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Restraining on stage

open mike 20 Jun 06 - 04:01 PM
GUEST 20 Jun 06 - 04:59 PM
Geordie-Peorgie 20 Jun 06 - 06:57 PM
Greg B 20 Jun 06 - 08:00 PM
Genie 20 Jun 06 - 10:14 PM
Genie 20 Jun 06 - 10:22 PM
GUEST,yrlancslad 20 Jun 06 - 10:47 PM
yrlancslad 20 Jun 06 - 10:53 PM
Marc Bernier 20 Jun 06 - 11:20 PM
Greg B 21 Jun 06 - 12:35 PM
yrlancslad 21 Jun 06 - 01:35 PM
Liz the Squeak 21 Jun 06 - 03:17 PM
Greg B 21 Jun 06 - 04:07 PM
GUEST,Jim 22 Jun 06 - 11:02 AM
Scrump 22 Jun 06 - 11:54 AM
captainbirdseye 22 Jun 06 - 12:37 PM
Greg B 22 Jun 06 - 01:01 PM
Don Firth 22 Jun 06 - 01:47 PM
Marion 22 Jun 06 - 03:59 PM
tarheel 22 Jun 06 - 04:56 PM
paddymac 22 Jun 06 - 06:35 PM
Azizi 22 Jun 06 - 07:24 PM
Marc Bernier 22 Jun 06 - 09:28 PM
Genie 22 Jun 06 - 10:07 PM
Genie 22 Jun 06 - 10:17 PM
Genie 22 Jun 06 - 10:26 PM
Don Firth 22 Jun 06 - 10:47 PM
Greg B 23 Jun 06 - 06:41 PM
Azizi 23 Jun 06 - 06:51 PM
Gurney 24 Jun 06 - 04:41 AM
Azizi 24 Jun 06 - 05:46 AM
Azizi 24 Jun 06 - 05:53 AM
Herga Kitty 24 Jun 06 - 11:34 AM
Les from Hull 24 Jun 06 - 01:03 PM
Azizi 24 Jun 06 - 01:26 PM
GUEST,thurg 24 Jun 06 - 01:27 PM
Azizi 24 Jun 06 - 01:32 PM
yrlancslad 24 Jun 06 - 10:07 PM
Azizi 24 Jun 06 - 10:29 PM
GUEST,thurg 24 Jun 06 - 10:35 PM
yrlancslad 24 Jun 06 - 10:41 PM
Big Al Whittle 24 Jun 06 - 10:57 PM
yrlancslad 24 Jun 06 - 11:06 PM
GUEST,thurg 25 Jun 06 - 02:10 AM
Azizi 25 Jun 06 - 07:26 AM
yrlancslad 25 Jun 06 - 11:27 AM
Alice 25 Jun 06 - 12:29 PM
Mo the caller 25 Jun 06 - 12:32 PM
Greg B 25 Jun 06 - 01:49 PM
Genie 25 Jun 06 - 02:41 PM
GUEST,thurg 25 Jun 06 - 09:10 PM
GUEST,Joe_F 25 Jun 06 - 10:26 PM
frogprince 25 Jun 06 - 10:57 PM
Alice 26 Jun 06 - 12:20 AM
SharonA 26 Jun 06 - 01:28 AM
Bunnahabhain 26 Jun 06 - 06:03 AM
Alice 26 Jun 06 - 09:25 AM
Scoville 26 Jun 06 - 10:15 AM
Greg B 26 Jun 06 - 12:13 PM
Rusty Dobro 26 Jun 06 - 01:12 PM
Kaleea 26 Jun 06 - 01:32 PM
stallion 26 Jun 06 - 02:09 PM
SharonA 26 Jun 06 - 03:14 PM
Genie 26 Jun 06 - 03:19 PM
SharonA 26 Jun 06 - 05:05 PM
Greg B 26 Jun 06 - 07:30 PM
Vixen 26 Jun 06 - 08:17 PM
The Fooles Troupe 27 Jun 06 - 07:12 PM
Genie 28 Jun 06 - 01:20 AM
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Subject: Restraining on stage
From: open mike
Date: 20 Jun 06 - 04:01 PM

Have you been in a situation where you felt you had to
refrain from saying or singing or doing something due
to possibly offending some (or all) of the audience?

maybe there was another reason that you chose not to
say/sing/do whatever it was?

have any entertainment regrets?

(inspired by the "restringing on stage" thread)


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Jun 06 - 04:59 PM

There's a story Eric Bogle used to tell about one time he was singing his anti-racist satire 'I Hate Wogs' when a member of the audience took him literally, climbed, climbed onto the stage and punched him.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Geordie-Peorgie
Date: 20 Jun 06 - 06:57 PM

Aah once started to dee the intro to "Shakin' All Over" and one of the organisers started mekking urgent "No! No!" signs at me.

Aah suddenly remembered that aah'd been booked at the Southampton Parkinson's Disease Society monthly meeting.

Aah stopped and did summat else but a smashing little old lady in the front row said "Gan on Kidda! Gi'es a bit Rock & Roll - Nivvor mind aboot political correctness here - We're past aall that nonsense"

SO aah sang itand they aall sang along... and then one of them asked for "All Shook Up" and they aal sanfg to that as weel

I wound up donating me fee back to the society and still gan doon twice or thrice a year and sing for them - It's aboot aall the' can stand of uz


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Greg B
Date: 20 Jun 06 - 08:00 PM

I was once asked not to sing a mildly-racist sea song at a
particular venue (which happened to be a National Park).

The request was made by a Federal employee. I considered the
request, and finally made my decision in light of the following:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of
speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to
assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In other words, in asking that the song not be sung, the requestor
actually mandated that it must be sung!

The problem with being a singer of sea-songs in their original
contexts is that they're all reflections of their origins; folks
who were, in our terms, racist, sexist, and all. They were also
themselves poor, exploited, and downtrodden. So there.

The one thing I won't do is use the N-word (which appears in a lot
of sea-songs and even Robert Service poems). Why? Because it's
become such a deal-breaker that it shuts people's ears and opens
their mouths. It just no longer has any context. I will (and have)
argue for the same reason that others (including trendy teens)
ought not to use it. (But I also tell teens that they should
get 'that's so gay' out of their vocabulary as well.)

As for Bowdlerizing...I generally won't sing the filthy stuff
to kids.

But to adults...hell, have you all watched HBO lately?

I think that people who are doing a parody, such as the racist
song above, ought to be smart enough to say 'look folks, it's a
parody.'

At the same time I (at 5'2") still hold a grudge against Randy
Newman.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Genie
Date: 20 Jun 06 - 10:14 PM

Well, I can think of one recently where I probably SHOULD have stopped myself before I blurted out a lyric improvisation. LOL
I was singing the song "Shortnin' Bread" for a Mother's Day program, and one of the parts goes:
"Put on the skillet, put on the lid,
Mama's gonna make a little shortnin' bread.
An' that's not all Mama's gonna do,
Mama's gonna make a little coffee too."

Since that refrain repeats several times during the song, I thought the "coffee" might get stale, so I thought I'd throw in some other breakfast staple.
No sooner than I had substituted "bacon" for "coffee" when it dawned on me that this was probably not the wisest thing to sing for my Jewish retirement home audience.

(Fortunately, very few of the residents would be offended by this, but I do think some of them did a double take!)

BTW, the problem I encounter more often is getting REQUESTS from my audiences for old songs that are too politically insensitive for me to be able to honor the requests. E.g., "Carry Me Back To Old Virginny."

