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Origin: Bring Me Little Water Sylvie (Leadbelly)

DigiTrad:
ALABAMA BOUND
BILL MARTIN AND ELLA SPEED
BRING ME LITTLE WATER, SYLVIE
COTTON FIELDS BACK HOME
DUNCAN AND BRADY
DUNCAN AND BRADY (2)
GOOD NIGHT IRENE
JUMPIN' JUDY
KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF HER
KISSES SWEETER THAN WINE
LININ' TRACK
MIDNIGHT SPECIAL
ROCK ME ON THE WATER
SKEWBALL
SO LONG IT'S BEEN GOOD TO KNOW YUH
SONG TO WOODY
TAKE THIS HAMMER
THE GRAY GOOSE
THE ROCK ISLAND LINE (is a mighty fine line)
WE SHALL WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY
WHOA BACK BUCK
YOU DON'T KNOW ME


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Len N 06 Dec 98 - 10:08 AM
Roger in Baltimore 06 Dec 98 - 10:54 AM
Susan of DT 06 Dec 98 - 04:40 PM
Len N 06 Dec 98 - 09:31 PM
Richard McD. Bridge 09 Dec 98 - 03:19 PM
Joe Offer 05 Oct 08 - 06:56 PM
quokka 05 Oct 08 - 10:08 PM
The Villan 06 Oct 08 - 04:02 AM
wilbyhillbilly 06 Oct 08 - 04:49 AM
Bonnie Shaljean 06 Oct 08 - 05:52 AM
Big Al Whittle 06 Oct 08 - 06:34 AM
quokka 06 Oct 08 - 12:18 PM
Dennis the Elder 06 Oct 08 - 12:30 PM
open mike 06 Oct 08 - 01:25 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 06 Oct 08 - 02:36 PM
Cool Beans 06 Oct 08 - 02:41 PM
GUEST,leeneia 06 Oct 08 - 05:04 PM
Janie 06 Oct 08 - 09:20 PM
quokka 07 Oct 08 - 07:38 AM
frogprince 07 Oct 08 - 08:14 PM
Genie 07 Oct 08 - 10:51 PM
Janie 07 Oct 08 - 11:06 PM
topical tom 08 Oct 08 - 11:23 AM
GUEST 29 Jan 09 - 11:39 PM
Dave Hanson 30 Jan 09 - 04:58 AM
Janie 30 Jan 09 - 09:42 PM
Janie 30 Jan 09 - 09:52 PM
quokka 31 Jan 09 - 09:07 AM
GUEST,Lynn 28 Oct 09 - 10:57 PM
GUEST,Jim 09 Dec 09 - 06:25 PM
Janie 09 Dec 09 - 08:50 PM
Genie 29 Jul 10 - 06:39 PM
AllisonA(Animaterra) 15 Jan 12 - 03:03 PM
Dennis the Elder 02 Nov 12 - 03:58 PM
GUEST,999 02 Nov 12 - 04:02 PM
GUEST,Guest 05 Aug 13 - 11:03 AM
Janie 05 Aug 13 - 08:33 PM
GUEST,Brad Sondahl 06 Aug 13 - 06:33 PM
BrooklynJay 28 Sep 15 - 03:51 PM
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Subject: Bring me little water sylvie
From: Len N
Date: 06 Dec 98 - 10:08 AM

Can anyone offer up any background info on Leadbelly's song of this title. Also I have heard just three verses, one that begins with the title line, one that starts with "bring it in a bucket Sylvie", and one that begins with "can't you see me coming" Is anyone aware of any other verses to this song.

Thanks Len


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Subject: RE: Bring me little water sylvie
From: Roger in Baltimore
Date: 06 Dec 98 - 10:54 AM

Len, Alan Lomax in his book Folk Songs of North American has this to say about the song.

