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'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning

09 Jul 07 - 12:41 PM (#2097813)
Subject: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: Doug Chadwick

The Gershwin song "It Ain't Necessarily So", from Porgy & Bess, has the lines:

To get into Hebben don' snap for a sebben
Live clean, don' have no fault

Assuming "sebben" means seven, rhymes with Heaven, what does don't snap for a seven mean?


09 Jul 07 - 12:43 PM (#2097816)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: PoppaGator

No gambling!

More precisely, no throwing dice as in the gambling game "craps."

I don't know how to play craps, so I can't explain the exact significance of the seven any further, except that it's a winning number that one would hope to throw. Maybe someone else can elaborate.

09 Jul 07 - 12:52 PM (#2097832)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: Doug Chadwick

That was quick PoppaGator!

No gambling. Yeah, I'll buy that. I don't know how to play craps either but I'm sure you're right.


09 Jul 07 - 12:54 PM (#2097837)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning

A roll of seven is good if it's your first roll -- an automatic win.
If you roll anything else (except 2 or 12, automatic loss), you have to roll that same number again before you roll a seven in order to win. So on any other roll but the first, a seven is bad.
The pared-down basics from my mis-spent youth.

09 Jul 07 - 12:55 PM (#2097838)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: GUEST,highlandman

Sorry, that last guest was me. Too quick on the big grey button.

09 Jul 07 - 01:19 PM (#2097861)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: Joe Offer

Full lyrics posted here (click).
The Guardian has a fascinating article based on the song and its rhymes, and a more user-friendly version of the lyrics:
    It Ain't Necessarily so
    (Ira and George Gershwin and whats-his-name, 1935)

    It ain't necessarily so,
    It ain't necessarily so -
    De t'ings dat yo' li'ble
    To read in de Bible -
    It ain't necessarily so.

    Li'l David was small, but - oh my!
    Li'l David was small, but - oh my!
    He fought big Goliath
    Who lay down an' dieth -
    Li'l David was small, but - oh my!...

    Oh Jonah, he lived in de whale,
    Oh Jonah, he lived in de whale -
    Fo' he made his home in
    Dat fish's abdomen -
    Oh Jonah, he lived in de whale. .

    In ain't necessarily so,
    It ain't necessarily so.
    Dey tell all you chillun
    De debble's a villun
    But 'tain't necessarily so.

    To get into hebben,
    Don't snap fo' a seben -
    Live clean! Don't have fault!
    Oh, I takes dat gospel
    Whenever it's pos'ple -
    But wid a grain of salt!

    Methus'lah live nine hundred years,
    Methus'lah live nine hundred years -
    But who calls dat livin'
    When no gal'll give in
    To no man what's nine hundred years?

    I'm preachin' dis sermon to show
    It ain't nessa, ain't nessa,
    Ain't nessa, ain't nessa,
    Ain't necessarily so!

    My sources say George & Ira were the songwriters, but I thought the lyrics for the Porgy and Bess songs came from a South Carolina playwright, whose name I forget just now.

09 Jul 07 - 01:42 PM (#2097873)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: mrdux

Actually, even more precisely: "Don't rely on luck to get your sorry ass into heaven." "Snapping for a seven" -- snapping the fingers as the bones hit the ground or bounced off the wall -- was, depending on the players, a bit of superstitious invocation of good luck, or maybe more narrowly an attempt to get the attention of the Goddess of Good Fortune (a.k.a. Lady Luck) to intercede and produce a winning roll. You can, however, get into heaven if you "Live clean, don' have no fault," luck having nothing to do with it.


09 Jul 07 - 02:20 PM (#2097907)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

mrdux is correct.

(remembering long time ago snapping for seven (and come eleven) in the barracks)

09 Jul 07 - 02:31 PM (#2097919)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: Stringsinger

The playwright who did the book for Porgy and Bess was Debose Heyward. (Not sure of the spelling).

ira and George had a skeptical view of religion. They were motivated to give "the Devil his due" to speak. E.Y. Harburg wrote a similar song called "Ain't That the Truth" for Sportin' Life's female counterpart in the movie "Cabin In the Sky". "Truth" was cut from the movie for being too controversial.