And doing music for elderly audiences a lot of the time, I have several times gotten into a folk song or old standard that I had never thought of as offensive -- until I put myself into my audience's shoes, so to speak. E.g., "There'll Be Some Changes Made" contains the line "Nobody wants you when you're old and gray ... ."    Lines like that can sneak up on you when someone asks you to sing, unplanned, some old song you've known since childhood.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Genie
Date: 20 Jun 06 - 10:22 PM

GregB, let me add that there are places and audiences where I can sing old songs in their original form or close to it and have the audience appreciate the historical perspective.
I frequently sing "Darktown Strutters Ball" by request at retirement communities. It's a very popular song for these folks, including the African-Americans. And it was Jelly Roll Morton's theme song, plus I believe "Darktown" was in his time no more "racist" a term than "Chinatown" was - and is. However, if there are people around who I think may be offended by the term I may pass on the request.   It's not always an easy call.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: GUEST,yrlancslad
Date: 20 Jun 06 - 10:47 PM

Following up on GregB's note above, there is currently a written complaint being made against me for singing two shanties at a National Park that mention "yellow girls" claiming that the phrase is "racist".
Apart from being extremely hurt and angry at this complaint being made behind my back, having lived 40 years in many cultures other than my own without a HINT that I am bigoted in any way I am disappointed that a minister of a church (albeit an un-employed one) should be so uneducated as to make this claim about a phrase which not only is not racist, it's not even derogatory, it's value-free descriptive-black men, white women, yellow girls. If we can't use this last, then we can't use the first two either!Actually both the songs in question go on to talk of the yellow girls in admiring terms.As you can probably tell I'm pretty mad about this and would welcome advice


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: yrlancslad
Date: 20 Jun 06 - 10:53 PM

I'm not a guest as many of you know, just the cookie thing not working again.
Malcolm


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Marc Bernier
Date: 20 Jun 06 - 11:20 PM

I was doing a gig with a frequent colleague of mine recently in Mobile, Alabama. When out of nowhere, in the middle of the 2nd set, he goes into this long wordy introduction of something. That something turns out to be this bit of an anthem to Beastiality that I'v been known to sing for select audiences. What could I do? He'd just spent 3 or 4 minutes building it up, I'd no idea what he was up to until his last sentence. I gave them a full load, so to speak. I'll be surprised if I'm ever invited back to USA. But then again I'm sure that was his plan.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Greg B
Date: 21 Jun 06 - 12:35 PM

yrlancslad, is that a US National Park?


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: yrlancslad
Date: 21 Jun 06 - 01:35 PM

Yes Greg, and not too far from San Francisco


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 21 Jun 06 - 03:17 PM

Could be worse Genie - could be 'nobody wants you when you're old and gay.....'

LTS


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Greg B
Date: 21 Jun 06 - 04:07 PM

If it's a US Park, then 1st Amendment trumps all...especially
in an educational or academic program. And these songs are
historical/academic material.

It's a vastly different situation than if this were a private
venue. It's not.

Every USPS employee holds up his or her hand and agrees to
uphold the US Constitution as a condition of employment.
Some of them think that procedure manuals and policy memos
trump the constitution.

Drop me a line on my personal email (greg@bullough.org) and
we'll discuss it more. I think I may have been down that very
road.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: GUEST,Jim
Date: 22 Jun 06 - 11:02 AM

A band i played in about 15 years ago was criticized by an indignant woman for singing a muder ballad, I think Little Sadie or Banks Of The Ohio. The woman caught me by surorise and said that we were glorifying spousal abuse. I apologised and told her that was not our intention. On further reflection I realized that the narrator in most of these songs ends up in prison or "hangin' from a white oak tree," so there is some justice. Although most of the muderers give no reason and show no compasion or regret, Johnny Cash comes close (My tongue is in my cheek) when he sings:

First time I shot her I shot her in the side,
Hard to watch her suffer but with the second shot she died,
Deliah's gone, one more round...

Willie McTell gives a reason when he sings:

Deliah, oh Deliah, how could it be?
You loved all those rounders, but you never really did love me.
Deliah's gone..." (Learned from David Bromberg)

That said, I'd never sing the old string band song IT'S A SHAME TO BEAT YOUR WIFE ON A SUNDAY, WHEN YOU'VE GOT MONDAY, TUESDAY,...


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Scrump
Date: 22 Jun 06 - 11:54 AM

I've occasionally wondered if anyone in the audience would take offence at some of the references in songs that were written before the era of political correctness. I sometimes preempt any criticism by drawing attention to it in the intro, e.g. "this was written a long time ago and I make no apologies for..."

Where it's easy to do and doesn't materially affect the meaning of the lyrics, I admit to occasionally changing the odd word to make it less potentially offensive in this "enlightened" age.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: captainbirdseye
Date: 22 Jun 06 - 12:37 PM

Iremember being reprimanded by the organiser of bicester folk club many years ago for telling a joke,your here to sing songs not tell jokes,mayhem ensued, captain birdseye.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Greg B
Date: 22 Jun 06 - 01:01 PM

You know, I think we're often far too polite to folks who
presume to tell us what ought to be sung and said.

We try to explain ourselves, rather than simply saying "You're
showing your ignorance. Go do your homework." Or sometimes
simply "Stuff that noise" and walk away.

In fact, I believe that many of these self-appointed arbiters
of the public morals in fact are simply searching for a way
to make themselves more important. If you can't make your mark
to your satisfaction by the songs you sing, then stop others
from singing.

I'd be tempted to say "Some ignoramus told me this song was
offensive to Asians, which suggests to me that his geography
is a bit wobbly... Why do them yella gals love me so?..."
and wait for the ignoramus to identify himself by stalking
out.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Don Firth
Date: 22 Jun 06 - 01:47 PM

I do a few whaling songs, such as "Greenland Whale Fishery," "Blow Ye Winds in the Morning," and Gordon Bok's "Mr. Eneos," and although I haven't yet had anyone jump me for political correctness (or lack thereof), I'm braced for when it might happen.

1. These songs are part of America's history, whether you like it or not;
2. by singing these songs, I am, in no way, condoning whaling; and
3. in most of the whaling songs I sing, the whale wins.

I'm never sure of doing Stephen Foster songs.   I don't do any, but he does have some really nice songs that I would like to sing, except many of them contain words or lines that the PC police would probably land on in a nanosecond. Such lines as

Nellie was a lady,
Last night she died.
Toll the bell for lovely Nell,
My dark Virginny bride.

I could change it to "sweet" Virginny bride, but that sort of grates on me, and it's giving in to the bowdlerizers. So I wimp out and just don't sing it. Damned shame. It's a beautiful, tender song.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Marion
Date: 22 Jun 06 - 03:59 PM

I did a singalong in a Jewish facility, on an Alzheimer's ward, and Eidelweiss seemed to be well received. I was surprised later when the recreation therapist told me not to do Eidelweiss next time, as some people thought of it as a Nazi song.

Marion


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: tarheel
Date: 22 Jun 06 - 04:56 PM

well...if you have to worry about offending someone in the now so called "politically ciorrect" crowd,then you may as well throw away your instrument(guitar,piano,flute,bag pipe,dulcimer,etc..)and just go stick your head in the sand somewhere...
most songs now a days will offend anyone if you take them the "wrong way"..
dang,why can't folks just sit back and enjoy being entertained!
even songs that go back to the "old time Carter Family" will offend someone if they take it literally!
even songs that go back to Stephen Foster era( hard times ,come again no more) and it goes on and on...
as president Nixon once said..."if you can't stand the heat,then get out of the kitchen!"
tar...


