec 04 - 07:54 AM

It was sung by grade school students in the late Fifties as well. Disturbing and disgusting, yes; that is probably the intention !



A


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Joybell
Date: 02 Dec 04 - 05:13 PM

I quite agree with the comments about this type of song/poem. Most of us don't sing them when we get older, feel a bit more of the horror of suffering and of Death, and get to be the ones that the next gereration wants to shock. Like Joe, though, I do sing "You're Always Welcome at Our House". That song is quite a bit further into the realm of fantasy and I believe even little kids know that. Cheers Joy


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Dec 04 - 01:33 AM

Pat sung that for a few reasons which people may accept or reject.

1) At the time, he was 'sick' with the attitude many folk had. He was fed up I think with the duplicity of people who on one hand would support abortions on demand and on the other hand express horror at a song of this nature. At the time, I know Pat was sickened by the news reports that showed body counts in the Vietnam War. He did wonder how the average person could watch that and not really be fazed by it all. And people weren't, really. Hell, reports getting out that the American death toll was past 50,000 and no end was in sight, and in his way he wanted to see who would get upset by a song about one baby.

2) Other songs on that album were equally shocking. His use of the word 'ni##er' in another of the songs: why? Because he was fed up with the northern 'liberal' notion that all was OK because black people were then equal--that is, they had access to slums in NYC (where he wrote most of the songs) and the rats that went with those slums, but Pat didn't see too many people of colour shopping on Fifth Avenue. There was no equality, and Pat knew it. He had a great friendship with Mississippi John Hurt and a deep admiration for black blues. Pat was in no way racist. But I think he wondered about people who professed a belief in equality but didn't try to translate that into real equality. Kinda like the old expression from the civil rights era [about people of colour] : In the south, they don't care how big you get as long as you don't get too close. In the north, they don't care how close you get as long as you don't get too big.

I knew Pat fairly well. He was/is a good man. The album is so opposite of the way he is as a human--words cannot describe. It was his protest statement, and his way of holding up a mirror for people to look into.

Do I like the album? For what it tried to do, yes. For the content of the material, no. However, he is one helluva songwriter, and he has a list of titles that attest to the truth of that statement.

Bruce Murdoch


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: alanabit
Date: 03 Dec 04 - 03:18 AM

It is raising an interesting issue. I first heard this song one morning after a night on the town. My busking partner, a Texan called Pete Oswald, finally defeated me in an,"I know a more tasteless song than you," contest with a version of this song. It is the sheer awfulness which makes it funny - if you can find it funny at all. I quite appreciate that there are people who never want to hear this sort of thing.
I was recently involved in a debate elsewhere about the merits (or otherwise) af a song which some posters perceived as racist. I think the intent is important. We can forgive misapprehensions, differences of opinion and different interpretations of songs. It is much harder to forgive deliberate spite and cruelty. Satire is on the very edges of this this debate. It has to take risks to be effective. It is very satisfying to be able to come here and read posts as eloquent and informed as the one Bruce wrote before me here.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Joe_F
Date: 03 Dec 04 - 09:55 AM

Yes, "week" should be "year". I was quoting from memory.

If I had to make a guess, it would be that this song dates to the period 1910-1930, when grisly humor involving children was popular; cf. the "little Willy" rhymes (according to George Orwell, one Harry Graham started them off with a book called _Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes_) and some of the the "little Audrey" jokes. Here are a few examples (the first quoted by Orwell):

Poor little Willy is crying so sore,
A sad little boy is he,
For he's broken his little sister's neck
And he'll have no jam for tea.

Willy, in one of his bright new sashes,
Fell in the fire and was burned to ashes.
Now, altho the room grows chilly,
I haven't the heart to poke poor Willy.

Little Willy from the mirror
Licked the mercury right off,
Thinking, in his childish error,
It would cure the whooping cough.
At the funeral, his mother
Smartly said to Mrs Brown,
"'Twas a chilly day for Willy
When the mercury went down."

Mother heard her children scream,
So she threw them in the stream,
Saying, as she drowned the third,
"Children should be seen, not heard."

Little Audrey was playing with matches and burned the house down. Her mother said, "Just wait till your father comes home -- you'll really catch it then". But little Audrey just laughed and laughed, because she knew her father had come home early and had been sleeping upstairs.