"Lead Belly's Uncle Bob was married to a woman named Sylvie. On hot days when he was ploughing at the bottom of the field a long way from the house, he used to holler to Sylvie to bring the water bucket; and out of this little field holler Lead Belly developed the song and the story." (pg. 518)

When Lead Belly performed outside of the South, he often taught the audience the background of his songs so the audience would understand. Audience from New York often had little concept of the rural South. Lomax includes the "talking bits" in the version of 'Sylvie' included in his book.

Bring Me Li'l' Water, Sylvie

Bring me li'l' water, Sylvie,
Bring me li'l' water, now,
Bring me li'l' water, Sylvie,
Ev'ry li'l' once in a while.

The man was in the field ploughin' in the two hottest months of the year, which is July and August. He called his wife, Sylvie, the first time and she didn't hear him, so he called her again, a little louder.

Bring me li'l' water, Sylvie,
Bring me li'l' water, now,
Bring me li'l' water, Sylvie,
Every li'l' once in a while.

That second time, Sylvie heard him. She grab her bucket and fill it with cool water from the well and she went runnin'. Down through the field, the little bucket knockin' against her legs and a little water spillin' out on the cotton dress she wore. She holler back at him to let him know she comin'.

Don't you hear me comin'?
Don't you hear me comin', now?
Don't you hear me comin'?
Ev'ry li'l' once in a while?

It was hot down there and when that man look up and say li'l' Sylvie comin' trottin' along, he begins to feel good. He commenced to blowin' his horn,

Bring me li'l' water, Sylvie,
Bring me li'l' water, now,
Bring me li'l' water, Sylvie,
Every li'l' once in a while.

Sylvie was just skippin' 'long now, and when she got up near her husban' she hollered again to show him how gald she was to see him,

Don't you hear me comin'?
Don't you hear me comin', now?
Don't you hear me comin'?
Ev'ry li'l' once in a while?

Well, the man he retch for that bucket and he dip in the dipper an' have him a big. long draught of that cool well-water, look like it do him good right down to his toes. Sylvie just laugh to see him satisfied. Then he tol' her, "Now, llok here, darlin', you better open up your ears a little wider so you can hear me when I holler. I'm burnin' down here in this bottom, and when I wants my water I wants you to come in a hurry. So you listen next time when I holler.'

Bring me li'l' water, Sylvie,
Bring me li'l' water, now,
Bring me li'l' water, Sylvie,
Every li'l' once in a while.

Lawd, Lawd, Sylvie,
Lawd, Lawd, now!
Lawd, Lawd, Sylvie,
Ev'ry li'l' once in a while.

written by Huddie Ledbetter and transcribed by Alan Lomax in Folk Songs of North America, pg. 533.

The Leadbelly Songbook edited by Moses Asch and Alan Lomax includes the following three verses.

Bring me the bucket, Sylvy.
Bring me the bucket, now.
Bring me the bucket, Sylvy.
Every li'l' once in a while.

See me come a'runnin'.
See me come a'runnin', now.
See me come a'runnin'.
Every li'l' once in a while.

Silvy come a'runnin'.
Silvy come a'runnin', now.
Silvy come a'runnin'.
Every li'l' once in a while.

The talkin' bits show what a great entertainer Lead Belly was. He took a very short song and painted a beautiful word picture to put it in context, all within the actual performance.

Enjoy the song!

Roger in Baltimore


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Subject: RE: Bring me little water sylvie
From: Susan of DT
Date: 06 Dec 98 - 04:40 PM

Sylvie, Sylvie, I'm so hot and dry
Sylvie, Sylvie, I'm so hot and dry
Bring me little water, Sylvie
Every little once in a while

Belafonte recorded it.
Sorry I only entered two verses in the DT.


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Subject: RE: Bring me little water sylvie
From: Len N
Date: 06 Dec 98 - 09:31 PM

Susan of DT. and Roger in Baltimore. Thanks a million.

