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Mary don't you weep--meaning

GUEST,passin thru 08 Feb 07 - 01:50 AM
GUEST,Pete Peterson 08 Feb 07 - 12:30 PM
Azizi 08 Feb 07 - 01:10 PM
McGrath of Harlow 08 Feb 07 - 01:24 PM
Azizi 08 Feb 07 - 01:39 PM
GUEST,Pete Peterson 08 Feb 07 - 02:38 PM
wysiwyg 08 Feb 07 - 02:38 PM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 08 Feb 07 - 06:26 PM
Azizi 08 Feb 07 - 06:35 PM
GUEST,smahathey 01 Apr 10 - 08:59 AM
GUEST,messejproduction 15 Jul 10 - 09:34 PM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 17 Aug 17 - 12:54 PM
Mr Red 17 Aug 17 - 01:55 PM
voyager 16 Jan 21 - 10:12 AM
GUEST,B Sondahl 16 Jan 21 - 10:42 AM
voyager 16 Jan 21 - 11:55 AM
Stilly River Sage 16 Jan 21 - 12:19 PM
voyager 16 Jan 21 - 12:28 PM
GUEST,bsondahl 18 Jan 21 - 10:47 AM
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Subject: RE: Mary don't you weep--meaning
From: GUEST,passin thru
Date: 08 Feb 07 - 01:50 AM

Mary don't you weep, Martha don't you moan

From one of Aretha Franklin's old gospel albums. Dynamite stuff.

Some of those lyrcs above surely do sound like Linin' Track. Taj Mahal's version of it, at least.


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Subject: RE: Mary don't you weep--meaning
From: GUEST,Pete Peterson
Date: 08 Feb 07 - 12:30 PM

Azizi-
The first rhyme you quote is clearly a slighly garbled version of Henry Clay Work's great song "Kingdom Coming", second verse

He's six foot one way two foot t'other
And he weighs three hundred pound
His cloak so big, dat he couldn't pay de tailor
And it won't go halfway round
He drill so much dat day call him "Cap'n"
And he get so dreadful tan
I 'spect he try to fool dem Yankess
For to t'ink he's contraband

(a great song. We introduce it by saying "After the Fugitive Slave Act of 1852, there were lots of advertisements for runaway slaves, giving a description of the slave and what he was wearing when last seen. Here's a song about a runaway master." )

I totally agree with you about a song speaking on several levels at the same time


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Subject: RE: Mary don't you weep--meaning
From: Azizi
Date: 08 Feb 07 - 01:10 PM

Thanks for that information,Pete Peterson.

With regards to the verse:

"And he get so dreadful tan
I 'spect he try to fool dem Yankess
For to t'ink he's contraband"

it took me a while to realize that "contraband" in this context means 'a Black man'.


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Subject: RE: Mary don't you weep--meaning
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 08 Feb 07 - 01:24 PM

Surely not just 'a Black man' but a slave smuggled in from Africa, after that had been made illegal.


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Subject: RE: Mary don't you weep--meaning
From: Azizi
Date: 08 Feb 07 - 01:39 PM

McGrath, see #4 of http://www.answers.com/topic/contraband definition for this word:

con·tra·band (kŏn'trə-bãnd')
n.
Goods prohibited by law or treaty from being imported or exported.

1.Illegal traffic in contraband; smuggling.

2.Smuggled goods.

3.Goods that may be seized and confiscated by a belligerent if shipped to another belligerent by a neutral.

4.An escaped slave during the Civil War who fled to or was taken behind Union lines.
adj.


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Subject: RE: Mary don't you weep--meaning
From: GUEST,Pete Peterson
Date: 08 Feb 07 - 02:38 PM

May 1861. War just starting and Gen'l Ben Butler in command down near Fortress Monroe in southeastern VA. Three escaped slaves made it into Union lines. Their owner, under flag of truce, asked for the return of his property. Butler told him that the property in question (remember this is a year and a half before the Emancipation Proclamation) was helping the Cofederate cause, and therefore was being seized as contraband of war. Word spread quickly and escaped slaves were then, thenceforward (but not quite forever) known as "contrabands"


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Subject: RE: Mary don't you weep--meaning
From: wysiwyg
Date: 08 Feb 07 - 02:38 PM

Songs of the Contrabands: see also Q's contribution in the Permathread, HERE.

