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Origins: General Taylor - who was he?

DigiTrad:
GENERAL TAYLOR


Related threads:
arrangement for General Taylor (2)
Tune Req: General Taylor (6)
Beating General Taylor's Long Dead Horse (2)


GUEST,ejc372000@yahoo 02 Oct 00 - 11:28 PM
Dave (the ancient mariner) 02 Oct 00 - 11:37 PM
Malcolm Douglas 03 Oct 00 - 10:27 AM
Clinton Hammond2 03 Oct 00 - 02:14 PM
GUEST 03 Oct 00 - 02:53 PM
Malcolm Douglas 03 Oct 00 - 03:14 PM
GUEST,mik 03 Oct 00 - 04:52 PM
Dave Wynn 14 Mar 05 - 12:43 PM
Keith A of Hertford 14 Mar 05 - 02:00 PM
Les from Hull 14 Mar 05 - 02:24 PM
Dave Wynn 14 Mar 05 - 02:37 PM
Lighter 14 Mar 05 - 03:01 PM
PoppaGator 14 Mar 05 - 03:24 PM
Dave Wynn 14 Mar 05 - 04:08 PM
Lighter 14 Mar 05 - 06:27 PM
Malcolm Douglas 14 Mar 05 - 07:37 PM
Lighter 14 Mar 05 - 08:14 PM
GUEST,David Michael Spencer 07 May 07 - 07:51 PM
EBarnacle 07 May 07 - 07:52 PM
Bugsy 07 May 07 - 07:59 PM
Malcolm Douglas 07 May 07 - 08:19 PM
PoppaGator 07 May 07 - 08:25 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 07 May 07 - 08:46 PM
Effsee 07 May 07 - 08:54 PM
GUEST 08 May 07 - 01:20 AM
GUEST,chuckcelt2AOL.COM 25 Oct 10 - 09:36 AM
Charley Noble 25 Oct 10 - 11:17 AM
Old Vermin 25 Oct 10 - 12:02 PM
GUEST,confused 27 May 12 - 08:50 PM
Charley Noble 28 May 12 - 01:13 PM
GUEST,Lighter 28 May 12 - 03:07 PM
Charley Noble 28 May 12 - 03:55 PM
GUEST 28 May 12 - 07:51 PM
Charley Noble 28 May 12 - 10:14 PM
Gibb Sahib 29 May 12 - 06:40 AM
Charley Noble 29 May 12 - 08:30 AM
GUEST,LIghter 29 May 12 - 08:36 AM
Gibb Sahib 29 May 12 - 05:09 PM
GUEST,Dalillama 21 Dec 12 - 05:57 PM
Dead Horse 22 Dec 12 - 07:57 AM
redhorse 22 Dec 12 - 11:06 AM
LadyJean 22 Dec 12 - 10:17 PM
Gibb Sahib 22 Dec 12 - 11:38 PM
JJ 23 Dec 12 - 08:18 AM
Marc Bernier 23 Dec 12 - 09:13 AM
Dead Horse 23 Dec 12 - 09:29 AM
Marc Bernier 23 Dec 12 - 10:26 AM
Gibb Sahib 23 Dec 12 - 03:28 PM
Marc Bernier 23 Dec 12 - 04:18 PM
Dead Horse 23 Dec 12 - 06:57 PM
GUEST,Lighter 23 Dec 12 - 07:15 PM
Gibb Sahib 23 Dec 12 - 08:18 PM
Marc Bernier 23 Dec 12 - 08:20 PM
Marc Bernier 23 Dec 12 - 08:48 PM
Dead Horse 24 Dec 12 - 12:18 AM
GUEST,Lighter 24 Dec 12 - 01:22 PM
Dead Horse 25 Dec 12 - 10:25 AM
The Sandman 26 Dec 12 - 08:03 AM
Gibb Sahib 26 Dec 12 - 01:33 PM
GUEST,Treason? 14 Jul 13 - 09:33 AM
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Subject: General Taylor
From: GUEST,ejc372000@yahoo
Date: 02 Oct 00 - 11:28 PM

I see that there are many who are familiar with this chanty. Years ago I heard a recording with female -- possibly Maddy Prior and others no instruments but cannot find the name of the recording. Any advice?recommendations appreciated.