The period mentioned perhaps roughly corresponds to the time when, in the industrial countries, public health (immunization & sanitation) had become good enough that deaths of children were uncommon. Up to that time, most families had lost children, and had to keep a stiff upper lip about it. The flagrant tastelessness of the jokes may reflect inner conflict due to the softening of attitudes resulting from the new opportunities to care more about children.

On the other hand, children have always enjoyed being gross, one way or another.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Peace
Date: 03 Dec 04 - 10:34 AM

alanabit:

Thank you for that remark. It comes at a time when a few people are telling me that I'm the worst thing that ever happened to this place and your kind words couldn't have come at a better time.

Bruce M


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Grab
Date: 03 Dec 04 - 11:00 AM

To contribute another oldie in the same vein...

Q: What's the difference between a truckload of dead babies and a truckload of bowling balls?
A: You can't unload a truckload of bowling balls with a pitchfork.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Joybell
Date: 03 Dec 04 - 05:21 PM

The "sick joke" was going strong in the 1950s. It's true it was around before this, but I think a big group of post-War kids took it up in a big way. I heard Grab's joke in about 1955. (cabbages in place of bowling balls) Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Peace
Date: 03 Dec 04 - 09:43 PM

The sick joke has been with us since people found that humour came in many forms. When people would draw and quarter an unlucky soul, others would look and say, "It took a lot of guts to do that."

So, a fellow has a pure white dog that he says runs like the wind. A fellow bets him the dog can't run fast. The get in a Corvette and drive. 40 MPH and the dog is just loping. 60 MPH and the ears are back. 80 MPH and the tongue is hanging out. Driver asks how the dog's doing. The dog's owner says, "He isn't even trying yet." Fellow boots the car. They're doing 138 MPH. Fellow says to drive, "He is still with us." Driver looks over to see for himself. They miss a curve and crash into a big tree.

They wake up in hospital, both in body casts. Driver says, "If I ever see your f#ckin' dog again it'll be too soon." Dog owner says, "He's over there in the corner." Driver turns his eyes and says, "That's not your dog. Your dog was solid white. This one has a brown ring around his neck." Owner says, "That IS my dog. The brown ring's his asshole. He ain't used to stopping so fast."


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Charley Noble
Date: 04 Dec 04 - 11:18 AM

I agree with Joe F that this one goes back to the early 1900's when gallows humor flourished in reaction to the more sentimental popular songs of the day.

I wouldn't dream of singing this one now unless I was trying to outgross someone else. However, we did such competitions on a regular basis at our song parties in the early 1960's when I was in college.

Another favorite of ours at the time was "All the World's in Desolation."

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Joe Offer
Date: 04 Dec 04 - 03:32 PM

Hmmmm. "All the World's in Desolation" doesn't show up in a Mudcat search or a Google search. I sure hope Charley Noble realizes that we really really really need the lyrics....
It's unfair of him to taunt us with unrequited song titles like that.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: dianavan
Date: 04 Dec 04 - 03:39 PM

It is indeed a sick song. Anyone who has experienced the heartbreak of spinal meningitis would be outraged. My son was the lucky one but when it was happening, I was down on my knees. He pulled through but there were other babies that didn't. It was a very painful experience. Please don't sing that song publicly. Unless, of course, you delight in opening old wounds or inflicting fresh ones.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: John M.
Date: 04 Dec 04 - 04:24 PM

Hello everyone,

I have found an 1897 fragment of the song in the book LIN McLEAN by Owen Wister (see here):

"Don't want anything on your brain?"

"Nothin' except my hat, I guess," said Lin, and broke into cheerful song:

       "'Twas a nasty baby anyhow,
            And it only died to spite us;
         'Twas afflicted with the cerebrow
            Spinal meningitis!'"


So Joe Offer want to find an *older* reference?

Yours,

John Mehlberg
~
My, mostly traditional, bawdy songs, toasts and recitations website: www.immortalia.com


.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Joybell
Date: 04 Dec 04 - 05:53 PM

John, Good Man! Your site looks like fun too. Heard True-Love singing rude songs over the phone last night to you.

