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Folklore: Pickaninny in closet

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MGM·Lion 26 Aug 13 - 01:53 PM
KB in Iowa 26 Aug 13 - 11:51 AM
GUEST,Stim 25 Aug 13 - 06:39 PM
MGM·Lion 25 Aug 13 - 10:47 AM
GUEST,Stim 25 Aug 13 - 10:15 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 24 Aug 13 - 08:10 PM
GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1 24 Aug 13 - 07:00 PM
MGM·Lion 24 Aug 13 - 01:28 AM
KB in Iowa 23 Aug 13 - 09:32 PM
dick greenhaus 23 Aug 13 - 07:13 PM
GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1 23 Aug 13 - 06:56 PM
MGM·Lion 23 Aug 13 - 02:21 AM
MGM·Lion 23 Aug 13 - 01:58 AM
MGM·Lion 23 Aug 13 - 01:38 AM
GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1 23 Aug 13 - 01:26 AM
MGM·Lion 22 Aug 13 - 10:22 AM
GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1 22 Aug 13 - 12:01 AM
GUEST,MhedGM 21 Aug 13 - 02:30 PM
GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1 20 Aug 13 - 06:59 PM
Azizi 20 Aug 13 - 11:33 AM
GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1 19 Aug 13 - 10:51 PM
GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1 19 Aug 13 - 07:16 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 19 Aug 13 - 02:32 PM
KB in Iowa 19 Aug 13 - 02:31 PM
GUEST,Stim 19 Aug 13 - 02:14 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 19 Aug 13 - 12:34 PM
GUEST,Stim 19 Aug 13 - 11:51 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 19 Aug 13 - 11:14 AM
GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1 19 Aug 13 - 06:25 AM
GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1 19 Aug 13 - 04:45 AM
Gibb Sahib 19 Aug 13 - 03:41 AM
GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1 19 Aug 13 - 01:10 AM
Gibb Sahib 18 Aug 13 - 07:11 PM
GUEST,Stim 18 Aug 13 - 04:38 PM
GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1 18 Aug 13 - 07:06 AM
Gibb Sahib 18 Aug 13 - 04:20 AM
GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1 17 Aug 13 - 06:48 PM
GUEST,Morwen Edhelwen1 17 Aug 13 - 01:07 AM
GUEST,Dani 16 Aug 13 - 10:47 AM
GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1 15 Aug 13 - 05:57 PM
McGrath of Harlow 15 Aug 13 - 03:41 PM
GUEST,Stim 15 Aug 13 - 09:35 AM
GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1 15 Aug 13 - 12:48 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 14 Aug 13 - 08:43 PM
GUEST,Stim 14 Aug 13 - 06:40 PM
GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1 14 Aug 13 - 05:12 PM
GUEST,Morwen Edhelwen 13 Aug 13 - 10:44 PM
GUEST,Stim 13 Aug 13 - 09:00 PM
GUEST 13 Aug 13 - 08:57 PM
GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1 13 Aug 13 - 06:28 PM
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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 26 Aug 13 - 01:53 PM

That is the record I had ~~ I had misremembered 'Stardust', but on recollection the other side was Hong Kong Blues. I suppose that Johnny Mercer invented 'Happy Cat' as a convincing enough sounding brand name which might have been used as sponsor to a hit-parade; perhaps avoided the name of the actual Hit Parade current at the time for reasons of © or some such?

~M~


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: KB in Iowa
Date: 26 Aug 13 - 11:51 AM

I can't find any info about a US release of OMM by Hoagy. All I can find is the Brunswick recording Stim mentions. That record had "Mr. Music Master" on one side and "Hong Kong Blues" on the other.

Here is a page with an image of that record. Recording date listed is 1942.

In the Podcast page Stim linked it has the following abut "Hong Kong Blues":
Hoagy Carmichael (piano & vocal) with Artie Bernstein (bass) & Spike Jones (drums):
Hong Kong Blues (Carmichael)
Brunswick 03752 recorded Los Angeles, 11 May 1942


Hoagy definitely sings Happy Cat Hit Parade. I Googled that and the only hits I got were references to OMM and pages about cats.

Different story for Lucky Strike Hit Parade. It was actually called Your Hit Parade but was sponsored by Lucky Strike. It ran on the radio from 1935 to 1955.