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: paddymac
Date: 22 Jun 06 - 06:35 PM

We did a Bloom's Day show, which had a number of new faces in the crowd. We do an original we call "The Banner Green" which has always been very well received by our audiences. The melody is better known as "Bonny Blue Flag," and there are four or five Civil War era parodies on it promoting the views of different groupings in that "period of unpleasantness." We open the song with a rousing instrumental verse, which seems to get tghe blood moving for most folks. I happend to look up and saw a solo dancer, a black guy, right down front and waving as if to say "Hey! Do you see me?" I had never seen him before, but he paid to get in like everyone else. It occurred to me that he might have been trying to say "Don't play that song for me." We went ahead, and his demeanor changed completly as he listened to our lyrics. He stayed for the entire show, and came up to me afterwards and made a point of saying what a good time he had. I guess maybe one or both of us fell victim to PC, or maybe unfair and unfounded suppositions or expectations, but it worked itself out fine for everybody.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Azizi
Date: 22 Jun 06 - 07:24 PM

yrlancslad,

Re your 20 Jun 06 - 10:47 PM post in which you wrote that
[yellow girls]is a "phrase which not only is not racist, it's not even derogatory, it's value-free descriptive-black men, white women, yellow girls"...

My comment doesn't address whether you should or should not sing songs with the phrase "yellow girls {or "yella gals"}, however I do want to pass on the information that 'yellow girls' was often a referent for women who were racially mixed {Black/White}. Imo, it isn't historically or currently true to say that "yella girls" is a value-free descriptive.

In one level, as your noted, women who were 'yella' were considered favorably [compared to darker skinned women]. Because physical beauty and self-worth has been defined so long using Euro-centric standards, fairer skinned women {often with "White" features and "White" hair texture} were considered to be better than their dark skinned sisters. However, the 'rub' was that they could never be as good as White women.

See online resources about "the tragic mulatto". Here is an excerpt from one website:

The mulatto woman was depicted as a seductress whose beauty drove White men to rape her. This is an obvious and flawed attempt to reconcile the prohibitions against miscegenation (interracial sexual relations) with the reality that Whites routinely used Blacks as sexual objects. One slaver noted, "There is not a likely looking girl in this State that is not the concubine of a White man...."7 Every mulatto was proof that the color line had been crossed. In this regard, mulattoes were symbols of rape and concubinage. Gary B. Nash summarized the slavery-era relationship between the rape of Black women, the handling of mulattoes, and White dominance...

Though skin color came to assume importance through generations of association with slavery, white colonists developed few qualms about intimate contact with black women. But raising the social status of those who labored at the bottom of society and who were defined as abysmally inferior was a matter of serious concern. It was resolved by insuring that the mulatto would not occupy a position midway between white and black. Any black blood classified a person as black; and to be black was to be a slave.... By prohibiting racial intermarriage, winking at interracial sex, and defining all mixed offspring as black, white society found the ideal answer to its labor needs, its extracurricular and inadmissible sexual desires, its compulsion to maintain its culture purebred, and the problem of maintaining, at least in theory, absolute social control."

The Tragic Mulatto Myth

-snip-

Although many movies and books focus on the 'yellow girls', there are also sterotypes about 'yella men' who were also considered to be tragic because supposedly they also longed to be White, but could never achieve that goal {of course many fair skinned Black people have passed into the White race, but that's appears to be subject that many White people either don't know about or rarely acknowledge}...

In this age of political correctness, some people think that any mention of skin color is a no-no. I don't take that position. However, I do recognize that for the most part, referring to people as mulatto, quadroon, octoroon etc is just not done {though, it seems that it is alright-some of the time-to refer to people as 'biracial'[which is the "new mulatto" term that doesn't only refer to Black/White mixtures, but strictly speaking neither does mulatto, quadroon etc}.

One reason why many African Americans [and probably other Black folk] don't like the term mulattos, etc {up to and including the term 'biracial'} is that we have struggled with color divisions among us and such color references or references to mixed racial heritage {especially since so many of us are racially mixed} have and can still serve as a means of dividing us and weakening our goal of unity and [political and other forms of] power.

So imo, when you sing of yellow girls, it can raise all this history and current day ramifications.

Again, I'm not saying you shouldn't use this phrase. But I do think that it is important to know what that phrase means, and why some Black folks and other people have a problem with it.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Marc Bernier
Date: 22 Jun 06 - 09:28 PM

Well Said Azizi!!! You took the words right out of my mouth. Well, not really, your words are much better than mine. But I've been thinking of a response to this discussion all evening, then I just got here and read yours. Bravo.

Marc Bernier


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Genie
Date: 22 Jun 06 - 10:07 PM

Marion, re your experience with Edelweiss, I can relate -- but I also have to say that Edelweiss is probably THE most requested song I get at Jewish retirement communities, aside from Sunrise, Sunset and Hava Nagila and a couple others like that.   The thing is, occasionally you get someone who's totally unreasonable, but it can be hard to deal with them.

A few years ago, an upscale independent living facility hired me to do an Oktoberfest program. A good number of their residents were Jewish, and they were fine with the theme and the songs. But as soon as I sang a song or two in German -- PRE-20th C. songs such as Muss i Denn? and Die Lorelei -- one Jewish woman threw a hissy fit and chewed me out for having the audacity to sing ANY German songs in the presence of Jews.
She was a minority of one, but a loud, disruptive one.   
Now, often if something is that upsetting to someone in my audience, I just move on to something else. But it's kind of hard to do my Oktoberfest program and leave out all the German songs,

Similarly, there's one (shiksa) activity director I've worked with for years at a Jewish home whose policy is to err in the direction of exclusion, if even a handful of residents will be offended. She doesn't tell me not to do German songs (some of the residents have favorite German songs), but she does ask me not to do songs like Winter Wonderland because some residents "see" these as "Christmas songs" and object.   I haven't found her policies a problem, but, yeah, occasionally I'll get into the middle of a song like Sixteen Tons and realize it has a "Christian" reference.   Not a problem, but I do sometimes wonder if a resident here or there will react negatively.

I can tell you, though, that I can't bring myself to sing "Maids, When You're Young Never Wed An Old Man" in a setting where the men in the audience are all over 80.   Some of them would probably break up laughing, but I fear others would be hurt.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Genie
Date: 22 Jun 06 - 10:17 PM

Don F, I'm not bothered at all about singing "my dark Virginny bride," because it's just a descriptive term like "ma blonde" or "red-haired girl." The word "darkie" is another thing. If I'm not sure my audience will understand the historical perspective, I shy away.   But I'm not talking about singing for "folkie" audiences who are into the historical aspects of my songs.

I have to admit that sometimes I've felt that some observers may have been offended when I did my Al Jolson impression (no blackface, no costume) on "My Mammy" for a Mother's Day program in a senior facility.   There's nothing really racist in the lyrics -- and I grew up with Al Capp's "Mammy Yokum," who was white -- and it's Jolson's hamminess, not his racial attitudes, that I'm aping.   But even though my audiences generally seem to love the song, there have been just enough bystanders (e.g., staffers) who seemed uncomfortable with it that I've tended to substitute some more contemporary songs.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Genie
Date: 22 Jun 06 - 10:26 PM

Guest Jim, there's an old folk song called "The Wee Cooper Of Fife" which I learned from Burl Ives back in my early folk-listening days. It's supposed to be funny, because the hardworking cooper ha' got 'im a gentle wife -- who wad na' card or spin "for the shamin' o' her gentle kin -- and he won't thrash her (for her gentle kin), but he puts a sheepskin over her back and beats that.   It's not a matter of political correctness, but with my present awareness of the prevalence of domestic abuse, I won't sing something that suggests I think it's cute to beat your wife by first covering her with a sheepskin -- even if she is a brat.
Would I sing it if I had a good reason to? You bet. But I don't. :)

-----

And Liz the Squeak, you said "Could be worse Genie - could be 'nobody wants you when you're old and gay...'"