Click for lyrics in Digital Tradition


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Subject: RE: General Taylor
From: Dave (the ancient mariner)
Date: 02 Oct 00 - 11:37 PM

The best rendition of this shanty is done by the Canadian Group, Great Big Sea on their CD called Great Big Sea "Play" Of course some people would say I was biased...

(no Spaw it dont mean I have two ass's)

Yours, Aye. Dave


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Subject: RE: General Taylor
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 03 Oct 00 - 10:27 AM

Steeleye Span recorded "General Taylor" quite early on, but it wasn't issued until the compilation album Individually and Collectively.  That may very well be the recording you remember.

Malcolm


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Subject: RE: General Taylor
From: Clinton Hammond2
Date: 03 Oct 00 - 02:14 PM

General Taylor??

Baaaah! He's dead and he's gone!

LOL!

{~`


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Subject: RE: General Taylor
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Oct 00 - 02:53 PM

so who was General Taylor anyway - what's his story?


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Subject: RE: General Taylor
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 03 Oct 00 - 03:14 PM

General Zachary Taylor defeated the Mexican General Santa Ana at Buenavista in February 1847, helping to secure Texas, and gain California, for the United States.  He became President of the USA after the war with Mexico, but died after only a short term in office.  A.L. Lloyd thought that this shanty probably dates from around 1850, though many of the elements in it (the ritual funeral, the references to the semi-mythical "Stormy" or "Stormalong"), are older.

Malcolm


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Subject: RE: General Taylor
From: GUEST,mik
Date: 03 Oct 00 - 04:52 PM

general taylor was also recorded by "Fairport convention" on the "nine "album lead vocals by dave swarbrick


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Subject: Origins: General Taylor
From: Dave Wynn
Date: 14 Mar 05 - 12:43 PM

We are doing a gig in Normandy this Friday and have been asked to submit a last minute resume of our songs and origins. This is the only shanty we do and we would like to know which General Taylor it refers to.
(General taylor gained the day
Walk him along John carry him along etc)

My research so far brings me to believe it is about General Zachary Taylor a U.S. General from and about his expoits in the "Mexican War".

Could anyone confirm this or give me the real griff. It would be damaging to the British / French entente cordial if it turned out to be a british general from the Napolionic wars :-)

Help would be appreciated.

Spot


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 14 Mar 05 - 02:00 PM

That is him. Defeated Santa Ana at Monterey
Then awaaaaaaa
Keith


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor
From: Les from Hull
Date: 14 Mar 05 - 02:24 PM

The Battle of Monterrey (Sept. 21-23, 1846)

Most of the shanty verses give the victory to Santa Ana, which is just plain wrong. It's closely related to 'Stormalong' and gets similar verses (and probably got mixed up teh). Hugill gives it as a halyard shanty also used for capstan and pump.


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor
From: Dave Wynn
Date: 14 Mar 05 - 02:37 PM

Thanks Keith and Les......It gives me something to tell the local Department of Folklorique.

Spot


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor
From: Lighter
Date: 14 Mar 05 - 03:01 PM

"Twas many a maid of Monterrey
Wept the loss of her love that day."


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor
From: PoppaGator
Date: 14 Mar 05 - 03:24 PM

Zachary Taylor later became President of the United States, one of our less memorable presidents. I suppose it's no accident that he has gone down in history as "General Taylor," thanks to his military accomplishments, rather than as "President Taylor."

(There's a General Taylor Street in uptown New Orleans.)


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor
From: Dave Wynn
Date: 14 Mar 05 - 04:08 PM

Wow...I do a shanty about a president of the USA. Ain't life surprisingly rich some days......!

Spot


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor
From: Lighter
Date: 14 Mar 05 - 06:27 PM

Stephen Foster wrote a "Plantation Melody" called "Oh, Boys Carry Me Along!" in 1851, the words of whose chorus may have contributed to the sea shanty.
(Lyrics here: http://www.pdmusic.org/foster/scf51i.txt).