I wonder now which way it was originally written, my guess is Happy Cat.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 25 Aug 13 - 06:39 PM

I was referring to the link above, recorded in the 1956 sessions that were released as "Hoagy sings Carmichael".

Brunswick 03752, released in the UK, with had OMM as the A side and Hong Kong Blues as the B side. HK Blues is here: The Sound of 78's podcast Sadly, still can't find the old OMM.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 25 Aug 13 - 10:47 AM

But, Stim, I repeat that I had it on a 78, not an album, as flip side to Stardust in the mid-1940s; on which I certainly remember Happy Cat. The ref I give above to its being written in 1933 seems to have been a mistake for 1943, the date given in wiki's Hoagy Carmichael entry. Was the 1950's album track you cite above perhaps a remastering of the mid-40s 78? Wonder when Lucky Strike replaced Happy Cat, which sounds like a sort of proprietary cat food. Did any such firm, does anyone know, ever sponsor a hit parade?

~M~


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 25 Aug 13 - 10:15 AM

According to Indiana University, who maintain the Hoagy Carmichael archive, OMM was copyrighted in 1942. According to Joel Whitburn's "Pop Memories 1890-1954", the Paul Whiteman version with Jack Teagarden and Johnny Mercer was on the Billboard Charts for 1 week, November 27,1943. The HC version with the "Happy Cat Hit Parade" line seems to have been recorded for an album in the late 1950's. Can't find any reference to it other than the song.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 24 Aug 13 - 08:10 PM

An early Irving Berlin song was "The Pullman Porters On Parade," published under a pseudonym. Lyrics in the thread "Pullman Porter Man."


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 24 Aug 13 - 07:00 PM

@KB: Thanks for the information.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 24 Aug 13 - 01:28 AM

Many thanks KB. That is probably the recording I remember. I am more & more coming to think that I must have misheard 'colored', which he does slur a bit; and have carried a false recollection all these many years; so this hare I have started is a non-runner. Sorry about that!

The "Lucky Strike" instead of "Happy-Cat" presumably some sponsorship deal with the cig co; or perhaps the sponsors of the radio hit-parade referred to had changed between 1933 & 1942 [who/what was "Happy-Cat"? Was it the name of some manufacturing firm?], so JM emended his lyric accordingly.

Mercer didn't seem to sing 'a "solid" music master', the original lyric [see Metro online version] tho I couldn't quite make out what he did sing; something like "soothing"? but that doesn't make all that sense? (On seconds thoughts, perhaps 'sure-thing'?). And he sings "What about my friend Beethoven" rather than "You'd better tell your friend..."

But a great song nonetheless; and we are used to variants around these parts, aren't we just!

~M~


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: KB in Iowa
Date: 23 Aug 13 - 09:32 PM

I found "The Old Music Master" on the Internet Archive among a collection of Paul Whiteman music.

I later found the same version on Youtube where the description says it is Johnny Mercer and Jack Teagarden (which sounds right to me) and that is was recorded on June 12, 1942. One of the comments below says it is the Paul Whiteman Orchestra.

Here I found confirmation that the above info is probably accurate.

I know the phrasing is no longer considered appropriate and I probably wouldn't play it if my son's girlfriend or her dad were around but for myself, I like it. Of course I am partial to Jack Teagarden.

I just found a version by Hoagy Carmichael where it sounds to me like he says 'colered boy' but that doesn't mean he didn't record a version with 'curly boy' instead.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 23 Aug 13 - 07:13 PM

FWIW, I remember that, back in 1953, I was playing some banjo in a state forest camp in NC. A passerby stopped, and then said, admiringly," You pick that like a nigger,' I considered it a compliment then, and still do.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 23 Aug 13 - 06:56 PM

refresh. I'm wondering that too.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 23 Aug 13 - 02:21 AM

Another somewhat forced rhyme worth drawing to attention is, "You'd better tell your friend Beethoven And Mr Reginald De Koven That they better do the same as you Or they're going to be corny too"" ~~

"Henry Louis Reginald De Koven (April 3, 1859 – January 16, 1920) was an American music critic and prolific composer, particularly of comic operas." wiki

Very famous in his time [see wiki entry], but I wonder whether still a name to conjure with as late as the 30s. Made a good rhyme, though.