09 Jul 07 - 04:42 PM (#2098065)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: McGrath of Harlow

Ain't It the Truth - from here

Life is short, short, brother,
(Ain't it the truth!)
And there is no other,
(Ain't it the truth!)
You got to rock that rainbow
While you still got your youth,
Ain't it the solid truth!

Was a guy called Adam,
(Ain't it the truth!)
He said: "Look here, madam..."
(Ain't it the truth!)
"You got to bite that apple
While you still got your tooth."
Ain't it the mellow truth!

Lord gave you wine and gin
To drown your troubles in,
What's all this talk of sin?
Rise and shine
And fall in line.

Get that new religion
(Ain't it the truth!)
'Fore you is dead pigeon
(Ain't it the truth!)
'Cause when you layin' horizontal
In that telephone booth,
There'll be no breathin' spell,
That's only naturell,
Ain't it the gos-a-pel truth!

Life is short, short, brother,
(Ain't it the truth!)
And there is no other,
(Ain't it the truth!)
So if you don't love livin'
Then you're slightly uncouth,
Ain't it the visible truth!

Said that gal DuBarry,
(Ain't it the truth!)
"Love is cash and carry."
(Ain't it the truth!)
"You got to shake it down
Or stir it up with vermouth."
Ain't it the dignified truth!

Life is a ripplin' brook,
Man is a fish to cook,
You got to bait your hook,
Rise and shine
And cast your line.

Got to get your possum
(Ain't it the truth!)
While you still in blossom
(Ain't it the truth!)
That went for Delilah,
Cleopatra and Ruth:
Them babes did mighty swell,
They rang that Jeze-bell,
Ain't it the gos-a-pel truth!
It's the truth,
The truth,
It's the solid mellow truth!

09 Jul 07 - 06:42 PM (#2098164)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: PoppaGator

Interesting questsion, Joe, about whether Ira Gershwin wrote any lyrics for Porgy and Bess. I know that George sought out author DeBose Hayward (I'm not sure of the exact spelling, either) to write the "libretto" for his "folk opera," but that may have included only the script ~ the spoken dialogue ~ which of course didn't have to rhyme, although it DID have to portray the early-20th-century African-American spoken language of South Carolina with a fair degree of accuracy.

The author was presumably better able to write acceptably authentic dialogue than either Gershwin brother, but was probably not nearly as well-qualified as Ira to write song lyrics in that terribly clever rhyming style so nicely described in that Guardian article.

The sublime "I've Got You Under My Skin," by the way, is the work of the masterful Cole Porter, one of the very few lyricists who might be considered even better than Ira as an exemplar of that genre.

09 Jul 07 - 07:56 PM (#2098226)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

The collaboration between DuBose Heyward and George and Ira Gershwin was very close, and complex.
Dubose Heyward wrote the novel, "Porgy," published in 1925. The text is online:

In 1934, the Gershwins and Heyward got together at Folly Beach, near Charleston, where they could observe the Gullahs on St. James Island who became the models for Catfish Row residents.

DuBose Heyward wrote the libretto, and George and Ira Gershwin wrote the lyrics. Heyward, however, composed the lyrics for "Summertime" and "My Man's Gone Now."
George and Ira left in August, and George finished the recitatives and orchestrating the opera- some 700 pages of music.

Todd Duncan was selected to play the part of Porgy, after first being rejected because he was a professor at Howard University as well as being a singer. George G. didn't like the idea of a professor taking the part. Anne Brown was selected to play Bess.
"Porgy and Bess" opened in New York in 1935 and ran for only 124 performances. Some years passed before the show's backers got their money back.
This is a very interesting write-up.
Porgy and Bess

09 Jul 07 - 09:02 PM (#2098264)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: Don Firth

Not many Americans, especially Americans who say they don't like opera, think of "Porgy and Bess" as being opera in the traditions of European opera. But a lot of Europeans do consider it as such. An American opera rather than an Italian or French or German opera, but an opera, nevertheless. It has all the characteristics that define opera:   a drama in which most or all of the dialogue is sung, often interspersed with set-pieces (like the soliloquies in Shakespeare) called "arias" in Italian (simply "airs" in English), or duets, or ensembles.