Actually, in many of the retirement communities if you're a woman nobody wants you when you're old UNLESS you're gay! (All the men are dead.) ;-D


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Don Firth
Date: 22 Jun 06 - 10:47 PM

Thanks, Genie. I'll probably go ahead and sing "Nellie was a Lady" and if the word upsets anyone, I'll just rely on my reason No. 1 above:   This song is part of America's history.

I used to work as an announcer in a classical music radio station, and we had one listener who became a real pain in the neck. He was Gernman, but not Jewish. Very anti-Nazi, and obviously had bad memories of the war years. Any time we played any Wagner, he would call, enraged. Wagner, it seems, was one of Hitler's favorite composers, and he objected to our playing "Nazi music." Same with Beethoven. And several others. If he'd had his way, we probably wouldn't have played any German composers at all. Sad, but as long as you know what you're doing and are within reason, you can't just put a cork in it because someone might be offended

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Greg B
Date: 23 Jun 06 - 06:41 PM

Azizi, you're right. It is important to know what 'yellow gals'
means. Especially in the context that it's being used.

But your going off in the direction that you do handily (if
inadvertantly) illustrates the conundrum.

"Just because a term is a problem in your culture (as
often as not made so by the pathologies in your culture)
does that mean it has to be in mine?"

Sequences of words often mean something else entirely, and
some folks seem to think that it's incumbent upon the speaker
to alter his speech to fit the listener's misunderstanding.
Well, that may all be well and good, but when you start
messing with historical artifacts...problem.

Combine 'dumbing down' to the lowest common denominator of
historical or cultural ignorance with political correctness,
and we may as well just fold it up and go home. Where we can
sing what we bloody well want. (Anyone for a rousing chorus
of "Ya Ya Ya?")

If African-American or Asian-American culture has (hypothetically)
an issue with "yellow gals" in the context of its own use, referring
to a light-skinned person of genetic African descent or anyone of
Asian descent, does that mean nobody, anywhere, should say "yellow
gals" any more?

I think not.

Whose problem is it, anyway?

And the very fact that the discussion has turned to the
African American context reflects the problem of ignorance,
sometimes of deliberate, studied, ignorance of the 'don't
bother me with the facts' variety.

The songs in question either absolutely ('Doodle Let Me Go',
'Gals Around Cape Horn [or Amphitrite]') ABSOLUTELY refer to
the native lasses of Peru and Chile, and in both playful and
endearing terms at that. Particularly in 'Amphitrite' it
appears that the native women who were willing to trade
their favors for goods were none the less of good, honest
character, not thieves. 'Santiano' arguably means the same
though it MIGHT refer to a light-skinned African American
women. It all depends on what port and/or brothel the guy
that uttered the verse had just come from at the time. The
song is from the Cape Horn trade...not many Cape Horners
stopped off on the American coast after departing New
England, so you can really make the case for it being
about adventures attendant to re-provisioning in Chile
or Peru. Why 'Santianno?' Well, the whole conflict was
all over the papers. Not as big as 'Boney' (Bonaparte)
but still legendary.

So shooting off on the tangent of what 'yellow' means in the
context of contemporary African American culture is pretty, well,
tangiental. Who cares? It has nothing to do with the songs.

Just like it has nothing to do with women of Asian descent
(unless you count having crossed the ice/land-bridge across the
Bering straights in the dim and distant past).

If we start removing from the English language, even in the
context of old songs, every phrase which in some splinter of
English-speaking culture is questionable, we slide down a
slippery slope toward making everything a neutral gray (or
grey).

Colin can't stride into the Mitre by Lancaster Gate and
say 'I'll have a spotted dick, please.' If my name is
Randolph, I can't walk up to a bird (oops, offensive, sorry,
I meant 'woman') in an American bar and say 'Hello, I'm Randy.'
And selling 'fanny packs' as a minor piece of luggage is right
out.

One other note...just because someone on the web writes
that mulatto is inherantly pejorative doesn't make it so.
Sally Brown's lover sure wasn't intent on rape. Sounds like
he didn't need to be to have his way. To make hay of men's
fascination with exotic-looking women is to trumpet the
obvious. From what I see of teens, the girls have the same
'jones' for interracial guys these days. It often seems the
universe rewards couples who overcome racism to be together
with children who are simply extraordinarily attractive people.

Maybe it always has.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Azizi
Date: 23 Jun 06 - 06:51 PM

And maybe not.

I get your point[s] and maybe some others get some or all of mine.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Gurney
Date: 24 Jun 06 - 04:41 AM

I've inadvertantly made comments that could be construed as insulting.

Inadvertantly because I didn't realise there was a coachload of blind (I do beg the pardon of the PC brigade, make that visually challenged) people in the audience. The only person who (sort of) complained was the organiser, the optically disadvantaged lot thought I was taking the piss and loved it, which corresponds with experiences remarked above.
It wasn't very insulting. I was introducing a song made popular by two blind singers and asked the audience to draw their own conclusions.
I suspect that people with real problems are not very touchy about them, and enjoy a joke against themselves as much as any sensible person would.

Yellow girls are admired more than black OR white girls in most shanties. Or maybe that is only my impression.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Azizi
Date: 24 Jun 06 - 05:46 AM

"Yellow girls are admired more than black OR white girls in most shanties. Or maybe that is only my impression."

It seems to me that yellow girls are sexualized in shanties [as well in mass media products such as movies and books]. And -to be clear-this sexualized stereotype of certain populations of non-White women extends beyond those "yellow girls" who are of African American/European American descent.

The generalization goes that "Yellow girls are sexually promiscuous and make good sex".

Other examples of positive stereotyping are "All Black people have rhythm", "Black people are better athletes than White people" [both of which are often repeated statements] and "men [have a]'s
fascination with exotic-looking women" and "couples who overcome racism to be together with children who are simply extraordinarily attractive people" [both of which were written on this thread].

Although some may consider these statements to be positive, in my opinion they are rooted in biased, short cut thinking. In my opinion, such 'positive sterotypes' aren't really positive at all as they have resulted in and still can result in very negative consequences for those objectified individuals and groups as well as the persons limited to and by those stereotypes.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Azizi
Date: 24 Jun 06 - 05:53 AM

Excuse me, since I was quoting from this thread, let me get the quotes right and let me cite the writer of those statements that
I'm quoting:

"To make hay of men's fascination with exotic-looking women is to trumpet the obvious."-GregB ; 23 Jun 06 - 06:41 PM

"It often seems the universe rewards couples who overcome racism to be together with children who are simply extraordinarily attractive people"- GregB ; 23 Jun 06 - 06:41 PM


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 24 Jun 06 - 11:34 AM

John Prosser has written a song (England's Glory)about the 19C match girls' strike, which includes the line "Fighting is hard when you're only a woman".

After being attacked by so-called feminists who didn't seem to understand that this was an accurate description of the attitude that suffragettes had to contend with at the time, he modified it to "Fighting is hard for the rights of a woman".

Kitty


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Les from Hull
Date: 24 Jun 06 - 01:03 PM

To be fair, Azizi, I think that any mention of women in shanties is probably sexual in nature. Such is the way with coarse, rough sailormen deprived of female company. I'm not defending this, I merely seek to inform.

Values that were held by particular groups of people in less-enlightened times should be recognised as such, not swept under the carpet. Hopefully such songs can be illustrative of progress, if the audience is intelligent and open-minded enough to accept that. Perhaps a few words of explanation would also help.

I've sung songs about whaling, hunting with animals, war, robbery, armed assault, murder, incest, slavery, drugs, adultery, poaching...