Len


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Subject: RE: Bring me little water sylvie
From: Richard McD. Bridge
Date: 09 Dec 98 - 03:19 PM

I did hear someone argue once that Leadbelly actually borrowed an older traditional song for this. The argument was that this was a prison based chain or labour gang song. The older inmates were not effective as labourers so they had some of the less labour intensive tasks. One of those was carrying the water bucket. Being older they had grey, or slver, hair. So the generic for the old men was "Silver" or "Sylvie". And so........

I have no idea if this is right but it's interesting.


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Subject: RE: Bring me little water sylvie
From: Joe Offer
Date: 05 Oct 08 - 06:56 PM

Soimebody suggested that a copy of this post should appear in this thread, since it is a significant'y different version. I agree.
Thanks, Tom.
-Joe-

The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #114362   Message #2456611
Posted By: topical tom
03-Oct-08 - 02:55 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Add: Work Gang Songs
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Work Gang Songs

Ooops! Here's "Bring me a Little Water, Sylvie":While traveling on the Judy Collins Wildflowers Festival Tour, I had a few days off and decided to spend it in Bucks County PA with friends, John and Mary Ann Davis. It was there that I recorded Lead Belly's 'Bring Me Little Water Sylvie.' John accompainied me on bass and the old blues singer Rusty James (AKA Leon Redbone) stopped by to add a low vocal soul.
Lyrics:
D
Bring me little water Sylvie
A
Bring me little water now
D G
Bring me little water Sylvie
A D
Every little once in a while

Don't you hear me calling Sylvie?

Don't you hear me calling now?

Don't you hear me calling Sylvie?

Every little once in a while

Getting' mighty thirsty Sylvie

Getting' mighty thirsty now

Getting' mighty thirsty Sylvie

Every little once in a while

Bring me little water Sylvie

Bring me little water now

Bring me little water Sylvie

Every little once in a while

Can't you hear me Sylvie?

Can't you hear me now?

Can't you hear me Sylvie?

Every little once in a while

Getting' hot and thirsty Sylvie

Getting' hot and thirsty now

Getting' hot and thirsty Sylvie

Every little once in a while

Bring me little water Sylvie

Bring me little water now

Bring me little water Sylvie

Every little once in a while

Bring me little water Sylvie

Bring me little water now

Bring me little water Sylvie

Every little once in a while

Bring me little water Sylvie

Bring me little water now

Bring me little water Sylvie

Every little once in a while

Can't you hear me calling Sylvie?

Can't you hear me calling now?

Can't you hear me calling Sylvie?

Every little once in a while


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Subject: RE: Bring me little water sylvie
From: quokka
Date: 05 Oct 08 - 10:08 PM

Here is Sweet Honey in the Rock singing Silvie. Always been one of my favourites

Sweet Honey in the Rock


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Subject: RE: Bring me little water sylvie
From: The Villan
Date: 06 Oct 08 - 04:02 AM

Here is a version by the late great Lonnie Donegan's son

Bring A Little Water, Sylvie


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Subject: RE: Bring me little water sylvie
From: wilbyhillbilly
Date: 06 Oct 08 - 04:49 AM

I,ve actually still got the Lonnie Donegan version which brings back many happy memories of the time I bought it.


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Subject: RE: Bring me little water sylvie
From: Bonnie Shaljean
Date: 06 Oct 08 - 05:52 AM

Here are two separate performances of it by the Wailing Jennys which I like, though I wish they'd take it a bit faster. Sweet Honey's is my fave version though (thanks Quokka).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGsfDKSFC-8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rz2eOJC1ugk


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Subject: RE: Bring me little water sylvie
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 06 Oct 08 - 06:34 AM

My cousin Sylvia wouldn't respond to anything like that. She's a nurse.

Mind you, if it were a bedpan you needed..... who knows?

bring me bedpan Sylvie!
hear me callin' you
Bring me bedpan Sylvie
Cos I'm needin a pooh
(but that Sylvie she's a fillin' a resources slip for the health and safety man, who has a cost cutting iniative in full flow at the very moment the all bran starts kickin' in down there on Nightingale ward!)

