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Query: Peggy Seeger's London Bridge

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JUMP ROPE CHANTS
THREE SIX NINE


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GUEST,Lisa Null 21 Feb 07 - 11:01 PM
12-stringer 22 Feb 07 - 12:28 AM
Joe Offer 22 Feb 07 - 03:46 AM
Joe Offer 22 Feb 07 - 04:16 AM
Folkiedave 22 Feb 07 - 05:33 AM
GUEST 22 Feb 07 - 12:21 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 22 Feb 07 - 01:51 PM
Joe Offer 22 Feb 07 - 02:31 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 22 Feb 07 - 03:46 PM
Joe Offer 22 Feb 07 - 05:44 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 22 Feb 07 - 08:56 PM
GUEST,Guest: Lisa Null 22 Feb 07 - 10:25 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 23 Feb 07 - 08:14 PM
GUEST,Joe Offer, at the Women's Center 23 Feb 07 - 08:24 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 28 Feb 07 - 08:40 PM
Joe Offer 01 Mar 07 - 02:09 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 01 Mar 07 - 02:24 PM
lisa null 02 Mar 07 - 12:13 AM
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Subject: Query: Peggy Seeger's London Bridge
From: GUEST,Lisa Null
Date: 21 Feb 07 - 11:01 PM

I'm doing some research for Peggy Seeger's notes to her album, "Love Call Me Home" and am having a hard time finding info about the origins of an unusual version recorded here of "London Bridge is Falling Down." She says she learned it from her mother, Ruth Crawford Seeger. In it, the standard first line is combined with a refrain of "Do Lord Remember Me." The verses are of a kissing game variety.

Anyway, my own library is light on children's material and I have exhausted web materials including earlier Mudcat discussion of London Bridge. Can anyone out there check the following books and recordings (or other resources) and see what notes if any appear there about the song (if it seems to be similar to the one I'm describing)? Any other recollections or information about this variant would also help. Thanks so much.

Books:

John A. and Alan Lomax Our Singing Country

Ruth Crawford Seeger "Twenty Two American Folk Songs" (may be unpublished)

Recordings:

Charles Seeger recorded in 1937 in Songs for Political Action 1926-1953 ((10 disc compilation: Bear Family Records BCD 15 720, 1996, Pablo Records, 2002)

The Lyrics are as follows:

LONDON BRIDGE
words and music: traditional USA
5-string banjo tuning: Key of Eb; 5th and 3rd, low Gb; 4th, low Eb; 3rd, Bb; 2nd, D.

London's Bridge is falling down
Do Lord, remember me
London's Bridge is falling down
On the prettiest girl I know.

Choose you a partner, honey my love,
Do Lord, remember me
Choose you a partner, honey my love
You're the prettiest girl I know

Kiss your partner, honey my love,
Do Lord, remember me (etc)

Circle round, honey my love (etc)

Take her home, honey my love (etc)

Choose you another one, honey my love (etc)

Circle round, honey my love (etc)

Hug your partner. honey my love (etc)

Then take her home, honey my love (etc)

London's Bridge is a-falling down
Do Lord, remember me
London's Bridge is a-falling down
On the prettiest girl I know.


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Subject: RE: Query: Peggy Seeger's London Bridge
From: 12-stringer
Date: 22 Feb 07 - 12:28 AM

Got a page reference for "Our Singing Country"? Nothing under this title, and nothing matches in the index of first lines. I paged through the sections "White Dance Tunes" and "Negro Game Songs" but don't find this piece.

You already know that the song is published in Seeger's 1960 banjo book with no attribution (or any notes other than re: tuning and recommended banjo lick) and in her 1964 collection on Oak with no song-specific info in the headnotes and tagged as "Source forgotten, learned in childhood" in the song list at the end of the book. Per the song list, this is on her Folk-Lyric LP, but I don't have it.


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Subject: RE: Query: Peggy Seeger's London Bridge
From: Joe Offer
Date: 22 Feb 07 - 03:46 AM

Hi, Lisa-
Songs for Political Action has lots of notes on Charles and Ruth Crawford Seeger, but nothing on the song itself except for the lyrics:

    London's Bridge is a fallin' down
    All girls remember me
    London's Bridge is falling down
    For the prettiest girl I know.