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Azizi
Date: 24 Jun 06 - 01:26 PM

Les from Hull -

You wrote that "any mention of women in shanties is probably sexual in nature. Such is the way with coarse, rough sailormen deprived of female company".

While I'm sure that is a valid point, it still seems to me that these shanty songs expressed the stereotyping of 'exotic' women and objectifying them in ways that would not have been considered acceptable were these women White.

Also, given the comments I've read here and elsewhere, I'm not sure how far we have come from those un-enlightened times.

And yes, I'm aware that folk songs are sung for their entertainment value, but I agree with your statement that "Perhaps a few words of explanation would also help".


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: GUEST,thurg
Date: 24 Jun 06 - 01:27 PM

I don't think Azizi said anywhere that the "yella gal" songs should not be sung; what I take from her comments is the notion that if you are going to sing them, you should at least be aware of their implications - and I think she's right. I sing some of these songs and enjoy them myself, but to deny that they reflect unfortunate social attitudes about race is ridiculous.

Yes, the songs in which they are mentioned often express admiration and fondness for the "yella gals"; there are also songs that express admiration and fondness for dogs and horses ...


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Azizi
Date: 24 Jun 06 - 01:32 PM

What Thurg said that I said.

:o}


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: yrlancslad
Date: 24 Jun 06 - 10:07 PM

White women were also objectified (if thats a word) and stereotyped in the shanties, in fact the same shanties,(
them Liverpool girls'll rob you blind, and, theyre better than those Plymouth girls with their curled and knobby hair),so are Irishmen,(lousy sons of the wild goose nation) Englishmen,(limejuicers) Frenchmen,( Johnny Crapoe) and just about anybody else mentioned in the shanties.
Also, as an Englishman married to an "exotic" girl for going on 27 years I can tell you that it was my "exoticness" which attracted her to me at least as much as I to her and I can tell you she wouldn't appreciate being likened to a horse or a dog in my feelings for her.
That being said if the person in question had come to me in person, explained his personal problem and asked that I not sing those particular songs when he was around I would probably have agreed, no problem. Unlike some singers I know of,(not in the folk world) I don't sing songs with the intention of ofending people, but to entertain and educate them. He chose not to do that however, but without speaking to me wrote an official letter of complaint to the Park and now will have a fight on his hands.
Azizi, the songs do not refer to African-American women of any colour but specifically about the ladies of Peru and Chili and I find it interesting that you needed to change my "yellow girls' (see my first posting) to your "yella gals" in order to present your arguement. While appreciating your point of view I believe it to be specious in the specific circumstances. I do also welcome your not aiming to prevent me from singing what the hell I want (unlike our friend at the Park) but in pointing out how it might be construed in certain quarters and I will certainly take note of that as I do of other songs which while perfectly ok to sing in some circles can give offence in others. I do think however that we should keep our eye (and our energy) focused on what really matters eg at a song circle just today someone asked if some reference in a song (not mine ) wasn't ageism. My response as an old person (not a senior citizen perleese!) was "I don't care what you call me as long as you give me a job", thats where ageism really matters for me! If thats not the case for you I'll listen and take your point of view into account in my dealings with you, but not if you try to get all songs banned that offend your particular sensibilities, particularly if you don't tell me about it face to face first.
Ive now said my piece on the matter and will deal with it as it develops in reality.
Malcolm


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Azizi
Date: 24 Jun 06 - 10:29 PM

Malcolm, thanks for your comments.

And ditto your last statement " Ive now said my piece on the matter and will deal with it as it develops in reality".

Best wishes,

Azizi


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: GUEST,thurg
Date: 24 Jun 06 - 10:35 PM

"... I can tell you she wouldn't appreciate being likened to a horse or a dog in my feelings for her."

I'm sure she wouldn't - but why bring that up? We're not talking about you and your wife; we're talking about old songs.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: yrlancslad
Date: 24 Jun 06 - 10:41 PM

Thurg if you don't want 'em connected, don't connect 'em


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 24 Jun 06 - 10:57 PM

Its funny, songs come to me, which I know are probably too offensive to sing, but I write them anyay. Occasionally i perform them. And now I'm retired....wel its an aspect of my psycho pathology .......perhaps better buried , who knows?

One time I wrote one, and my wife begged me to bin it - with good reason. But I found it in a pile of songs, and thought - that's a damn fine written song. None of these bastards who get huffy about it, could write anything like that. Maybe I should devote a page of the website to songs that are totally beyond the pale - perhaps with an enter at your peril warning, what does anybody think? surely a modest enough thing to do?


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: yrlancslad
Date: 24 Jun 06 - 11:06 PM

Thurg, sorry for the thoughtless reply. Don't you see thats what this is all about? I was just singing an old song, but the person in question took it personally in some way, and because of the person he is, took offense for everybody. In the same way your generalisation hit me in a personal spot-but I wouldn't dream of suggesting it hit everybody else in the same way(for I know it didn't) much less try to get you banned from Mudcat for it.
sorry for the over-reaction
Malcolm


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: GUEST,thurg
Date: 25 Jun 06 - 02:10 AM

yrlancslad - No harm done (but where does this "banned from Mudcat" come from?). I had actually forgotten about your particular concern - the business of the complaint against you, which you, understandably, had not forgotten about. I was just talking in a general way about those songs. Didn't mean to aggravate any sore spots!

Checking back to your earlier post, I see that you request advice, so I'll give it a try. It is unclear from what you say whether you actually know this person who made the complaint. If you know this person, and you know that he's just a trouble-making busy-body trying - well, I think even if he is, what I would do is write a simple, straightforward letter of apology: "I'm sorry that you were offended by two of the songs I sang. It was not my intention to offend anyone, blah, blah, blah; I felt these songs expressed blah blah from a time in our history when blah blah; unfortunately, I didn't realize that yada-yada-yada. Please accept my apology, and I hope to see you at my show on the 28th." I would proceed on the assumption that the complainant was genuinely offended, and so upset that he couldn't talk to me directly. I would avoid giving a detailed explication of the term "yellow girls"; you've seen in this thread what that will lead to. In fact, I don't think I would mention that term at all; I would just talk about "the songs". It is more important to acknowledge the validity of the complainant's feelings (in the sense that they may be "valid", not that they are necessarily "warranted") than it is to sort out the rights and wrongs of his position and yours. Resist the temptation to imply that he was wrong to be offended.

Don't think of such a letter as an abasement or as an admission of some kind of guilt; it is rather a demonstration that you are a person of goodwill and a classy guy - perhaps even "the better man". And it puts the ball back in his court. In other words, it will be his turn to show that he's a person of goodwill and a classy guy and the better man.

You would probably want to give a copy of your letter to the park authority (or whoever) so that they can see that you are doing your part for public relations. If they are concerned and bewildered about the whole thing, you may want to write them a separate letter to explain your take on "yellow girls".

Hope this helps!


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Azizi
Date: 25 Jun 06 - 07:26 AM

Malcolm, I think that the approach that Thurg is suggesting is a good one.

Whether you take this approach or some other one, Malcolm, I hope that justice is served in this situation. It certainly does sound like the person who took offense to your singing went waaaay too far in his reaction to that singing.