Bring me a bedpan sylvie
can't you hear my desperate shout!
bring me bedpan sylvie
I can feel it coming out!

(but that Sylvie she's got some notes to write up for the Mr Screwloose, the orthopaedic surgeon with oakleaves who had to rush out cos he's been a bleeped. And you rush off in this place, when you're a bleeped! your parking space might be under threat!)

bring me a bedpan sylvie
didn't you hear what I said
Bring me bedpan sylvie
too late! I've shit the bed.


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Subject: RE: Bring me little water sylvie
From: quokka
Date: 06 Oct 08 - 12:18 PM

I see what you mean, Bonnie! That's super slow mo - sports style. Beautiful harmonies, though. It's still Sweet Honeys version for me.


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Subject: RE: Bring me little water sylvie
From: Dennis the Elder
Date: 06 Oct 08 - 12:30 PM

I am sure I read somewhere that the original version prior to Leadbelly and Lonnie Donegan was concerning a gentleman on death row.
Has anyone else heard this. My 2 month old niece has been named Sylvie and I was worried about singing it to her if this was the case.
I much prefer your interpretation Rodger about Uncle Bob, much more possitive and less depressive.


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Subject: RE: Bring me little water sylvie
From: open mike
Date: 06 Oct 08 - 01:25 PM

yes i had the picture that water was being brought to a jail cell, not in the field.


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Subject: RE: Bring me little water sylvie
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 06 Oct 08 - 02:36 PM

Jail- possible confusion with some derivatives of "The Butcher Boy,"
but The Ballad Index notes no prior versions of Ledbetter's song.

Water was requested by the dying cowboy in Streets of Laredo. I am sure that there are other requests. Also song "Water Boy."


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Subject: RE: Bring me little water sylvie
From: Cool Beans
Date: 06 Oct 08 - 02:41 PM

There used to be a radio news anchor in Detroit named Joan Silvi whom I always referred to as Joan (Bring Me Little Water) Silvi. Unfortunately, nobody ever got the reference.


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Subject: RE: Bring me little water sylvie
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 06 Oct 08 - 05:04 PM

The jail idea probably came from a verse which I believe Belafonte sang:

Sylvie bring me coffee
Sylvie bring me tea.
Sylvie bring me every damn thing
but she never bring the jailhouse key.


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Subject: RE: Bring me little water sylvie
From: Janie
Date: 06 Oct 08 - 09:20 PM

I am in love with Sweet Honey's arrangement! Thanks for that, Quokka.


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Subject: RE: Bring me little water sylvie
From: quokka
Date: 07 Oct 08 - 07:38 AM

You're welcome, Janie!


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Subject: RE: Bring me little water sylvie
From: frogprince
Date: 07 Oct 08 - 08:14 PM

Belafonte was great on "Sylvie", and I consider "Sweet Honey"'s take
on it to be flat out sublime. Youtube doesn't have that by Leadbelly himself; anybody know if that's online anywhere?


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Subject: RE: Bring me little water sylvie
From: Genie
Date: 07 Oct 08 - 10:51 PM

I seem to recall reading somewhere (possibly in another thread here) that Belafonte's version derived from an older song from Africa.   Does that ring a bell with anyone?


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Subject: RE: Bring me little water sylvie
From: Janie
Date: 07 Oct 08 - 11:06 PM

Frogprince - you can listen to a short sample of Ledbelly singing it on iTunes.


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Subject: RE: Bring me little water sylvie
From: topical tom
Date: 08 Oct 08 - 11:23 AM

Thanks for transferring my post to this thread, Joe.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Bring Me Little Water Sylvie (Leadbelly)
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Jan 09 - 11:39 PM

Check out the version by Voco on myspace.com with amazing body percussion by Evie Ladin.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Bring Me Little Water Sylvie (Leadbelly)
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 04:58 AM

Sweet Honey In The Rocks version is in the film ' A vision Shared ' about Leadbelly and Woody.