The post originally mentioning this song, 19 Aug 0231 pm, mentions a variant in lyrics ('Happy-cat Hit Parade/Lucky Strike Hit Parade') between some online and recorded versions. So maybe my 'curly/colored' confusion is another example. @KB in Iowa, whose is the recording that you mention in which you find this 'Hit Parade' variant?

~M~


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 23 Aug 13 - 01:58 AM

Drifting a little ~~ One of the sites I found points out that the little boy tells the music master that "about 1935, You'll begin to hear swing, boogie-woogie and jive", tho the song was actually published in 1933. So Mercer obviously fudged it a bit for the sake of the '35 - jive' rhyme.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 23 Aug 13 - 01:38 AM

Not sure about that, Morwen; but, as I say above, the "Metro" online lyrics site certainly gives 'colored'. So does "SONGLYRICS - know the words". Also www.johnnymercer.com. (Only the music was Carmichael's, of course: the brilliant lyrics were by the distinguished Johnny Mercer.)

It is of course possible that I misheard [tho Carmichael's diction, tho idiosyncratic in delivery, was always well articulated]. I don't think, tho, that my memory is at fault, tho it was 65 or so years ago!.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 23 Aug 13 - 01:26 AM

@MtheGM: I actually wonder what the sheet music for the song says- whether it's 'colored' or 'curly'.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 22 Aug 13 - 10:22 AM

Could be [that was me by the way, with cookie down & typing finger going a bit funny]. Metro lyrics certainly gives 'colored'. But it was Carmichael himself singing. All these years I have seen an angelic child with fair curly hair, a bit like Sir John Millais's 'Bubbles' [url below] - the image that 'curly' brought to my mind, as it was the emblem of Pears Soap, whose Child's Encyclopædia I had a copy of to look things up in, & of course Millais' curly-headed painting formed the frontispiece. I shall have to rethink my mental image, clearly.

~M~

http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/picture-of-month/displaypicture.aspx?id=299


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Aug 13 - 12:01 AM

@Mhed: Probably a bowdlerisation?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,MhedGM
Date: 21 Aug 13 - 02:30 PM

I had a 78 record [you can work out from that how long ago! back in the 1940s!] of Hoagy Carmichael himself singing The Old Music Master, flip side of Stardust. I remember that he distinctly sang "a little curly boy", rather than "colored".

~M~


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 20 Aug 13 - 06:59 PM

@Azizi: Hi.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: Azizi
Date: 20 Aug 13 - 11:33 AM

Thanks to MorwenEdhelwen1 for providing a link to the article entitled by "Alexander's Ragtime Band at One Hundred" by Benjamin Sears & Bradford Conner.

As a result of reading that article, I published this post on my cultural blog:

http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/08/black-race-markers-in-irving-berlins.html "Black (Race) Markers In Irving Berlin's "Alexander's Ragtime Band".

I also added the following comment to that post:
"As a matter of information, for five years I was a very active member of Mudcat folk music forum. However, for some time I've very rarely posted there for various reasons, most of which have to do with the scarcity of commenters who are People of Color, and my concerns about comments on that forum about race & racism.

Nevertheless, I acknowledge that I have learned a great deal from some Mudcat commenters. And I also acknowledge that I sometimes get ideas about posts on my blog from scanning that forum. One such idea is this post aboout Black markers in Irving Berlin's song "Alexander's Ragtime Band".

Also, for what it's worth, with regard to the subject of that particular Mudcat thread which is about the meaning of "Pickaninny in closet" as it was used in reference to Irving Berlin, I'm largely in agreement with the comments made by Gibb Sahib Date: 18 Aug 13 - 07:11 PM."

-Azizi Powell


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 10:51 PM

@KB: Very interesting about the song!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 07:16 PM

@Q: Not just in America but in Australia too.

Re ''Alexander'' as a coon song:

http://www.benandbrad.com/alexander.html


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 02:32 PM

Berlin was accused by the Schuberts (the theater moguls) of hiring only Jews for his shows. He pointed out that the majority were Italians.

The various immigrants from Europe tended to settle and associate with those from their own country. There were Irish, Jewish, Italian, Polish, German, Chinese and other communities within the city, each with its own stores, clubs, etc.
Some of these still survive, if diluted.