Joe, If Charley doesn't come through with "All the World's in Desolation", I believe I've heard True-Love singing it.
Also, Joe, does John have your "Old Black Joe"/"I've been Working on the Railroad" improper counterpoint duet for his website?
                                                          Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Lighter
Date: 04 Dec 04 - 06:47 PM

Just a reminder that Owen Wister was the author of the first "realistic" full-fledged "cowboy novel," "The Virginian" (1903). "Realism," of course, is relative: that's why it's in quotes. The romantic plot and leisurely pace make the book really tough going today.

But it also contributed the immortal line, "When yuh call me that,
smile!"

Concerning the baby song, I too find it repulsive. But it's only a sick fantasy intended, in its final incarnation, to gross out or top out. Theer are others. Vance Randolph discovered a few in the Ozarks between 1920 and 1954, and more modern examples appear in military and rugby songbooks.

G. Legman's limerick collections contain a significant number of limericks like this. As we all should know by now, "traditional" isn't fully synonymous with "nice" any more than "nice" is synonymous with "human."


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Joybell
Date: 04 Dec 04 - 07:41 PM

OK John, It was Joe F who told us about the "Old Black Joe/I've Been Working on the Railroad" trick. It's just a matter of singing the two songs together and you'd be surprised how naughty it ends up. Thanks Joe (F). I'll be back about the other song. Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Charley Noble
Date: 04 Dec 04 - 07:45 PM

Joe et al-

A version of "All the World is Desolation"can be found in the DT if you Click here!.

My version is a little different but it's the same song:

"All the World is Desolation-2"

All the World is Desolation,
It is quiet as a tomb,
Sister's missed her menstruation,
Mother has a fallen womb;
Brother Dick has been deported,
For some secret sexual crime,
Sister Jill has been aborted,
For the forty-second time;
All the world is desolation,
Hardly anybody smiles,
And our only recreation,
Is cracking ice for Grampa's piles!

Share the joy,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: John M.
Date: 04 Dec 04 - 07:54 PM

Here are two versions of "My Baby Died" as sung by Hildebrand. Both were learned in the late 1950's:

Best,

John Mehlberg


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Lighter
Date: 04 Dec 04 - 07:54 PM

Better known as "Life Presents a Dismal Picture." During World War II it was sung to the tune of "Deutschland ueber Alles"!

Can anyone identify the tune at the DT? Charley, do you use one of these two tunes or another?


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: paddymac
Date: 04 Dec 04 - 08:00 PM

Perhaps harpgirl might happen along and offer some insight into the role these kinds of songs have in the grieving process. Meningitis was a significant health threat in the US aearly in the 20th century, and claims lives. I have a cousin who lost an 8-year-old to it about five years ago. Initial symptoms are like many other viral caused illnesses, but some strains of meningitis move so fast the child dies before the parents have any idea that its not "just the flu." Sometimes, the stuff can be non-lethal, but leave lifetime effects. I know one close to me who was diagnosed with narcolepsy and was strung out on prescription speed for 35 years before he was finally competently diagnosed as having had some variety on non-lethal meningitis as a kid. Complex stuff, to say the least. Just like the ways that we individually and collectively deal with grief. And, speaking of such things, i enthusiastically encourage ya'll to find time to see the new JOhnny Depp fils, "Finding Neverland" - a great story well done.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Joybell
Date: 04 Dec 04 - 08:05 PM

The alternate tune is very similar to the tune used by Tommy Makem for his song "Softly Blow Ye Winds of Morning". I think that's the title. There are only a few notes different. It may be an older tune that both songs, though. Joy


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Lighter
Date: 04 Dec 04 - 08:41 PM

Saw "Finding Neverland" this p.m. It was excellent, but Anthony Lane's essay on Barrie in The New Yorker two weeks ago is even better!

I'd be interested to know if the songs under discussion have anything at all to do with the grieving process. My own take on them is that they are intended (cruelly) to revolt unsuspecting listeners. Those not revolted learn the song and carry on the tradition, kind of a cruel practical joke. This may be one motivation for rugby players who want to drive non-players from the party.

Among combat fliers, some singers promote such songs, usually at post-flight beer busts, to distract themselves from the realities of air(to ground) warfare. As gross as the song is, the reality of bombing missions and air combat is plenty worse. And that takes some powerful distraction.

It's easier and safer to deal with the imaginary morbidity and cannibalism in the song (accompanied by snorting, fake retching, shouting, grabbing another beer, slopping it over your WSO, etc.) than to think about the suffering of real people. So the songs are defense mechanisms in some cases.