Foster also wrote "Santa Anna's Retreat from Buena Vista" in 1848 - one of his less satisfying tunes, I'd say. (MIDIs for both songs here: http://www.pdmusic.org/foster.html) I don't hear any resemblance to the old-time tune "Santa Anna's Retreat."

Cecil Sharp collected a version of the shanty before 1914. "Revival" versions are easily identifiable by the modal dip on the penultimate note of the chorus. Steeleye recorded it around 1972; don't know if they were responsible for the variation.


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 14 Mar 05 - 07:37 PM

See also previous threads which have covered most of this.

"Research" includes learning how to use the search engine, Spot.


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor
From: Lighter
Date: 14 Mar 05 - 08:14 PM

Maybe Joe ought to work some of his combining magic here.


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Subject: Origins: Who is General Taylor?
From: GUEST,David Michael Spencer
Date: 07 May 07 - 07:51 PM

Who is the inspiration for General Taylor in the folk song "General Taylor" aka Carry Him To His Burying Ground aka Carry Him To The Burying Ground aka Walk Him Along Johnny? They say Stormy in the song, which makes me think of the American folktale about Stormalong John aka Alfred Bulltop Stormalong, but I was under the impression the song a) was British and b) predated the formation of the United States of America.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who is General Taylor?
From: EBarnacle
Date: 07 May 07 - 07:52 PM

General Zachary Taylor's nickname was also Stormalong.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who is General Taylor?
From: Bugsy
Date: 07 May 07 - 07:59 PM

Well, he saved the day, which is a blessing. I wouldn't fancy singing "General Taylor lost the day"

Cheers
Bugsy


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who is General Taylor?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 07 May 07 - 08:19 PM

There's no reason to think it older than the American Revolution; probably 19th century like most shanties. See various previous discussions here, which can be found via the search engine. Search for General Taylor, Stormalong and so on.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who is General Taylor?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 07 May 07 - 08:25 PM

As I understand it, this was definitely Zachary Taylor, a general during the Mexican War who later became the 12th president of the United States.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who is General Taylor?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 07 May 07 - 08:46 PM

A good thread on versions of the chantey: 46588.
Heave Away


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who is General Taylor?
From: Effsee
Date: 07 May 07 - 08:54 PM

Dunno, but ...he's dead and gone.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who is General Taylor?
From: GUEST
Date: 08 May 07 - 01:20 AM

Ok, thanks a lot! I don't recall where I read that it was British, but the source probably wasn't credible anyway.


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: GUEST,chuckcelt2AOL.COM
Date: 25 Oct 10 - 09:36 AM

zach taylors nickname was "old rough and ready". I believe the song predates his actions in the US mexican american war. Since this is a sea shanty, I would look for references in either the revolutionary war or the war of 1812. It's possible that it may be a napoleaonic character, but I wonder if it's a provincial character similar to Barrett of Barrrett's privateers


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 25 Oct 10 - 11:17 AM

There were many British sailor mercenaries hired by the Mexicans to man their warships during their war with the United States. It's possible one of them added "General Taylor" to the traditional Stormalong shanty. Or it's possible that it was American sailors who just updated the same shanty as they kept abreast of the war news.

It's not likely that we'll ever know for sure.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: Old Vermin
Date: 25 Oct 10 - 12:02 PM

Went to a Strawhead gig yesterday. Amongst their antique songs I recall a reference to a General Taylor. Possibly to do with a Scots campaign, 17-summat?


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: GUEST,confused
Date: 27 May 12 - 08:50 PM

It doesn't make sense to me to have this song attributed to Zachary Taylor, who was NOT a traitor, but a victorious American general who later became president of the U.S. I strongly suspect it has to do with something much earlier.


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 28 May 12 - 01:13 PM

No one I can find has traced the "Stormalong" shanty further back than the 1850s.