That's it. The recording lasts 1:07 minutes, most of which is a narrative on the 8-string dulcimer tuning.
The notes:

    Neither Charles Seeger nor Ruth Crawford Seeger recorded commercially. While rummaging through Pete and Toshi Seeger's barn in search of rare recordings, Ronald Cohen found an unmarked aluminum disc mixed with various acetates and test pressings. Probably dating from around 1937, it contained the only known recordings of the Seegers. Mike seeger confirmed the singer of The Old Gray Mare as his mother - a rare solo recording by a woman many now consider one of America's greatest 20th-century composers.
I can't find anything in Our Singing Country, either - a page reference would help. I do have the song in the Oak songbook, Folk Songs of Peggy Seeger - holler if you need info from that one. I couldn't find it in any of the three Ruth Crawford Seeger songbooks (American, Animal, and Christmas Folk Songs for Children) I have - I don't have Twenty Two American Folk Songs.
-Joe-
Here's the entry form the Traditional Ballad Index:

London Bridge Is Falling Down

DESCRIPTION: Upon learning that "London Bridge is (falling/broken) down," the singers must decide what to do, e.g. "Shall we build it up again?" "Mud and clay will wash away" "Iron and stone will stand alone"
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: c. 1744 (Tom Thumb's Pretty Song Book)
KEYWORDS: playparty technology
FOUND IN: Britain(England) US(MW,NE,So) Canada(Mar)
REFERENCES (9 citations):
Randolph 578, "London Bridge is Falling Down" (1 text)
Flanders/Brown, p. 45, "London Bridge" (1 text)
Linscott, pp. 34-36, "London Bridge" (1 text, 1 tune)
SHenry H48h, pp. 11-12, "Broken Bridges" (1 text, 1 tune)
Chase, p. 189, (no title; part of a section called "Granny London Tells About Old Times") (1 text, 1 tune)
Creighton-SNewBrunswick 81, "London Bridge" (1 text, 2 tunes)
Opie-Oxford2 306, "London Bridge is broken down" (4 texts)
Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #641, pp. 254-255, "(London Bridge)"
Fuld-WFM, p. 337+, "London Bridge"

ST R578 (Full)
Roud #502
RECORDINGS:
Pratt children and friends, "London Bridge" (on Ritchie03)
Pete Seeger, "London Bridge" (on PeteSeeger33, PeteSeegerCD03)

CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Rock-A-By Ladies" (tune & meter)
SAME TUNE:
Greenberg Shop is Moving South (Greenway-AFP, p. 126 note)
Notes: The notes in Baring-Gould mention the theory that this pertains to the breaking of London Bridge by Olaf of Norway in the reign of Ethelred II Unraed ("the Unready," c. 978-1016). Of course, any song about that would have had to be in Old English.... - RBW
File: R578

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions

The Ballad Index Copyright 2006 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


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Subject: RE: Query: Peggy Seeger's London Bridge
From: Joe Offer
Date: 22 Feb 07 - 04:16 AM

Here are the songbook citations noted in the Traditional Ballad Index:

Randolph 578, "London Bridge is Falling Down" (1 text)
    London Bridge is broken down,
    Dance over Lady Lee
    London Bridge is broken down,
    With a gay lady.

    Shall we build it up again?...

    Mud and clay will wash away...

    Iron and stone will stand alone....

Flanders/Brown, p. 45, "London Bridge" (1 text)
    London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down (13 verses)

Linscott, pp. 34-36, "London Bridge" (1 text, 1 tune)
(my copy of Linscott is missing - it's skinny and gets lost)
SHenry H48h, pp. 11-12, "Broken Bridges" (1 text, 1 tune)
    Broken bridges falling down, falling down, falling down...my fair lady. (8 verses)

Chase, p. 189, (no title; part of a section called "Granny London Tells About Old Times") (1 text, 1 tune)
(can't find Chase, either)
Creighton-SNewBrunswick 81, "London Bridge" (1 text, 2 tunes)
(don't have this one)
Opie-Oxford2 306, "London Bridge is broken down" (4 texts)
["broken down (3x) and Lady Lee versions]
Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #641, pp. 254-255, "(London Bridge)"
(got it if you need it)
Fuld-WFM, p. 337+, "London Bridge"
(falling down three times)
ST R578 (Full)