"Porgy and Bess" falls into the category of "opera verismo," or an opera about realistic people (rather than kings or gods—grand opera). Other "verismo" operas:

"I Pagliacci," about a troupe of traveling players (of the Comedia del Arte school), in which the head of the troupe, Canio, discovers that his wife Nedda is having an affair, and the stage play (play within a play) the comedians are putting on in the second act suddenly morphs from a comedic farce into the real thing. All too real.

"Carmen," about a promiscuous gypsy girl and a naïve young soldier, complete with smugglers and other outlaws. After turning José into a wanted man for deserting from the army and joining the smugglers, Carmen dumps him and runs off with a popular bull fighter. José meets her outside the bull ring, begs her to come back to him, and when she refuses, he kills her.

"La Bohème," about a bunch of bohemians (hippies) in 1850s Paris, living on the edge of poverty in order to practice their arts (painting, poetry, music, philosophy), and their girl friends. Mimi, who has "consumption" (tuberculosis), dies tragically in the end.

A grand opera, Donizetti's "Lucia de Lammermoor" has a plot right out of balladry, like a cross between "Romeo and Juliet" and "Anachie Gordon." It's similarity to a ballad plot is not surprising when you consider that the story for the opera came from a novel, "The Bride of Lammermoor" by Sir Walter Scott, who was an avid collector of Scottish ballads.

Sure, "Lucia," "Pagliacci," and "Bohème" are usually sung in Italian, and "Carmen" is usually sung in French, but these four (along with many others) and "Porgy and Bess" (sung, of course, in English) all belong to the same music-drama genre. Opera.

Don Firth

09 Jul 07 - 09:46 PM (#2098287)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

"Jenufa," by Janácek, a favorite of mine, belongs in this category. The excellent production conducted by Andrew Davis is on DVD.

An excellent "Porgy and Bess" was staged by the Glyndebourne Festival Opera. It was later re-created in a large studio for DVD and issued by EMI. It is very good, but doesn't satisfy me completely.

(Odd- no html character for 'c' with circumflex)

10 Jul 07 - 06:17 AM (#2098488)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: JohnInKansas

Porgy and Bess is probably best remembered in the US for the 50s(?) movie version. Recollection is that Sidney Poitier played Porgy(?) and Sammy Davis Jr did the "'Taint Necessarily" song(?). (It's been a few years.)

At around the same time, I think, Carmen Jones was a similar movie "ripoff" of Carmen.

Another movie called Black Orpheus wasn't, so far as I know, as widely distributed in "white" society, but I was told then that it was popular "in the ghettos." I remember being quite impressed with it at the time, and recall encountering some unexpected "bias" for saying so (from people who hadn't seen it, but don't recall much in the way of details of the plot.

(Sorry for the last paragraph, but those were the terms of the time, and I'm not sure how to describe the reference more accurately.)


10 Jul 07 - 06:26 AM (#2098489)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: JohnInKansas

Q -

Windows CharMap can be used to copy and paste them. They do appear in Arial and Times New Roman on my machine at least.

In recent versions of Word, you can type 0108 and 0109, and hit Ctl-X before typing anything following, and they'll convert to the U0108 (upper case) Ĉ and U0109 (lower case) ĉ letters. Copy and paste from there.

Of course, people here will only see them if they're using a "proper" font for viewing.


10 Jul 07 - 01:29 PM (#2098887)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: PoppaGator

I'm fairly sure that Black Orpheus enjoyed nationwide big-city"art house" distribution, although not a full mainstream neighborhood-theater release. And it was a big college-film-society favorite during the late sixties; that's the context in which I first saw it.

I've seen in on TV often enough over the years, too. Now, maybe it's been on local New Orleans channels more often than on the networks or nationwide cable channels because of its Mardi Gras connection ~ it's set in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, during Carnaval. (In Portugese with English subtitles.)

10 Jul 07 - 02:00 PM (#2098928)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

"Orfeu Negro" (Black Orpheus), 1959, has been transferred to DVD, but used VHS tapes are much cheaper. The music of Antonio Carlos Jobim is one reason for its continued popularity.
The soundtrack cd is available for those just interested in the music, but costs double that of the old VHS tapes.

10 Jul 07 - 03:50 PM (#2099043)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: Don Firth

Black Orpheus. Terrific movie!

The legend of Orpheus and Eurydice updated and transferred to Rio de Janeiro during Carnivale. The music! Wow! I defy anyone to see that movie and not come out of the theater undulating! And it lasts for days.