I did find a minstrel song "Storm Along Stormy" song by a John Smith of White's Serenaders at the Melodeon, New York City, from White's New Ethiopian Song Book, published by T. B. Peterson & Bros., Philadelphia, US, © 1854, p. 71. However, it's not directly related to any of the shanty versions. My best guess is that the minstrel song was based on a current stevedore song from the Gulf Port loading docks.

The British sailors who fought for Santa Anna during the Mexican-American War may well have composed the original "Santa Anna" shanty, or modified an older one in the late 1840s. And then later "Stormy" became combined with it.

Anyone else have any additional references or speculation?

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 28 May 12 - 03:07 PM

The earliest possible trace of the shanty that I have found is made up of two lines in B. T. Pindle's patriotic poem, "Lines to General Taylor before the Battle of Buena-Vista" (pub. 1851).

Which came first, the shanty or the poem, is unknown, but the lines are surprisingly similar:

"That gallant Taylor's won the day,
And now is safe in Monterey."

Except for praise of Taylor and the mention of Santa Anna's name, that's the only resemblance.


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 28 May 12 - 03:55 PM

Lighter-

That's a new reference to me. Never heard of B. T. Pindle before. Can you access more of the poem or provide a link? I'm having no luck finding it.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 May 12 - 07:51 PM

Charlie, go to p. 11:

http://books.google.com/books?id=8OcBAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=%22b.+t.+pindle%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=cQvET_KfOYKO8wTUndGPCw&ved


Of course, the similarity could be mere coincidence.


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 28 May 12 - 10:14 PM

Guest-

Oh, I did find a reference or two of Pindle as a poet. I just couldn't find a copy of the poem in question.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 29 May 12 - 06:40 AM

My sense is that this song fits among the stevedore songs, "Stormalong," "Santiana", and "Fire Marengo." The lyrical ideas and choruses became shared between the variations of these themes, so they don't always make obvious sense.

The "gained the day" pattern was used earlier in this context, and in African-American singing contexts that people so inclined would connect to the cotton-stowing songs.

There's this, attributed to Black men in Georgia rowing a boat:

Gen'el Jackson gain de day—
Whaw, my kingdom, fire away,
Be gain de day in Floraday,
Whaw, my kingdom, fire away.

[Nathanson, Y.S. "Negro Minstrelsy - Ancient and Modern." _Putnam's Monthly_ 5(25) (Jan. 1855).]

Then there's this cotton-screwing chant, supposed to have been heard in 1838:

"Gin'ral Jackson gain'd the day;
   Fire the ringo, &c.
At New Orleans he won the day;
    Fire the ringo, fire away!"

[1859        Gosse, Phillip Henry. Letters from Alabama. London: Morgan and Chase.]

There is also this Black stevedores' song, in a work of fiction, but which I believe is based in first-hand experience:

"Gen'ral Jackson's a fightin'-man,
    Fire, my ringo, fire away;
He opened his forts, fired away,
    Fire, my ringo, fire away."

[1881        Kellogg, Elijah. A Strong Arm and a Mother's Blessing. Boston: Lee and Shepard.]

And finally there's this cotton-stowing excerpt, heard in 1845:

In New Orleans they say,
    Fire, maringo, fire away,
That General Jackson's gained the day,
   Fire, maringo, fire away!

[1896        Erskine, Charles. Twenty Years Before the Mast. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs & Co.]

All are versions of a "Fire Marengo." They suggest to me that the pattern of "gained the day" was already there amongst African-American workers' songs. When the Mexican-American War came round, as it was these singers' habit to throw in topical lyrics, they could slip in Gen. Taylor.

So one of the historical versions of "Santianna", attributed to a ship in 1862, has these verses, with all the characters assembled:

General Taylor gained the day,
    Hurrah Santa Anna!
General Taylor gained the day
    All on the plains of Mexico.

He gained the day at Monterey,
    Hurrah Santa Anna!
He gained the day at Monterey,
    All on the plains of Mexico.

Santa Anna ran away,
    Hurrah Santa Anna!
He ran away from Monterey,
    All on the plains of Mexico.