In retrospect, I should have prefaced my previous remarks on this thread with those comments. I'm sorry that I didn't do so, and I'm sorry that you are sufferring because of that person's reaction to what in no way appears to be an act of mal-intention on your part.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: yrlancslad
Date: 25 Jun 06 - 11:27 AM

Hey Thurg, great advice and I'm thinking seriously about taking it-in fact probably will. You probably realise from my previous posts the reasons I got so areated about it initially, but you're right "a soft voice turneth away wrath".
Thanks too Azizi, you guys have helped me think things through from my initial position of just seeing red!
Thanks too to GregB who offered good information and help in a PM.
Hope we meet in person some day
Best wishes
Malcolm


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Alice
Date: 25 Jun 06 - 12:29 PM

At a memorial service at the hospital hosted by hospice, I was asked to change the lyrics of Amazing Grace from "saved a wretch" to "saved a soul like me". Minister thought soul more positive than wretch. I later couldn't remember if I'd switched the word to soul, as I sang it kind of on automatic pilot and might have sung wretch out of habit.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Mo the caller
Date: 25 Jun 06 - 12:32 PM

Surely it is more of a positive change for a wretch to be saved.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Greg B
Date: 25 Jun 06 - 01:49 PM

"While I'm sure that is a valid point, it still seems to me that these
shanty songs expressed the stereotyping of 'exotic' women and
objectifying them in ways that would not have been considered acceptable
were these women White."

Well...uh...no. Sailors, lumbermen, cowboys, and in general the
classes of men who lived and worked with other men and encountered
women by and large in a (ahem) 'recreational' setting only pretty
much regarded women as commodities. At least them as they didn't
marry.

It was very much a two-way street. The women of sailortown regarded
Sailor Jack as a mark carrying six months pay.

Both parties were part of the cycle of poverty where both parties
were objectified by many if not most of the people they encountered.

Jack would receive a months advance, spend as little as possible
on gear, then head for some rum shop and/or brothel to have a bit
of a good time before going to sea for six months or a year. When
he came ashore with six months or perhaps three years pay, he'd
find another rum shop brothel to have a bit of fun. Even if he
had every good intention, the chances of encountering someone
(a barman, landlady, or whore) ready to take advantage of him
or even drug and rob him were rather good. In such a condition,
he'd have not choice but to find the crimp, who'd give him that
month's advance (less his commission) and so the cycle would
continue.

It was in the more 'civilized' seaports where this was worst...
San Francisco, New York, Boston, Liverpool, etc. Where most
of the women were white, very white, thank you. Conversely,
Jack ashore seems to have been more safe in less 'worldly'
country.

Indeed, it seems that in some places, such as Valparaiso
and the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) and perhaps as Bligh's
men found out, Tahiti the local women were much less of
a hazard. They'd exchange their favors for lesser consideration,
in some cases they seemed interested in Jack because he was
different (e.g. blonde or blue-eyed), and they didn't 'steal
and pawn his clothes.' It's no wonder many captains allowed
these women to ply their trade on the ship, rather than allowing
the men ashore in the tropics!

To attempt to mold this world to fit some 21st century feminist
or racially egalitarian agenda is just silly. It was a different
world, then. If you sat Sailor Jack down and said 'aren't you
objectifying these women' he'd likely reply 'I don't know what
objectify means but I aim to f*** one or two of 'em before I
ship out.'

Good heavens, this was the time when a man's wife was not much
more than his property, regardless of class. And regardless, in
many cases, of his genuine and true affection for her.

This was also a time when that same man could be hanged for
slapping an officer.

Then again, my own grandfather was sent to the coal-mines
as he entered his teens, and to his bosses he was nothing
more than a pair of hands which, if it perished in a cave
in or explosion (or coughed its lungs out in its sixties)
was just a matter of numbers on a balance sheet. I can't
see how Sally Brown's objectification did her much more
harm than William Henry Bullough's did to him, a hundred
years later.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Genie
Date: 25 Jun 06 - 02:41 PM

I agree, Mo. And I think many people who object to "wretch" in Newton's lyrics are either unfamiliar with his bio and the inspiration for the poem or unclear about what "wretch" means. They unnecessarily read into it "worthless being" or the like. Personally, I hate it when people change it to "soul" -- and if you take the new age attitude that "I am and always have been OK," what the hell did you need to be saved for or from?

That said, I'd honor the wishes of the bereaved family - or the minister if s/he represents them.


======
Azizi, you make some valid points about stereotypes and overgeneralizations.   But some of the generalizations may be valid as long as they're recognized as just reflecting average trends. I'm bothered by stereotypes, especially if they're negative, but I'm also annoyed when people (or songs) promote the idea that differences between sexes, gene pools, or ethnicities are nonexistent or that acknowledging them is derogatory.
The saying that "if God had not wanted the races to intermarry, he wouldn't have made their kids so gorgeous" has a lot more than a grain of truth to it. Hybrids are well known in agriculture and animal breeding for their viability and tendency to have desirable phenotypic traits. :)


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: GUEST,thurg
Date: 25 Jun 06 - 09:10 PM

Malcolm - "Hope we meet in person some day" - Remember: be careful what you wish for! Anyway, I second that hope, and wish you good luck with your "situation". Let us know how it all turns out.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: GUEST,Joe_F
Date: 25 Jun 06 - 10:26 PM

Don Firth: Calling Beethoven "Nazi music" is bizarre, but Wagner is a delicate case, because he actually was a vile antisemite, and it is pretty clear that if he was not a Nazi it was only because he did not live long enough. I have seen a quotation from him that could have come straight out of _Mein Kampf_. Understandably, for a long time it was impossible to perform his operas in Israel; but in recent years, I have read, it has happened.

--- Joe Fineman    joe_f@verizon.net

||: Mass entertainers have all the vices of politicians, and none of the excuses. :||


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: frogprince
Date: 25 Jun 06 - 10:57 PM

Mo, Alice, & Genie; please don't take this as a hostile argument with you. I consider it quite appropriate for Newton, as an anti-slavery campaigner looking back on his own days as a slaver, to have written "a wretch like me". But the second dictionary definition for "wretch" goes, "a person regarded as base, mean, despicable, or vile". Now try to put yourself in the mind of a developing child with severely low self esteem, who believes that he deserves a lot of emotional abuse that he has received. Now imagine how he, feeling despicable and vile, appreciates being saved despite that. Not the healthiest emotional, or spiritual situation.
                            Dean


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Alice
Date: 26 Jun 06 - 12:20 AM

It wasn't my idea to change the word, so I don't take anything you've written personally, frogprince.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: SharonA
Date: 26 Jun 06 - 01:28 AM

GregB sez: "If my name is Randolph, I can't walk up to a bird (oops, offensive, sorry, I meant 'woman') in an American bar and say 'Hello, I'm Randy.' And selling 'fanny packs' as a minor piece of luggage is right out."

Greg, I'm not sure what part of America you're referring to. Around here (Philadelphia PA area -- Mudcat HQ country!), there are plenty of guys named Randy. In fact, near my home there is the office of a man who runs a construction business under his own name: Randy Beaver. Politically incorrect, without doubt, but nonetheless true! (And local shops do sell "fanny packs"!)


Dean sez: "I consider it quite appropriate for Newton, as an anti-slavery campaigner looking back on his own days as a slaver, to have written 'a wretch like me'... Now imagine how he, feeling despicable and vile, appreciates being saved despite that. Not the healthiest emotional, or spiritual situation."

Especially since Newton continued to ply the slave trade even after his conversion in 1748! According to this site, in his post-conversion state, "he saw to it that the slaves under his care were treated humanely" and apparently gave up slaving only when a "serious illness" made him give up sailing altogether. How wretched, indeed, must he have been to think that there was anything "humane" about the slave trade. I'm afraid that I get so worked up about it, and about his song's self-absorption (he's come through dangers, toils and snares? What about the dangers, toils and snares he put all those slaves through? Seems like the wretch is still blind to that!!) that I cannot bring myself to sing "Amazing Grace" at all!