Played in the art houses, but they were mobbed. A very popular movie.

Carmen Jones, the plot of Bizet's "Carmen" (although it was a novella by Prosper Mérimée before Bizet got hold of it) updated, starring Harry Belafonte as Joe (José) and Dorothy Dandridge as Carmen Jones. Escamillo, the toreador in Bizet's opera, becomes a prizefighter named "Husky Miller." A lot of Bizet's music, with somewhat modified and updated lyrics (in English). Belafonte does a very nice job on the English version of "The Flower Song," the tenor's big aria in the second act of the opera.

Don Firth

P. S. George Gershwin was taken a lot more seriously as a composer in Europe than he was in the United States, but I think he's gradually being rediscovered (or, perhaps, discovered for the first time) in the U. S.

10 Jul 07 - 04:48 PM (#2099104)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: M.Ted

Some of the lyrics were written by Ira Gershwin alone(It Ain't Necessarily So, There's a Boat that's Leavin' for New York), and some by Ira and DuBose Heyward in collaboration(I Loves You Porgy, Bess, You is My Woman Now). However, most of the lyrics were written by Heyward as verse, and set to music by George Gershwin. There was only one song, "I Got Plenty O" Nothin" where Heyward set lyrics to   a tune.

For many years, "Porgy and Bess" was not performed much because it many of the characters were thought to be racial stereotypes--it wasn't until the full opera was finally performed in 1976 that it's full depth was appreciated. However, the original rights for Heyward's play were purchase by Al Jolson, who wanted Rodgers and Hammerstein to create a musical that he could perform in blackface. If that had happened--

10 Jul 07 - 05:47 PM (#2099165)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: mrdux

Speaking of the 1976 production, there's a great recording of it, and, to my ear it's the most satisfying recording of them all. It was done by the Houston Grand Opera, conducted by John DeMain, and last time I looked, it was still available as an RCA CD. Also of interest is a recording of members of the original cast (Todd Duncan and Anne Brown) and of the B'way revival cast, in 1940/42 (currently available as a Decca CD and as a Naxos CD).

10 Jul 07 - 07:17 PM (#2099253)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)

JiK - I think Q was actually after the c with a caron over it (inverted circumflex) - U010D (U010C upper case).

You should be able to enter these in html by using

eg &#x010D; will get you č

(omit the x if you use decimal codes instead of hex codes)

and Jan&#x00E1;&#x010D;ek will get you Janáček


10 Jul 07 - 10:33 PM (#2099384)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: Willie-O

There's also a recording by some cat named Armstrong and some chick named something Fitzgerald.

T'ain't half bad either.

11 Jul 07 - 03:29 AM (#2099506)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: JohnInKansas


I'll admit I had to go look up which one was the circumflex, but wasn't smart enough to guess that Q really wanted t'other one.

The important thing, as I read the question, was getting him to a font that included the chars he wanted, and in Windows the CharMap is the quickest way there. You can read the char number for html coding from the CharMap.


11 Jul 07 - 03:36 AM (#2099510)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)

JiK - couldn't agree more - CharMap was exactly where I looked up the codes!


11 Jul 07 - 04:23 AM (#2099537)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: Roger the Skiffler

Recent London production of Porgy & Bess with Clarke Peters, Melanie Marshall and Dawn Hope was excellent (especially as we got £60 seats for £20 the day we went!)


11 Jul 07 - 09:06 AM (#2099709)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: JJ

After the success of his 1925 novel, Dubose Heyward (and his wife, Dorothy) turned PORGY into a successful play, first produced on 10 October 1927 at the Guild Theatre. Gershwin's idea for turning it into an opera, however, had come from his reading of the novel in 1926.

In 1932, the Theatre Guild approached Heyward with the idea of turning PORGY into the abovementioned blackface musical for Al Jolson, to be written by Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern. (Rodgers and Hammerstein would not team up for another decade.) But Heyward held out for Gershwin, and thank heavens he did.

I saw the Houston Grand Opera's production of PORGY AND BESS at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia in 1976, and it was very good indeed. I'll never forget Larry Marshall as Sportin' Life singing the last note of "There's a Boat That's Leavin' Soon for New York" while sliding down a long curved bannister on his seat -- no hands! -- and hitting the stage just in time to say, "C'mon, Bess." The place went nuts.