General Jackson's at New Orleans,
    Hurrah Santa Anna!
General Jackson's at New Orleans,
    All on the plains of Mexico.

'Twas there he gave the British beans,
    Hurrah Santa Anna!
'Twas there he gave the British beans,
    All on the plains of Mexico.

[1904        Stacy, Rev. Thomas Hobbs. Fifty-Three Years Missionary to India. Boston: The Morning Star Publishing House.]

[The couplet in the last two verses, also mentioned in connection with other chanties, could have its origin in a minstrel song lyric:

Is dere any one here loves massa Jackson
Yes I's de nigga loves General Jackson
...

He thrashed the red coats at Orleans
He gib Packenham all sorts of beans]

There are at least two good versions of "Santiana" on record with General Taylor gaining the day, not Santa Anna. I think the "British supporters of Mexico" theory doesn't have much to support it. The sources point to the cotton-stowers making up or developing these songs. Just the fact that Santa Anna ends up gaining the day in many versions does not, in my opinion, point to a different group making up the song. Maybe some one switched the verse around, maybe someone made a mistake, or it was wishful thinking, but the song structure was already developed.

As for "General Taylor" being a distinct chanty, there is not a lot of evidence. There is the cotton stowing song in Nordhoff with "carry me along" (the similarity to Afro-American folk songs which has been pointed out). Then there is John Short's brief rendition -- in which a theme is barely developed. Seems to have more to do with eulogizing dead (i.e. similarly to Stormalong), perhaps, than following a narrative about Taylor specifically. Beyond this, if I'm not mistaken, we just have Hugill's. Who knows what he cooked up? Her certainly may have spun out verses to make it look like the theme was more cohesive. My opinion is that a bit of firmer narrative must have been woven around the song during the Revival post 1960s.


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 29 May 12 - 08:30 AM

Gibb-

What you say all makes sense. What you haven't explained very satisfactorily is how the winning generals got shifted around in this shanty, from General Taylor to loser General Santa Anna.

I still like the theory (as reprised by Hugill) that the shanty was the product of British sailors who "volunteered" (ex-Royal Navy men) for the Mexican army; they may not have won any battles but their version of the shanty "gained the day" as a shanty.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: GUEST,LIghter
Date: 29 May 12 - 08:36 AM

"GUEST" was me.

Thanks for the reminder, Gibb. I couldn't locate the "Jackson"/ Marengo song: obviously related and evidently earlier than the Mexican War.

With a certain amount of adjustment, you can sing the "Fire Marengo" song to the familiar "Santa Anna" tune. I wonder if the "lost" tune was essentially the same.


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 29 May 12 - 05:09 PM

Charley--

What I was trying to say is that I don't think the variation is something that I would read into as significant evidence about the who sang the song. Perhaps it tells us something, but I think there are more likely explanations that are simpler and more characteristic of the genre as we know it.

One was singing about someone who is "dead and gone" and who "gained the day" in these jumble of songs. To my mind, the names of who died and who won a battle would easily get varied, both through oral transmission and momentary "mistakes" -- brain-farts! Not the most satisfying explanation, I'll admit, but I think it is more grounded in unglamorous reality!

The "early" versions of Santiana *do* have Gen. Taylor winning. So that understanding was there. It wasn't as if the entire song were conceived as one about Santa Anna's victory. I conclude that the periodic shift to singing it with Santa Anna winning was a mix-up or perhaps wishful thinking *after the fact*. Because "hurrah Santa Anna" is the chorus, later singers with no knowledge of history might be inclined to assume he was the hero. Well, I suppose he was an anti-hero, even if he didn't gain the day!

While I admit it is surely a possibility that pro-Mexico sentiment inspired the use of "Santa Anna wins" lyric, I don't think any elaborate explanation for that would look as likely if it weren't for the way that writers have built it up.


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: GUEST,Dalillama
Date: 21 Dec 12 - 05:57 PM

Barrett's entirely fictional. The song about him was written by Stan Rogers in the 60s.