Roud #502 (click here)


RECORDINGS:
Pratt children and friends, "London Bridge" (on Ritchie03)
Pete Seeger, "London Bridge" (on PeteSeeger33, PeteSeegerCD03)

(falling down three times - not Peggy's version)
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Rock-A-By Ladies" (tune & meter)
SAME TUNE:
Greenberg Shop is Moving South (Greenway-AFP, p. 126 note)


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Subject: RE: Query: Peggy Seeger's London Bridge
From: Folkiedave
Date: 22 Feb 07 - 05:33 AM

And here is another few references from "Games and Songs of American Children" collected and compared by William Wells Newell first published 1883 - this edition Dover 1963 reproduction of the 1903 second edition.

There are a number of references,

Page 206 - 211.

This is not a hard book to find, and not at all expensive. The one I am reading from is £5.00 ($9.50). It is sold, sorry. But plenty on the book databases like ABE has copies as low as $1.00 !!!!!

There is A "Charlestown Bridge" - Chorus - Dance o'er my Lady Lee,
B London Bridge is broken down - Chorus - Dance o'er my Lady Lee,
C London Bridge is falling down - Chorus - My fair lady
D With tune Same
E from Savannah of Irish origin - Same.

Dave


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Subject: RE: Query: Peggy Seeger's London Bridge
From: GUEST
Date: 22 Feb 07 - 12:21 PM

i can't tell you how pleased i am with the support everyone has given me on this project. Joe Offer's listing of the lyrics on Charles Seeger's recording on: Songs for Political Action:

London's Bridge is a fallin' down
All girls remember me
London's Bridge is falling down
For the prettiest girl I know.

shows me that "Do Lord Remember me" may be an interpolation from elsewhere but suggests that she is singing essentially the same song as her Dad. The next step is to see what Peggy says about the song and what the song is in the Oak songbook, Folk Songs of Peggy Seeger which, I believe, came out years ago.

12-Stringer helped too by checking Our Singing Country and FolkieDave's references to Newell are also a help in showing me that the structure of this version's lyrics has a long history in America. Thanks so much for all your help and keep the answers and observations flowing if so inclined!

Lisa Null


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Subject: Lyr. Add: London Bridge (Peggy Seeger)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 22 Feb 07 - 01:51 PM

Lyr. Add: LONDON BRIDGE
(Game centered on couples)
Peggy Seeger

(F)London Bridge is a-falling (C)down,
(F)Do, Lord, re-(Bb)member (C)me.
(F)London Bridge is a-falling down
on the (C7)prettiest girl I (F)know.

Choose your partner, honey my love,
Do, Lord, remember me,
Choose your partner, honey my love
You're the prettiest girl I know.

Hug your partner, honey my love, (etc.)

Kiss your partner, honey my love, (etc.)

Send him home, honey my love, (etc.)

Then choose you another one, honey my love, (etc.)

(Repeat verse 1)

Compare with Charles Seeger version, posted above. Note by Peggy Seeger, p. 93- "Source forgotton, learned in childhood. DISC: FL 114."
Page 46, 93, 1964, "Folk Songs of Peggy Seeger, Oak Publications, BT 2027, New York. 88 Traditional Ballads and Songs.


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Subject: RE: Query: Peggy Seeger's London Bridge
From: Joe Offer
Date: 22 Feb 07 - 02:31 PM

Dave, the reason I can't find the Newell book is that it's skinny - it's on the shelf somewhere in this room.

Here are the notes from Folk Songs of Peggy Seeger (Oak Publications, 1964);
    The history behind this most popular and well known of all the children's games is fascinating and lengthy see Newell). It has its roots far back in Romance mythology and seems to have sprung from the dilemma of Good vs. Evil that for so many centuries was the preoccupation of European scholars. Through usage by children and passage of time it has lost most of its religious significance. In many cases it has become a parody, with the captive choosing between ice cream and cake instead of between heaven and hell. The present text robs the game of even more of its bhistory by changing a group game into a game centered upon couples played chiefly for choosing partners in imitation of courtship.