IMHO.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: alanabit
Date: 05 Dec 04 - 03:39 AM

It's worth having a look at the chapter "Sick" in "Bomb Culture" by Jeff Nuttall. He links the rise of the underground arts movement with the threat of atomic warfare. However, in the chapter "Sick", he goes further back to the horror of the First World War and argues that this type of humour is a reaction to that sort of suffering. This falls in line with what Lighter has just written in the previous post.
I read a short story by my uncle, a retired police officer, about a group of policemen who had just returned from an accident, in which a tramp had been horribly burned to death. They drove around for an hour, cracking sick puns about the burning. It was their way of trying to stop the horror from touching them too personally. I freely allow that it would have been ghastly for anyone else to have heard this.
Sick humour seems like a part of the human condition. I can quite agree we must not force it on someone who is grieving - or indeed anyone. It looks likely to be with us for some time though.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Charley Noble
Date: 05 Dec 04 - 10:45 AM

Lighter and John-

With regard to "Desolation", though the tune in the DT is a familar one it's not the one I learned for this song. We may need to start a new thread if there is real interest.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: John M.
Date: 05 Dec 04 - 01:07 PM

Lighter wrote:
I'd be interested to know if the songs under discussion have anything at all to do with the grieving process....It's easier and safer to deal with the imaginary morbidity and cannibalism in the song (accompanied by snorting, fake retching, shouting, grabbing another beer, slopping it over your WSO, etc.) than to think about the suffering of real people. So the songs are defense mechanisms in some cases.
The context of the singing/learning of the three field recordings of "My Baby Died" shows that the song is another drinking song, not unlike sung limericks, where the intention (and humor!) is in shocking a person by its grossness.

Version 1 above was learned from female undergraduates Version 2 was from a male undergraduate. Both learned at a "beer bust". The Korat version of the song in my collection starts with the introductory warning that Commander Harry Mathews would wait until people had been drinking for twelve hours straight and then surprise them with this song.

Joybell, could you ask Hildebrand what he thinks the intention or purpose of the singer when they sang "My Baby Died"? To shock? Did people think it was humorous?

The song most similar to "My Baby Died" is "Born Dead".

Born Dead.mp3
Sung by Dennis "Mu-Sick" Gill.

Born dead
Your baby was born dead
Three fingers and no head
Born dead -- to live in a jar.

Stay dead.
Don't come back to haunt me
You really don't want me
Born dead -- to live in a jar.


.
Here are some more songs which I call "grossout" songs.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Lighter
Date: 05 Dec 04 - 05:32 PM

More "gross-out songs" from rugby song collections: "The S&M Man,"
"These Foolish Things Remind Me of You" (parody), "Lupe" (var. of "Cowpuncher's Whore"), "Charlotte the Harlot Lay Dying," "Harlot of Jerusalem," "Adelaide Schmidt," "Father O'Flynn" (parody). No one of faint heart should look these up - you have been warned.

Of course, the century-old "Pills of White Mercury," discussed in another thread, certainly has at least one "gross-out" stanza. The American collector Robert W. Gordon (no prude) pronounced the variant "The Whore's Lament" to be "the rottenest song I ever heard."

But that was in the 1920s.

But back to "Our baby," for a moment. What exactly is the source of the repulsion here? The songs listed above dwell at length upon excrement and other bodily emissions, whereas the death of a baby was something of a staple in sentimental nineteenth century parlor songs - which undoubtedly lent themselves to parody even then. I think what's shocking about "Our Baby" is not the death but the attitude of the parents! The child's own parents regard the dead infant as nothing - a throwaway item. They then reveal that they are, plainly and simply, human ghouls - consuming their offspring like hungry crocodiles. Many a parent who's lost a child is undoubtedly haunted by the guilty thoughts of "What didn't I do that I should/could have done to prevent this? Is this somehow my fault?" I think it's the idea of "crocodile parents" that's too much to take, perhaps especially if one has been significantly mistreated by one's own parents.

The hideousness of the parents in the song is what makes it stick in the mind. They're proud that they're ghouls! (That's why they're singing!) It's also disturbing to think of perfectly ordinary-appearing athleets and others joyfully casting themselves in the same role by giving voice to the words!