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: Dead Horse
Date: 22 Dec 12 - 07:57 AM

Picking on individual lines or couplets as a way of dating shanties is a complete waste of time for reasons that should appear obvious.
Rather, the whole 'feel' of the shanty should be used as a pointer.
I sing two versions of Santi-anna, one pro him and his exploits, and the other more factual which lauds Taylor.
Whenever I sing the pro Santi version I usually say a few words about how this version was sung by British seamen with an axe to grind against the Yanks who had whooped our asses quite recently and how many found themselves in the Mexican Army as soldiers of fortune, and so were biased against those upstart colonials.
The fact that so many singers of shanties have no idea of what they are singing about, and worse, that they try to rationalise the old words with new meanings and going so far as to actually change the words to suit their own ideas is rather depressing. The more folks go down that route the more the original is lost in the mists of time.


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: redhorse
Date: 22 Dec 12 - 11:06 AM

Historical accuracy is rarely found in shanties.

From the song you would assume he died in battle rather than from eating iced cherries on a hot day.........


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: LadyJean
Date: 22 Dec 12 - 10:17 PM

Taylor was elected president, and died in office, of food poisoning. I think he was recently exumed to make sure he wasn't murdered, though what anyone would do if he was is kind of a difficulty.

He was NOT elected in a year ending in zero. So much for the zero curse.


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 22 Dec 12 - 11:38 PM

I believe these two statements are incongruous:

Whenever I sing the pro Santi version I usually say a few words about how this version was sung by British seamen with an axe to grind against the Yanks who had whooped our asses quite recently and how many found themselves in the Mexican Army as soldiers of fortune, and so were biased against those upstart colonials.

The fact that so many singers of shanties have no idea of what they are singing about, and worse, that they try to rationalise the old words with new meanings and going so far as to actually change the words to suit their own ideas is rather depressing.

The first statement is just some speculation that appeared in Hugill's book to rationalize the historical inaccuracy of the lyric.

Interestingly, the first comment made on the lyrics of "Santiana," voiced when these songs were still being sung, was:

It may be assumed that the predominance of Santa Anna's name in sailor songs is due to the Southern negroes, who still sing songs of which the name of the Mexican general is the burden. We may therefore class the "Plains of Mexico" with those sailor songs which are of African descent. (Alden 1882)

Alden certainly may have been wrong in his assumption, but I think it counts for something that he was a contemporary, and therefore his sense of the song's cultural connotations carries some weight. This, too, was at a time when an Anglo-American would not be inclined to give "credit" to African-Americans--unless it seemed obvious that this was the case.


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: JJ
Date: 23 Dec 12 - 08:18 AM

Now cherries and milk on a very hot day
Make even the strongest turn paler.
And they proved more effective than Mexican shot,
For they finished poor Zachary Taylor.

-- Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: Marc Bernier
Date: 23 Dec 12 - 09:13 AM

Gibb; I was recently have a discussion with Don Sineti about this very point,(various outcomes of the day). He said Stan was of the belief that the Santa Anna winning theme may have been favoured by black singers of the day because there was no Slavery in Mexico at this time. Whilst these men loading ships in American ports(and developing our chanty tradition) were almost all in bondage.


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: Dead Horse
Date: 23 Dec 12 - 09:29 AM

...and were picked up by white seamen who liked the idea of reversing the facts because they had an axe to grind.
What is incongruous about that?


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: Marc Bernier
Date: 23 Dec 12 - 10:26 AM

I know of no evidence that points definitively to which versions were sung by black or white men in the 1850s. Most of the chanties I sing I learned from drinking and singing with old men who were born during the 20th century. And having actually known Stan, I am aware that although his theories were occasionally self-serving, many of his sources had significantly darker skin than I. What makes you think these versions "were picked up by white seamen who liked the idea of reversing the facts because they had an axe to grind"? Maybe the white Chanty singer you learned it from got it from a book, and had no idea who General Taylor was or what the facts were.