Additional discussion about Codes, and codes: see also HERE.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Mary don't you weep--meaning
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 08 Feb 07 - 06:26 PM

Anyway, we know it wasn't "The Virgin".

Frank


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Subject: RE: Mary don't you weep--meaning
From: Azizi
Date: 08 Feb 07 - 06:35 PM

The Virgin contraband?

Oh, you mean the Virgin Mary.

Okay. Righto.

Maybe the person singing is talking to a woman named Mary, and relating all the ways that those who were oppressed received help from God...Pharoah's army got drown-ded, and there is a promised land that Moses saw when he stood on that rock...So that person tells the woman Mary to hold on, have faith that a better day is coming.

Somehow I always thought of the singer as a "he". When I think about it, that's rather sexist of me...that a man must be the one to comforts a woman.

Anyway, that's the way I always thought about it. That is, when I didn't think that the Mary mentioned in the song was the sister of Martha and Lazarus.


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Subject: RE: Mary don't you weep--meaning
From: GUEST,smahathey
Date: 01 Apr 10 - 08:59 AM

Mary and Martha are the brothers of Lazarus who died and whom Jesus raised from the dead. That's why they are encouraged not to weep or moan. In the same dramatic way that Moses led the Children of Isarael away from destruction, Jesus is going to raise Lazarus!


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Subject: RE: Mary don't you weep--meaning
From: GUEST,messejproduction
Date: 15 Jul 10 - 09:34 PM

I just chanced upon this blog. Years ago someone inquired to me what the song "Oh Mary don't you weep" meant and that it made no sense simply because the verses bounced from unrelated, biblical historical times. I'm a musician so they assumed I would automatically know. It took the bloggers here from December 1998 to April 2010 [about 12 years] to concur on the VERY SAME conclusion it took me about a week to come up with, when posed this question. Someone "named" Gargoyle and w.y.s.i.w.y.g. [what you see is what you get] argued about it until 2002....lol


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Subject: RE: Mary don't you weep--meaning
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 17 Aug 17 - 12:54 PM

Or:

Mary - Mary Lincoln
Martha - Martha Washington
Pharaoh's Army - Robert E. Lee et al.


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Subject: RE: Mary don't you weep--meaning
From: Mr Red
Date: 17 Aug 17 - 01:55 PM

A recent BBC programme on tsunamis postulated that the best explanantion for Pharaoh's army getting drownded was a tsunami.

The sea was most likely the Reed Sea - a freshwater estuary. And the translation misread reed and red (in Hebrew?). Moses was said to come down from Mount Sinai sporting beams of light from his head, or horns in some translations - the same confusion with similar words.
And if there were (say) as little as an hour between the Israelites and Pharaoh's Army and they picked an unfortunate hour or so. Let's assume the parting bit is somewhat artistic licence, maybe days wating for the right conditions.

It makes the story plausible.


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Subject: RE: Mary don't you weep--meaning
From: voyager
Date: 16 Jan 21 - 10:12 AM

Oh Mary Don't You Weep - Rainbow Quest 1965-6.
Peter Seeger w/B.J. Reagon & Jean Ritchie

the arc of the universe bends towards justice (MLK)
voyager


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Subject: RE: Mary don't you weep--meaning
From: GUEST,B Sondahl
Date: 16 Jan 21 - 10:42 AM

Interesting to see this thread reemerge from 1998, been a long time following Mudcat and I have started few threads. Standard thread creep and personal attacks. Like a good introvert I regret having said anything to start it all... Much sound and fury...


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Subject: RE: Mary don't you weep--meaning
From: voyager
Date: 16 Jan 21 - 11:55 AM

Great songs roll forward in time. The same can be said for lively discussion. Hence the oral tradition is now digitized.

Not a bad thing imho
voyager


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Subject: RE: Mary don't you weep--meaning
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 16 Jan 21 - 12:19 PM

There was good content posted along the way, and some of the squabblers have long-since left the site. Don't regret starting a good conversation.

You website from the first post is long gone (even the Wayback Machine can't find it) - do you still have your music content posted online somewhere?


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Subject: RE: Mary don't you weep--meaning
From: voyager
Date: 16 Jan 21 - 12:28 PM

refresh from Bob Wolpert who manages the Pete Seeger FB website -

“Participation - that's what's gonna save the human race.” – Pete Seeger “Get people to sing together and they’ll act together too.” – Pete Seeger March is Women's History Month - an annual declared month that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society and corresponds with International Women's Day on March 8th.