I tend to agree with the position expressed here that the historical significance of un-PC lyrics outweighs the offense they might give to people who wish to abolish them because times have changed. There are lyrics that I find too offensive to sing myself (the bawdy stuff, mostly), but I still think that they should not be censored out of existence, largely because they mark how times have changed.

That said, if I find myself playing a gig at which I feel that a particular song or type of song would not be appropriate, I will (sometimes regretfully) refrain from putting it on my set list. Recently I performed as part of a folk trio at a retirement center, and the three of us decided not to perform two of my original songs, each of which included an older-gentleman character who dies in the story. Likewise, I perform no songs with adult-only themes at gigs where kids are present. So I don't see a big difference between that sort of self-censorship and the sort where one would refrain from singing a chanty about "yella gals" at, say, an affirmative-action rally (save it for a sea-chanty festival where listeners tend to have a perspective that appreciates the historical background of the term).

Ah, but then there are the political songs... there, I find I have less sensitivity toward listeners who might be offended by the point of view I express! Yesterday I sang backup at a friend's gig, and during a set which included many of his songs about the Iraq war, he invited me to sing a song of mine entitled "Lullaby for the Night Before a War." As I was introducing it (and correcting myself from saying that "we" went to war to saying that Bush and his administration decided that our military would go), an older couple got up and left. I don't know if I offended them, but I figured that if I did, my friend's previous song about objecting to the bombings of children in Afghanistan must've offended them too, so why had they stayed and listened this long?? Incidentally, my friend has told me that at another gig, he sang his Afghanistan song and a young man came up to him during his next break and angrily questioned his patriotism.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Bunnahabhain
Date: 26 Jun 06 - 06:03 AM

and during a set which included many of his songs about the Iraq war, he invited me to sing a song of mine entitled "Lullaby for the Night Before a War." As I was introducing it (and correcting myself from saying that "we" went to war to saying that Bush and his administration decided that our military would go), an older couple got up and left. I don't know if I offended them, but I figured that if I did, my friend's previous song about objecting to the bombings of children in Afghanistan must've offended them too, so why had they stayed and listened this long??
SharonA

Could it be that the couple who left didn't particularly agree with the point of view in the songs about Iraq, but were prepared to sit through one or two, but when it looked like turning into a whole night of them, they decided enough was enough.

I often find gigs with too many songs on the same theme rather wearisome, especially if it's unannounced. The only time it works for me is with very good acts indeed, and even then it's very hit and miss.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Alice
Date: 26 Jun 06 - 09:25 AM

Plenty of guys named Randy here, and people don't connect the name to anything sexual. Now, if your name was Horny, that would be different.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Scoville
Date: 26 Jun 06 - 10:15 AM

"The saying that "if God had not wanted the races to intermarry, he wouldn't have made their kids so gorgeous" has a lot more than a grain of truth to it. Hybrids are well known in agriculture and animal breeding for their viability and tendency to have desirable phenotypic traits."

Interracial people are not hybrids. Hybridization is between SPECIES--horse and donkey, dog and wolf, different species of corn, etc. There is only one species of human and unless there are some successful human-bonobo children running around somewhere that I didn't hear about, there are no anthropoid hybrids. Interracial people are simply interracial.





While I don't think terms that are not PC in modern settings should be forgotten, I generally don't think it's worth the offense they can cause to force them on my audience. I try to introduce anything I play or sing, but mostly I find that a lot of people--not all, but a lot--don't have the background to completely grasp the context of the song. If it's a *very* select audience that I know very well, I might play something a little more risky, but mostly I don't think it's worth the potential misunderstandings.

What, exactly, is accomplished by using the original "darkies" in place of "old folks" when singing "Kentucky"? The recordings and sheet music still exist. The original format is not extinct. However, some terms don't need to be propogated in common speech and I'm afraid I think that that is one of them. As a white girl in the Southern U.S., where this is still a very sensitive issue (because, unfortunately, there still are plenty of people who take their racial epithets and stereotypes seriously) I definitely don't want anyone to think I normally talk like that, think of people in those terms, or approve of (or, at least, turn a blind eye to) those references.

I have interracial friends whom I know would take issue with the word "yellow", and I really don't think it's my business to tell them what they should and should not be sensitive about. My best friend is black/white/Latina and tells me she gets very tired of being "not Latina enough", "not black enough", and being asked "what are you?". When people ask me that, they're just curious about my ancestry since I'm obviously white (except I'm named after Sojourner Truth--watching them try to reconcile face with name is pretty priceless) but when they ask her that, they're trying to pigeonhole her. I guarantee you she could live without the term "octoroon".

So, yeah--I do get sick of the PC stuff. I'm getting pretty tired of all the religious songs changing "father" to "mother" or whatever because it's supposed to make me feel more included, and I think being asked to change "wretch" in "Amazing Grace" is overkill (I wouldn't have done it). On the other hand, a lot of the racial stuff isn't critical to the story line of the song.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Greg B
Date: 26 Jun 06 - 12:13 PM

Yes, indeed, 'Randy' means something innocuous in America, and
that was just my point. If we're to lower ourselves to the lowest
internationally and interculturally neutral denominator, then we
must purge nicknames like 'Randy' from American parlance, lest
a Brit overhear and misunderstand, terms like 'spotted dick' from
British parlance lest a Yank misconstrue and so on.

We thus all get reduced to a common shade of graey.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Rusty Dobro
Date: 26 Jun 06 - 01:12 PM

I've found this a really thought-provoking thread, but other than a general rule of 'think about what you're going to sing, and if it's going to offend anyone, think again', I'm probably more confused than ever. My wife hates the first verse of a talking blues I do about our county town, and try as I might, I can't find anything other than a totally neutral mention of our (largely peaceful and thriving) multiculturalism. So far, I'm still singing it.

It's so easy and so misleading to impose present-day standards onto the past: my father is currently receiving the best of medical treatment in a London hospital whose staff represent nearly every nation on earth,and he is full of praise for the 'darkie' nurses - no insult, no condescension - it's just that he grew up in South London in the 1920's and that's the baggage he's left with. His own father described some of his neighbours as Yids, but his best friend was Mr Levy the tailor down the road. I'm embarrassed and uncomfortable with this, same as I was on a Bronx subway train when a group of teenagers routinely used the 'n word' about each other but then, I grew up in a country village.

Nah, still confused.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Kaleea
Date: 26 Jun 06 - 01:32 PM

There are a great many songs which have terminology which implies or openly references that which would not be proper for many audiences these days, or could be interpreted as such. This is because I have a great love of old songs, songs of history, and yes, even songs by Stephen Foster. Shall we banish all Bluegrass because mayhem is a popular subject?   Should all policically incorrect lyrics be tossed aside? Or, is it possible that we can perform some of these songs and use them to help our audiences to understand our history? There are certainly venues such as senior centers where I will honor requests for some of these songs, as the songs can bring moments of happiness-not because of the specific word in question, but the memories of the happy times in their lives around the period in their lives when these songs were popular. Yet, I will refrain from performing some of those same songs for children & some adult audiences. There are times when I can help my audience to understand the songs from a historical perspective, and how today things are different. I believe that the difference is, as Azizi has helped us to understand, that when we realize the meanings of certain terms & phrases, & why they are considered disrespectful, we can learn to use restraint when needed, and, perhaps, help others to also understand.
While there will always be some people who will always find an argument, no matter what we sing or do not sing, we can learn to be respectful of the people in our audiences, and those of whom we sing.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: stallion
Date: 26 Jun 06 - 02:09 PM