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 23 Dec 12 - 03:28 PM

Hi Dead Horse,

The incongruity comes from your statement that current singers rationalise according to their own ideas of how they would like to imagine things (which I'm pretty much in agreement with), being preceded by a statement from Hugill that was just that. Unfortunately, the idea did not exist before Hugill (at least there is no evidence it did); it was his rationalization to explain the issue of why Santa Anna was being eulogized.

Because Hugill's book became the "Bible" and people read it like it is more or less a historical authority, it both shapes *and* confirms their established ideas (established through previous years of being shaped by Hugill, and by earlier collections that he incorporated). These ideas that seem plausible get planted, and then we see discussions trying to work out the fine details, like "hmm, what DID the blood red roses stand for? Who WAS John Kanaka the Samoan shantyman? Why DID British sailors say Santa Anna won?" It's just that the fact that these questions are even on the table is due to someone influential (e.g. Hugill) --rather mischievously when you think about it -- planting ideas.

Taking it back to the raw evidence: The fact that both Santa Anna and General Taylor were eulogized may only show that there was variation -- something we'd expect from shanty singing. Singers mix up their words all the time. There are "slots" in a shanty utterance that one fills with whatever. These lyrical concepts were also being layered, I'd argue, over previous eulogies/praise to General Jackson and Stormalong. These and General Jackson, Santiana (Sally Brown, Shenandoah, Sunnydore??) are on one level poetic devices whose use as such, I think, trumps any kind of historical explanation.


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: Marc Bernier
Date: 23 Dec 12 - 04:18 PM

@ Gibb & Dead Horse; My comment about Stans theory was intended to point out that, were as Stan put forth one theory in his book which was published in '61. He had another theory 30 years later when Don and I knew him. No disrespect was intended.


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: Dead Horse
Date: 23 Dec 12 - 06:57 PM

Hey, we are having a nice calm discussion about the origins of a few shanties. No disrespect has been shown by anybody and no knives have been drawn.
I happen to believe that that Hugill wrote the Bible of shanty singers - but just like its better known namesake it is full of inaccuracies and downright lies :-)


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 23 Dec 12 - 07:15 PM

Since Santy Anna is in the refrain, it was easy for him to "win the day," particularly among British and other singers who had no idea who General Taylor was, no reason to care, and no pedantic motive to keep his name in the song.

While there was no slavery in Mexico, Santa Anna was a dictator widely loathed by the Mexican public. The idea that replacing Taylor with Santa Anna in the shanty was some kind of "political statement" strikes me as wildly improbable - especially since a *politically minded* innovator would have known that Taylor won.

And no collected verses refer to slavery in Mexico or the U.S.


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 23 Dec 12 - 08:18 PM

Marc,

That was clear to me. It doesn't give me any more or less faith in Hugill's theories, however! :0 We simply have more information now, when it comes to history, than Hugill had at the time. And we have had more eyes, with different perspectives, looking at that information. I LOVE Hugill's work, but when I'm searching for historical understanding, it is among the last sources I turn to.
***

I happen to believe that that Hugill wrote the Bible of shanty singers - but just like its better known namesake it is full of inaccuracies and downright lies.

I can agree with this 100%! :D

Since Santy Anna is in the refrain, it was easy for him to "win the day,"...

I have thought the same. This is what I would call something like "internal logic" (though that might be an inaccurate way of saying it). I think there is a lot of internal logic to chanties that people overlook in favor of "external" logic.

External logic (again, just my term) drives the method of picking on certain words in shanties and looking for their etymology, looking for historical events to attach them to, etc. It's what folklorists often seem to have done, and it is the method of a lot of "origins" threads on Mudcat. It is also the method often used by Hugill in his writing. A song is presented, which contains some notable or unfamiliar word/name in that particular version, and then the presenter goes along trying to explain the word and find a story to why it appears in the song. In fact, Hugill's whole SfSS is constructed out of clusters of shanties linked, often haphazardly, by some shared word.

I will not at all say that this method is useless; it is often very insightful. But the narratives of the songs are often non-existent or much less coherent than presenters to modern audiences would (understandably) have us believe. My feeling is that the audience/readers are expected to want these narratives because it is a way they connect with and feel like they can understand the song. It needs to make literal sense, or that which doesn't needs to be explained.