But allow me to put in a good word for the 1951 recording, conducted by Lehman Engel with Lawrence Winters and Camilla Williams. It is billed as the first "complete" recording, which it was, but of the standard performing version of the time. (The Houston version, 25 years later, was "more complete.") Many of us first learned the beauties of the entire opera, as opposed to its greatest hits, from these LPs.

The recording was reissued on CD, but seems to be out of print.

I've never seen the movie, and it's been held back from release on home video for some reason or another. Amazon is promising a DVD, but I'll believe it when I see it. Robert McFerrin (father of Bobby McFerrin) sings Porgy and Adele Addison sings Bess.

CARMEN JONES was a Broadway musical before it was a movie, opening on 2 December 1943 at the Broadway and running for 503 performances. It was a very satisfying hit for Oscar Hammerstein II, who adapted Bizet's opera as mentioned above, with Carmen becoming a worker in a parachute factory. In the 1954 film, Belafonte is dubbed by Le Vern Hutcherson (variously spelled) and Dorothy Dandridge by the 19-year-old unknown Marilyn Horne, who developed into one of the great singers of the late 20th century.

The film is readily available on DVD so that you might judge for yourself.

11 Jul 07 - 01:30 PM (#2099963)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: Don Firth

Interesting! Dubbed voices in "Carmen Jones." I wasn't aware of that.

When Belafonte "sang" the Flower Song, it sounded a lot like Belafonte's voice, but I was amazed that he had that wide a vocal range and could get up into operatic tenor territory. Well, I guess he couldn't and he didn't! Good voice for what he normally does, though (a bit husky, which sometimes made me wonder what he was doing to his vocal chords).

I did a google search on Le Vern Hutcherson, but other than references to dubbing Belafonte's voice in "Carmen Jones," I came up with nuthin'.

And Marilyn Horne! One of my favorite singers. She has one of the richest, creamiest, most flexible mezzo-soprano voices around.

I'm going to have to get the DVD from NetFlix and give it another look (and listen). Thanks for the info, JJ!

Don Firth

11 Jul 07 - 02:11 PM (#2100000)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: mrdux

JJ --

I agree about the fine 1951 Engel recording. It was reissued, with pretty good sound, by Sony a couple years ago (SONY Classical (Masterworks Heritage) 2CDs MH2K 63322, out of print), and it now appears to be available again as a Naxos CD, No. 8.110287-88 (but not in the US).


11 Jul 07 - 03:05 PM (#2100078)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

The Glyndebourne Opera (on the DVD) featured Willard White as Porgy, Cynthia Haymon as Bess, Gregg Baker as Crown and Damon Evans as Sporting Life. Trevor Nunn directed and Simon Rattle conducted.

The Highlights cd by Leontine Price and William Warfield is very good. Unfortunately the opera revival by these fine singers cannot be had or was never filmed.

16 Jul 07 - 10:38 AM (#2104188)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: JJ

The Leontyne Price-William Warfield recording (conducted by Skitch Henderson, I believe) is a souvenir of the PORGY AND BESS production that toured the Soviet Union in 1955, following a European tour.

Her performance as Bess established Price as a star. Truman Capote, who was along for the ride, wrote a book about it called THE MUSES ARE HEARD.

16 Jul 07 - 02:26 PM (#2104409)
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

In 1952, a revival, a shortened version in two acts, was staged with Leontine Price and William Warfield. Cab Calloway played Sporting Life. A London premiere took place in October, 1952. The production came to the Ziegfield Theatre in New York, 1953. The production toured in 1954, but Price and Warfield had left the cast. There was a Moscow premiere in 1955.
It is the production at the Ziegfield with Price-Warfield that seemingly was never filmed for release that I was commenting about.

(The Highlights Album was recorded in 1963).

The 1976 Houston production was important, in that the original opera was presented without cuts by Gershwin. A recording was made. The Glyndebourne production also is without cuts (DVD, see previous post).

In the original 1935 production, Gershwin made some cuts; this version has been preserved in the 2006 recording by Alvy Powell, Marquita Lister, and the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. It also incorporates changes made by Gershwin after the first publication.