We have around sixty songs we can do well enough to perform on stage, we were once asked to sing no "miserable" songs and no "Bawdy" songs, that cut us down to , about, three. Seriously, we did leave out some some songs in the US cos we were not sure how they would go down. One was "Dogger Bank" which has a line in the chorus " She's a proper Jooby Joo", which I gather is a term for a boat that doesn't sail in a straight line, or maybe not as quick as it might, the other was "Stormy Weather" having re-assembled it to it's former glory it was thought too bawdy and might cause offence1


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: SharonA
Date: 26 Jun 06 - 03:14 PM

Bunnahabhain sez: "I often find gigs with too many songs on the same theme rather wearisome, especially if it's unannounced. The only time it works for me is with very good acts indeed, and even then it's very hit and miss."
I totally agree with you! If I'd been an audience member at my friend's gig, I might have walked away too because of the tedium factor (but, as his employee on stage for the evening, I was kinda stuck there!). I don't like his idea of turning his 2 sets into mini-shows on 2 themes (usually Set 1 is romance and Set 2 is sections of the newspaper), but I'm afraid there's no convincing him to stray from it. He's even recorded a CD of songs all from the first theme and is planning a CD about the second theme. Excruciating. I wonder how many more times he can get even his loyal fans to come out to hear the same songs (and the same patter about them) in much the same order, over and over again.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Genie
Date: 26 Jun 06 - 03:19 PM

Scoville, the term "hybrid" applies within species as well. Just ask Gregor Mendel.

(But those "human-animal hybrids" our dear President has expressed concern about, hey, we really do gotta watch out for them. ;-D

=====
SharonA, Actually, I think Randy Beaver and Peter Horney are pretty well known around town and know each other well too.   (Just becareful about singing about them at church functions.)
===
Sharon, I was under the impression that Newton did not writer Amazing Grace until very late in his life, many years after his conversion.   Am I wrong?

I still think the whole sense of the lyrics to Amazing Grace is lost if it's not sung from the perspective of one who has felt the need for salvation from a "wretched" (unhappy, unfortunate, or miserable) condition by "Grace." If you're going to throw out "wretch," why not throw out "I once was lost ... was blind" too?    The whole idea of God loving and saving people by Grace flies against the interpretation of "wretch" as meaning "worthless."
I can understand why some people may not like the lyrics or the beliefs they express, but I'd rather people not sing it -- or just play the melody -- than try to turn it into a secular humanist song.
(As for the song being about Newton's own salvation and not about the ordeals of those he abused, I don't think any song needs to be all-encompassing in its theme.)

===
On Wagner's anti-Semitism, I can understand why Israel only recently has gotten beyond banning his music. But should Christians refrain from singing Fairest Lord Jesus because it was the hymn sung by the Crusaders as they slaughtered "infidels?"   After a few generations have passed by, I hope that artistic works can be appreciated on their own merits and not be censored because of the character flaws of those who created them.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: SharonA
Date: 26 Jun 06 - 05:05 PM

Hi, Genie! No, you're not wrong; Newton did indeed write "AG" late in life (1773). And I agree with you that a song does not need to be all-encompassing in its theme; better a bunch of short songs on various aspects of the theme than one excruciatingly long uberballad. I guess what I was trying to say is that I don't see the same kind of connection between "AG" and Newton's own conversion that Dean was trying to make (and that I find the two so mutually exclusive as to be very disturbing to me).

The 1748 conversion, from the summaries I've read (I have not yet read Newton's own 1764 account, but he was a minister by then so I'm guessing I'd have to read between the lines of some ministerial rhetoric), was made during a long storm at sea when he feared his slave ship would sink and he would die, and he cried out, "Lord have mercy upon us." He attributed his and the ship's survival to God's mercy rather than happenstance or his own skill, hence the conversion. So it sounds to me like he was trying to save his skin in that fearful moment, that isolated circumstance, but was not reflecting on his miserable past or his wretched condition or his reprehensible lifestyle or wanting to change any of that. The song, too, seems to be all about him and what God did for him and will do for him. I don't hear anything about what the saved soul is supposed to give back in terms of dedication or attempting to live righteously, and I would feel less angst if he had included something -- anything -- about that in the song to balance it out. In light of Newton's continued involvement in the slave trade post-conversion, the song seems to be about getting a free no-obligation pass to heaven. (Even the part about singing God's praise, which would at least be some form of giving back, was not written by Newton but by Harriet Beecher Stowe in Uncle Tom's Cabin.)

So, to me, the song does more than display the author's character flaw; to me it exhorts Christians to feel the same way about God's grace and ignore the "grace without works is dead" part. (Yes, I know Newton eventually got around to the "works" part, when it was no longer convenient for him to be a slaver.) I guess I don't see as much inherent "merit" in the song as most people do.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Greg B
Date: 26 Jun 06 - 07:30 PM

I recall a priest friend of mine digging his heels in with
theological outrage when it was suggested that we sing
'Oh Holy Night' at Christmas mass.

It seems that 'long lay the world in sin and error
pining' is borderline heretical (in fact, vaguely
Gnostic) along with being a bit anti-semitic (validity
of first covenant and all that).

Then again, Catholicism has embraced 'Away in A Manger,'
allegedly penned by their nemesis, Marty Luther, just
because it's such a friendly singable little ditty.


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Vixen
Date: 26 Jun 06 - 08:17 PM

The most notable restraint we practiced was when Reynaud and I were playing a gig which the local merchants' association had arranged for the occasion of a tourist train that came to town. We were set up at the train station, playing for the arrival and departure of said train (and 300+ tourists!). Reynaud had the banjo out, and started the intro for Wreck of Ol' '97. Needless to say, I managed to catch his eye and discourage him...We still laugh about it!

V


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 27 Jun 06 - 07:12 PM

"If we start removing from the English language, even in the
context of old songs, every phrase which in some splinter of
English-speaking culture is questionable, we slide down a
slippery slope toward making everything a neutral gray (or
grey). "

Billy Connoly says his father taught him "Fight the Beige!"


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Subject: RE: Restraining on stage
From: Genie
Date: 28 Jun 06 - 01:20 AM

Sharon, I guess the theological and biographical implications of Newton and Amazing Grace are beyond the scope of this thread topic, but let me say this in passing.

It may be that it took Newton several decades to "see the light" fully (or as fully as he could manage for his time and circumstance). While I understand your discomfort, I can separate a song from the shortcomings of its author, especially if that author has been dead quite a while.

I think it's obvious that Newton reached out to God in the storm initially to save his own skin. I had thought that he gave up the slave ship business when he got back to port. Is that just one of those historical myths?

As for the song being about what God did for him, I just see it as a personal reflection on the New Testament teaching that you are saved by God's grace, not by your works. (Although you are also admonished to do good works, the Christian teaching is that it is not those works that bring about your salvation.)

FWIW, Newton's poem had a whole lot of verses (not including the "10,000 years" verse), and I don't recall whether any of the other verses said anything about repentance or atonement for his past sins.

"The song seems to be about getting a free no-obligation pass to heaven." Well, yeah, I guess you could interpret the NT that way, but salvation is supposed to involve repentance. I think it's understood that a person who truly accepts God's grace will not continue in the old ways as if nothing had happened.

"I guess I don't see as much inherent "merit" in the song as most people do." The question I would ask is, would you find the song acceptable if you knew nothing about the life of its author?   

To give a more recent example, I think the song "Tomorrow Belongs To Me" (at least the verses I've heard) is beautiful. I won't sing it, especially around Jewish people, because it was the theme song for the Hitler Youth. But, hypothetically, if I were asked to sing it by someone who had just heard it and thought it was a pretty song, and if there were no one around who knew of its history, I would have no problem singing it. (For the record, I don't foresee that situation occurring.)


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