I don't believe, however, that that literal sense was necessarily present in chanties, since rhythm, sound, sing-ability, and non-literal meaning were so important.


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: Marc Bernier
Date: 23 Dec 12 - 08:20 PM

Hmm?


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: Marc Bernier
Date: 23 Dec 12 - 08:48 PM

Oh! Merry Christmas Folks


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: Dead Horse
Date: 24 Dec 12 - 12:18 AM

Since Taylor was president of the US in 1850 and was a slave holder from Baton Rouge (just up river from New Orleans) the assumption that sailors in the Gulf Ports hadnt heard of him holds no ice with me.
Just because he has almost vanished into obscurity nowadays doesnt mean he wasnt a legend when this shanty first came to notice.
So why do you think there were two versions, one pro and the other anti?
The coloured workers would have been more likely to sing the pro version, surely? Certainly within earshot of their white 'masters' at any rate. At sea it would be a diferent story, especially when among non-Yankee sailors.


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 24 Dec 12 - 01:22 PM

Sorry, DH. As Gibb suggests, logic (and 21st century sensibilities about what 19th century seamen would have wanted to sing about in shanties) has little to do with it.

Not to mention that there's absolutely no evidence that Taylor's position on slavery had anything to do with the song. If it had, the words would say so, and they don't. The simplest explanation is that "Santy Anna" is already in the song and is more fun to pronounce than "General Taylor."

We have no idea when SA replaced GT anyway. It could have been long after the Mexican War - or the Civil War for that matter.

But who am I to let facts get in the way of a good story, dreamed up 150 years later, about enslaved crews singing shanties in code to fool their masters - and everybody else for the next century and a half.


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: Dead Horse
Date: 25 Dec 12 - 10:25 AM

"But who am I to let facts get in the way of a good story, dreamed up 150 years later, about enslaved crews singing shanties in code to fool their masters - and everybody else for the next century and a half."

Who the hell suggested that?
As for what 'they wanted to sing about' its more to do with what they DID sing about.
You will have them singing about Boney crossing the Alps wiv elefunts next ;-)


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: The Sandman
Date: 26 Dec 12 - 08:03 AM

re


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 26 Dec 12 - 01:33 PM

So why do you think there were two versions, one pro and the other anti?
There weren't! :)

There are multiple renditions ("versions," if you like?) on record. (Most if not all of these, that I believe anyone is aware of, appear in the "Advent and Development of Chanties" thread. One can open the thread and do a search / Command-F on "SANTIANA" to locate them.)

Some renditions say "Santa Anna won/gained the day", some others say "Santa Anna ran away", and yet others say other things. The quasi-real events in all these renditions do not match up. They talk about battles of Monterrey (1846), and Molino del Rey (1847) -- two different battles, the former in which the U.S. was victorious, the latter in which the U.S. basically lost. And IIRC, Taylor and Santa Anna were not directly involved in either battle (but rather overseeing the whole conflict). Then there is the battle of Buena Vista, in which the two *were* engaged. Hugill incorrectly mashes up all three of these battles as if they were the same.

My point is that there is a lot of "stuff" there, some clearly inspired by current events, other surely mixed up after the fact by chantymen. These don't cohere into two coherent versions. That would be a construct of later collectors (most notably, Hugill) and, I guess, later 20th c. singers.

I find it rather frustrating to have to de-construct the narratives of recent presenters of songs like this before discussing their origins. It is much easier just to start from scratch with no theories in mind. Otherwise it's like trying to re-coil a rope that someone has tied in knots.


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Subject: RE: Origins: General Taylor - who was he?
From: GUEST,Treason?
Date: 14 Jul 13 - 09:33 AM

Someone posed that the song doesn't make sense because Taylor
wasn't a traitor - but from the point of view of a the Rebublic of Texas,
he was, for making Texas so beholden to the USA. Maybe the song
was wishful thinking on the part of someone who wished Texas had stayed
independent.


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