To me it's the best version ever.

Dave H


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Subject: RE: Origin: Bring Me Little Water Sylvie (Leadbelly)
From: Janie
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 09:42 PM

Guest, can you provide a link or specific URL?

Searching Voco on myspace brings up a long list


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Subject: RE: Origin: Bring Me Little Water Sylvie (Leadbelly)
From: Janie
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 09:52 PM

Found it.

Voco Bring Me Little Water, Sylvie


Nice. The clapping is a very nice touch.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Bring Me Little Water Sylvie (Leadbelly)
From: quokka
Date: 31 Jan 09 - 09:07 AM

I'll have to look up that film Dave H, - sounds like something I would love.

Cheers,

Quokka


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Subject: RE: Origin: Bring Me Little Water Sylvie (Leadbelly)
From: GUEST,Lynn
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 10:57 PM

Hi

Does anyone out there in cyberspace have the guitar chords to Birng Me a Little Water, Sylvie? The simpler, the better. Thanks!


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Subject: RE: Origin: Bring Me Little Water Sylvie (Leadbell
From: GUEST,Jim
Date: 09 Dec 09 - 06:25 PM

Have a listen to the Steep Canyon Rangers version (my favorite):

http://www.billboard.com/album/steep-canyon-rangers/deep-in-the-shade/1283565#/album/steep-canyon-rangers/deep-in-the-shade/1283565


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Subject: RE: Origin: Bring Me Little Water Sylvie (Leadbell
From: Janie
Date: 09 Dec 09 - 08:50 PM

Wouldn't let me listen unless I signed up for lala.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Bring Me Little Water Sylvie (Leadbelly)
From: Genie
Date: 29 Jul 10 - 06:39 PM

Just wondering if we've ever figured out where the earliest version of this song comes from.

Belafonte's version is notably different from Leadbelly's but probably based on that on or on the one Leadbelly took his from.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Bring Me Little Water Sylvie (Leadbelly)
From: AllisonA(Animaterra)
Date: 15 Jan 12 - 03:03 PM

Refresh- asking Genie's question of 29/7/10!


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Subject: RE: Origin: Bring Me Little Water Sylvie (Leadbelly)
From: Dennis the Elder
Date: 02 Nov 12 - 03:58 PM

Janie, I have just listened to the rendition by Voco of Bring Me Little Water, Sylvie, magnificent is the only way to describe it.
Thanks for supplying the link, although it took me a couple of years to read your post.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Bring Me Little Water Sylvie (Leadbelly)
From: GUEST,999
Date: 02 Nov 12 - 04:02 PM

"although it took me a couple of years to read your post"

Long post?


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Subject: RE: Origin: Bring Me Little Water Sylvie (Leadbelly)
From: GUEST,Guest
Date: 05 Aug 13 - 11:03 AM

Was watching an early episode of "The Wild, Wild, West" and a version of Sylvie is sung, with the extra lyrics about the "jailhouse key". I wondered where those lyrics came from, glad to get the info about the Belefonte version. the TV show was filmed in 1966, so I am sure that is the version they were taking the lyrics from.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Bring Me Little Water Sylvie (Leadbelly)
From: Janie
Date: 05 Aug 13 - 08:33 PM

That original link to Voco now leads to Myspace. The video has since been put up on youtube, therefore likely to last for awhile, so I'll post it.

Voco Bring Me Little Water Sylvie

Leadbelly (and who is singing with him?) Has also been posted to youtube.

Leadbelly Bring Me Little Water Sylvie


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Subject: RE: Origin: Bring Me Little Water Sylvie (Leadbelly)
From: GUEST,Brad Sondahl
Date: 06 Aug 13 - 06:33 PM


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Subject: RE: Origin: Bring Me Little Water Sylvie (Leadbelly)
From: BrooklynJay
Date: 28 Sep 15 - 03:51 PM

According to a poster on the YouTube link above, the other singer is Anne Graham.


Jay


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