Seegers's lyrics are posted in the message above from Q, who has more-or-less the same library I have. Here are the lyrics without chords:

London Bridge

London Bridge is a-falling down,
Do, Lord, remember me.
London Bridge is a-falling down
on the prettiest girl I know.

Choose your partner, honey my love,
Do, Lord, remember me,
Choose your partner, honey my love
You're the prettiest girl I know.

Hug your partner, honey my love, (etc.)

Kiss your partner, honey my love, (etc.)

Send him home, honey my love, (etc.)

Then choose you another one, honey my love, (etc.)

(Repeat verse 1)


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Subject: RE: Query: Peggy Seeger's London Bridge
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 22 Feb 07 - 03:46 PM

Joe, I found my Newell; what were you looking for in particular?
He has an English version from Isle of Wight, one from Mother Goose's Melodies (a pamphlet, American, c. 1786, with the Charleston Bridge version), another from Savannah, GA (Irish origin).
He remarks on similar games from Europe.
None is centered on couples.

Several English versions in thread 78391: London Bridge
(I will post the Charleston Bridge version there)

The best source for UK versions is Alice B. Gomme, 1894 and 1898, "Traditional Games of England, Scotland and Ireland," (reprinted 1984, Thames and Hudson, both volumes bound together). She collected 49 versions, 10, including 'broken,' are reproduced.
None consists of a game centered on couples.


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Subject: RE: Query: Peggy Seeger's London Bridge
From: Joe Offer
Date: 22 Feb 07 - 05:44 PM

Q, I think we're focusing on versions that have "remember me" in the second line. As far as I can tell, these versions are peculiar to the Seeger family - "All girls remember me" from Charles Seeger; and "Do Lord remember me" from Peggy. It would be wonderful if we could find a "remember" version from outside the Seeger family.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Query: Peggy Seeger's London Bridge
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 22 Feb 07 - 08:56 PM

Nothing with 'remember me' in Newell or in Gomme.

The line "Dance over (o'er) my lady Lee" in most versions, however, probably was the original of 'Do, Lord, remember me'- the change the result of mis-hearing or perhaps intentionally by the Seegers or their source.


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Subject: RE: Query: Peggy Seeger's London Bridge
From: GUEST,Guest: Lisa Null
Date: 22 Feb 07 - 10:25 PM

Thanks to all of you, I was able to take this preliminary material and go to the Library of Congress's Folklife Center's Online reference service. They have helped me turn up a stash of about five songs with the Seeger verse structure and melody--four from Mississippi and one from Arkansas. The one from Arkansas (AFS 865A1: Sung by Emma Dusenbury. Recorded in Mena, Arkansas, by John A. Lomax, Aug. 1936) is almost identical to that recorded by Charles Seeger:

London's Bridge is a fallin' down
All girls remember me
London's Bridge is falling down
For the prettiest girl I know.

which can be found on the Songs for Political Action 1926-1953 collection.

Dusenbury sings:

London's Bridge is a-burning down,
oh, girls, remember me
London's Bridge is a-burning down
for the prettiest girl I know.

Apparently this is all that was recorded from Emma Dusenbury, but she has other verses that were taken down by transcription. Let's see if they resemble Peggy's. I'm waiting for them to be faxed from the Library of Congress along with some of the Mississippi verses that are similar. I am pretty sure Emma Dusenbury is the source singer and this is exciting as she was one of the great traditional ballad singers and resources from Arkansas. I'll keep you posted on what I find. Incidentally, the notes I'm creating for Peggy Seeger's Love Call Me Home will be posted on the web for all to share and enjoy!


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Subject: Lyr. Add: London's Bridge Is A-Burning Down
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 23 Feb 07 - 08:14 PM

I should have looked in Duncan Emrich's fine book on American Folk Poetry. There was the Emma Dusenbury song from Arkansas.