The combination of song and performance is filled with psychological threat.

I'm not a psychologist, so this could all be BS. BUt it makes sense to me.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Joybell
Date: 05 Dec 04 - 07:06 PM

I don't think you need to go too deeply into the minds of the singers of the "sick songs/sick jokes" to understand their motives. The intent is to shock, horrify and disgust. I think also singing/telling them has something to do with the bonding of a group - in this case kids and young adults. I very much doubt that it has anything much to do with reality.
Our interest in them is to do with a curiousity about their place in the study of human minds, I believe. I doubt if any mature singer actually wants to revive them.

Bawdy songs on the other hand are often very well-crafted and sing really well. There's one running through my head I don't care to repeat. Me being a lady and all. It's so full of wonderful images and singable phrases. "Roley poley .... Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Lighter
Date: 05 Dec 04 - 07:13 PM

Charley, if you can't ID your tune, you have to ABC it!


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 05 Dec 04 - 07:31 PM

Oddly enough, I first heard "Our Baby Died Last Night" from a dedicated, hard-working pediatric nurse. She also sang "Ten little preemies lyin in a bed, Honey, Baby etc (can't remember verses.)

One may not care for graveyard humor, but it's been a mainstay for eons and, I suspect, a psyche-saver for those overly concerned.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Pat Cooksey
Date: 05 Dec 04 - 08:10 PM

I am sorry Joe offer, Alnabit, et al, I am a songwriter, and people
tell me not a bad one.
I would never write about the death of a child in such a manner, I
have friends who's baby died in childbirth, and three years later
they grieve.
If there is some hidden meaning behind this crap lyric perhaps
someone could enlighten me.
I tend to agree with most of you on other subjects, but in this manner not.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Joe_F
Date: 05 Dec 04 - 08:45 PM

The versions I have heard of the "desolation" song begin otherwise, e.g.,

Life presents a dismal picture.
Everything is fraught with gloom.
Father has an anal stricture.
Mother has a fallen womb.
Sister Sue has just aborted
For the forty-second time.
Uncle Max has been deported
For a homosexual crime.

etc.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Lighter
Date: 05 Dec 04 - 09:35 PM

As a "lyric," of course it's crap. The tune isn't so great either! So the song's survival is curious. Ten thousand perfectly decent commercial songs are copyrighted each year, yet few of them are passed on for as long as this odd product has been.

Why some otherwise normal people would find diversion in imagining precisely what so many of us find revolting is a matter of some interest.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: Joybell
Date: 05 Dec 04 - 09:40 PM

John, In answer to your question about Hildebrand's read on why songs of "Our Baby etc." type were sung. He says pretty much what some of us have already said. That is - They are sung to shock. He adds that the singing of this type of song is an aggressive act. Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: alanabit
Date: 06 Dec 04 - 04:00 AM

Pat:
Nobody here is defending these songs on any grounds of quality or taste. They are offensive and disgusting. That is why no one wants to sing them at funerals, counselling sessons or to grieving relatives.
What is interesting, is why they exist at all. They certainly shock, because of their callousness and insensitivity. I would argue that this insensitivity is essentially bravado. It is faked. It is the same sort of bravado as the WWI soldiers who sang:
"If you want to find the regiment
I know where they are
They're hanging on the old barbed wire."
This sort of humour is known among policemen, servicemen and medical staff. My cousin, a nurse on an infant intensive care ward, used to joke very vulgarly about the fate of little babies suffering. Believe me, I would have trusted my cousin to look after my children, because she cared about children very much. She suffered a nervous breakdown after a series of children had died in her ward. I would never have joked vulgarly about children's illness in her presence, but the sick humour was her way of dealing with it.
I don't expect you to change your mind, because any decent man would be moved by the fate of friends grieving for a baby. I would just respectfully say, that for some people, who have to deal with this sort of awfulness on a regular basis, this is one of the defensive mechanisms which they choose.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: alanabit
Date: 06 Dec 04 - 06:57 AM

I should add that I would not jest in the manner of this song either. I don't really like sick jokes. I just try to understand people who do.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'Baby Died of Spinal Meningitis'
From: GUEST,Lighter at work
Date: 06 Dec 04 - 07:46 AM

Well said, alanabit. Excellent posts.

Medical students too are known for their sometimes very sick humor.


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