With this in mind, let’s celebrate two people who got folks to sing together – Bernice Johnson Reagon and Jean Ritchie!

Bernice Johnson Reagon is a song leader, composer, scholar, and social activist, who in the early 1960s was a founding member of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee's (SNCC) Freedom Singers in the Albany Movement in Georgia. In 1973, she founded the all-black female a cappella ensemble “Sweet Honey in the Rock”, based in Washington, D.C. Bernice Johnson Reagon realized the power of collective singing to unify the disparate groups who began to work together in the 1964 Freedom Summer protests in the South. “After a song, the differences between us were not so great. Somehow, making a song required an expression of that which was common to us all . . .

This music was like an instrument, like holding a tool in your hand.” - Bernice Johnson Reagon

The Albany Singing Movement became a vital catalyst for change through music in the early 1960s protests of the Civil Rights era. Bernice Johnson Reagon has devoted her life to social justice through music via recordings, activism, community singing, and scholarship.

Jean Ritchie was an American folk music singer, songwriter, and Appalachian dulcimer player. Her career formed a kind of bridge between the traditional and modern forms of folk music: in her youth she learned folk songs in the traditional way (orally, from her family and members of her community); and in adulthood she became a successful modern folksinger, promulgating songs in public through concerts and recordings. She has been called by many the "Mother of Folk". After graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. in social work from the University of Kentucky in 1946, Jean got a job as a social worker at the Henry Street Settlement, where she taught music to children. There, she befriended Alan Lomax, who recorded her extensively for the Library of Congress. Jean joined the New York folk song scene and met Lead Belly, Pete Seeger, and Oscar Brand. In 1948, she shared the stage with Woody Guthrie and The Weavers at the Spring Fever Hootenanny and by October 1949, she was a regular guest on Oscar Brand's Folksong Festival radio show on WNYC. In 1949 and 1950, Jean recorded several hours of songs, stories, and oral history for Alan Lomax in New York City. Elektra records signed her and released three albums: “Jean Ritchie Sings” (1952), “Songs of Her Kentucky Mountain Family” (1957) and “A Time for Singing” (1962).

"A good song reminds us what we’re fighting for." - Pete Seeger In the mid-1960s, Pete Seeger, Bernice Johnson Reagon, and Jean Ritchie performed a good song on “Rainbow Quest”. "O Mary Don't You Weep" is a Negro spiritual that originates from before the American Civil War. Musical scholars have called it a "slave song", a label that describes its origins among the enslaved. "O Mary Don't You Weep" contains coded messages of hope and resistance. The song tells the Biblical story of Mary of Bethany and her distraught pleas to Jesus to raise her brother Lazarus from the dead. Other narratives relate to The Exodus and the Passage of the Red Sea, with the chorus proclaiming "Pharaoh's army got drown-ded!", and to God's rainbow covenant to Noah after the Great Flood. With liberation one of its themes, the song again become popular during the Civil Rights Movement.

"Songs kept them going and going. They didn't realize the millions of seeds they were sowing. They were singing in marches, even singing in jail. Songs gave them the courage to believe they would not fail." - Pete Seeger

The first recording of "O Mary Don't You Weep" was by the Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1915. The vocal gospel group, "The Swan Silvertones" recorded the song in 1959. Lead singer Claude Jeter's interpolation "I'll be a bridge over deep water if you trust in my name" served as Paul Simon's inspiration to write his 1970 song "Bridge over Troubled Water". The spiritual's lyric "God gave Noah the rainbow sign, no more water the fire next time" inspired the title for "The Fire Next Time", James Baldwin's 1963 account of race relations in America. Pete Seeger gave "O Mary Don't You Weep" additional folk music visibility by performing it at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival. Pete played the song many times throughout his career, adapting the lyrics and stating the song's relevance as an American song, not just a spiritual.

In addition, "If You Miss Me from the Back of the Bus", a song that explicitly chronicles the victories of the Civil Rights Movement, was sung to this tune and became one of the most well-known songs of that movement.


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Subject: RE: Mary don't you weep--meaning
From: GUEST,bsondahl
Date: 18 Jan 21 - 10:47 AM

Stilly River Stage--thanks for asking...   http://www.sondahl.com
click the video link for Youtube videos


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