Lyr. Add: LONDON'S BRIDGE IS A-BURNING DOWN
Lib. Congress AFS Record 865 A1, Lomax and Powell

1.
London's bridge is a-burning down,
Oh, girls, remember me.
London's bridge is a-burning down,
For the prettiest girl I know.
2.
Choose you one as we march around,
Oh, girls, remember me,
Choose you one as we march around,
Of the prettiest girls I know.
3.
Hug her neat and kiss her sweet,
Oh, girls, remember me,
Hug her nice and kiss her twice
For the prettiest girl I know.
4.
London's bridge is a-burning down
Oh, girls, remember me,
London's bridge is a-burning down,
For the prettiest girl I know.
5.
Choose you one as we march around,
Oh, girls, remember me,
Choose you one as we march around,
Of the prettiest girls I know.
6.
Take her by the right hand, tell her how you love her,
Oh, girls, remember me,
Take her by the right hand, tell her how you love her,
For the prettiest girl I know.
7.
Hug her neat and kiss her sweet,
Oh, girls, remember me,
Hug her nice and kiss her twice
For the prettiest girl I know.

p. 47, Duncan Emrich, 1974, "American Folk Poetry, An Anthology." Little, Brown and Company, Boston-Toronto.


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Subject: RE: Query: Peggy Seeger's London Bridge
From: GUEST,Joe Offer, at the Women's Center
Date: 23 Feb 07 - 08:24 PM

Chalk up a major coup for Q! I never think to look in Emrich, and his book is a treasure trove of traditional lyrics (no tunes, though). Well done, Q. I am duly impressed.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Query: Peggy Seeger's London Bridge
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 28 Feb 07 - 08:40 PM

The line "Do Lord remember me' in the Seeger version of "London Bridge" may not have anything to do with the line 'O girls, remember me' in the version collected from Emma Dusenbury, but instead was taken from the well-known old gospel (spiritual?) song, "Do Lord, Remember Me," which is widespread from the east coast to Kentucky and Louisiana.

Do Lord Remember Me
p. 82, with score, John W. Work, 1940, "American Negro Songs and Spirituals." (Bonanza reprint)
p. 68-69, with score, M. A. Grissom, 1930, "The Negro Sings a New Heaven," Univ. North Carolina Press (Dover reprint)
p. 82, E. A. McIlhenny, 1930, "Befo' de War Spirituals," pub. for McIlhenny Tabasco Co. by the Christopher Co., Boston.

Also used in verses of "When My Blood Runs Chiller and Cold," Mudcat thread 40977: Blood
The line, or chorus, is used in several other songs.


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Subject: RE: Query: Peggy Seeger's London Bridge
From: Joe Offer
Date: 01 Mar 07 - 02:09 AM

Well....I'd say there's a great chance that "do Lord remember me" comes from the song of the same name - but I think it's a Mondegreen phrase inserted into the London Bridge song, instead of just a misheard word.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Query: Peggy Seeger's London Bridge
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 01 Mar 07 - 02:24 PM

Could be, Joe. In any case, there is no certainty of its origin. Peggy Seeger said 'Source forgotten, learned in childhood.'
My point was to show that the line may not have come from the Dusenbury version.


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Subject: RE: Query: Peggy Seeger's London Bridge
From: lisa null
Date: 02 Mar 07 - 12:13 AM

Hi--

It may have been sloppy writing on my part to infer that Do Lord, Oh Do Lord came from Dusenbury. it doesn't. I have seen her lyrics which Charles Seeger repeats in his recording of London Bridge. I think it appeared either in Ruth Crawford Seeger's interpretation of the song or, even more likely, Peggy's remembering of how her mother sang it. In that case it woud be a true mondegreen. Also (and this is an aside to Q) while I may not personally buy the idea of human sacrifice as inherent in the London Brdge song, it has to be addressed as it is important to many who have sung and written about the song. I link to, in my essay, a fascinating counterpart to London Bridge in German and have found very similar songs from other countries in similar language.

As i write up the edited version, I will try to clarify what is the web of associations floating about the song and what can be traced back to concrete cites and observations. Modern folklorists rarely use modern songs to read back into what was once believed (the whole doctrine of survivals) but put their emphasis on what the song means for those singing it.

As a historian by training, as well as someone who has worked in folklore, I think a song can do both -- have relevance for today while shedding insight into the past -- but you have to procede carefully and make sure the clues do not merely confirm what your own illusions are about the past.

One fascinating article i read was by an educator who asked the kids themselves what they liked or felt about singing London Bridge is Falling Down -- no question the kids like the destructive aspects of it -- don't they always?


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