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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Azizi African American Secular Folk Songs (149* d) Lyr Add: GRIZZLY BEAR 17 May 05


   

How this for 'a given'?- Different songs or significantly different versions of songs often have the same name.

This certainly complicates any attempt to determine what race or races composed or contributed to the composition of a particular folk song.

For instance, I checked the Mudcat Search engine for the 'Grizzly Bear' and found serveral entries but not the one I was looking for.

See this version of 'Grizzly Bear' along with comments from Harold Courlander's "A Treasury of Afro-American Folklore" {New York, Marlowe & Company; second printing 1996; p. 411}

"This stirring prison camp work song heard in Texas, about enigmatic 'grizzly bear,' appears to be a tangent statement about events that are not clearly spelled out. One informant in another part of the south who had served time in a Mississippi prison, declared the song to be about a convict who escaped from a work gang and lived in the woods, from where he made forages for food and other necessities. Wild in appearance. he was nicknamed Grizzly {pronounced Grizzaly} Bear, otherwise known as Jack of Diamonds
{a term of anonymity}, so that his real name does not appear in the song. Nevetheless, some people expressed the opinion that the grizzly bear was really just a bear-a view that dsoesn't seem to withstand the internal evidence of the song text.

Each of the lines given here, sung by the leader, is repeated with minor variations by the group, which also comes in on the last twp words of the leader's lines."

Oh that grizzaly, grizzaly, grizzaly bear,
Tell me who was that grizzaly, grizzaly bear.
Oh Jack o' Diamonds was that grizzaly, grizzaly bear.
He had great long tushes like a grizzaly bear,
He made a track in the bottom like a grizzaly bear.
Well that grizzaly, grizzaly, grizzaly bear,
Tell me who was that grizzaly, grizzaly bear.
Jack o' Diamonds was that grizzaly, grizzaly bear.
He made a noise at the bottom like a grizzaly bear.
Well my mamma was scared of that grizzaly bear.
Well my papa went a-hunting that grizzaly bear.
Well my brother wasn't scared of that grizzaly bear.
Oh that grizzaly, grizzaly, grizzaly bear,
Well I'm gonna kill that grizzaly bear.
Well the grizzaly, grizzaly, grizzaly bear,
Well I looked in Louisiana for the grizzaly bear.
etc.


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