Demographics change. Large sections of East, and west, Harlem, are mostly Hispanic now.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: KB in Iowa
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 02:31 PM

ME1, reading through this your question about why it would be a "little colored boy" rather than an adult got me thinking. I had previously come across a song called "The Old Music Master" with a similar theme.
Turns out it was written by Hoagy Carmichael and recorded by Paul Whiteman who had a minor hit with it in 1943.

Here are the opening lyrics:

One night long ago by the light of the moon
An old music master sat composing a tune
His spirit was soaring and his heart full of joy
When right out of nowhere stepped
A little colored boy

You gotta jump it, music master
You gotta play that rhythm faster
You're never gonna get it played
On the Happy Cat Hit Parade


These are the lyrics as found on the internet but the recording I have says "On the Lucky Strike Hit Parade"

Now I wonder if this was inspired by the story about Irving Berlin, or perhaps both spring from an idea common at the time.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 02:14 PM

As to humor, years ago, I worked in onboard services on a one of the former New York Central lines. There was a brakeman everybody called "The Irishman" and one day, one of deadheads asked the conductor, "Half the crew on this line are Irish. How come he gets called "The Irishman"?" The answer: "Because he's Polish."


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 12:34 PM

Ya said it, Stim.

Nothing to do with book English.
Talk on the street and over the back fence, if written the way it sounds, ends up the way these lyricists set it down.

Austrailian also would be peculiar if attempt was made to write it as heard.

G'die, Bob Bolton! Haven't seen you in mudcat recently)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 11:51 AM

Waitresses still call their customers "Hon" around her,Q(Central and Western Maryland up into Pennsylvania.

To expand on Q's point, it is important to understand that Berlin, as well as Ira Gershwin, Larry Hart, Cole Porter, and all the other Jazz age lyricists tried to capture the speech of ordinary people in their lyrics. This was a very different thing from 19th century lyricists who tended to write in a poetic language that was formal, heavily Latinate, and often turned on word and grammatical usage that was rarely used in spoken English.

As Gibb Sahib pointed out, congenial insults, backhanded compliments, ironic comments and smart remarks are pretty much a staple of American conversation, and not just on the sidewalks of New York.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 11:14 AM

"Alexander's Ragtime Band:"

American speech of the period 1900-1920 was full of usages that to a foreigner seem to be dialect. Ragtime speech was popular among all who did the dances of the day and talked the latest slang.

Moreover, the "little woman" was often referred to by almost anything that was "cute" or belittling. Women did not have complete suffrage until passage if the 19th Amendment.

"Honey" remained common through WW2. Often the woman called the man "honey." It was not dialectic in American speech. In many greasy spoons the waitress referred to a male customer as "honey." (The equivalent in London was "love," in cockney speech.)

Your reference to it as a "coon" song brought me to a full stop!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 06:25 AM

Anyway, back to the topic: maybe the symbol behind the image of the pickaninny may be related to this:
http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/picaninny/

@Stim (few posts back): "Alexander's Ragtime Band" would probably have been considered a "coon song" in 1911 though, just because of the name and dialect lyrics.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 04:45 AM

@Gibb:

In New York, all compliments are backhanded!

Mentally noted down as something to remember for the steampunk sci-fi novel I am 'writing' which is set in Five Points! :) :D


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 03:41 AM

Morwen-

In New York, all compliments are backhand!

It's one of the reasons a lot of us from that part of the world have a tough time tolerating (not really) Canadians, people from Seattle, etc. (They are stereotypically kind and direct.) And though they seem to appreciate _Seinfeld_, I always wondered if they were "getting" it the same way as me!

Now: the challenge is figuring out exactly where the insult (the "backhand" part) lies, along with whether or not the person giving it intends to cause hurt or to show affection!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 01:10 AM

@Gibb: So in a way it's sort of a backhanded compliment?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 18 Aug 13 - 07:11 PM

Morwen,

In the U.S., "pickaninny" does not (/did not) just convey the meaning of "Black child." The "pickaninny" represented a specific type of symbol / trope / meme / whatever in racial imagery—a symbol employed in various yet often specific ways.

For example, one might want to evoke certain racialist ideas of Blackness without evoking others. I don't really want to get into that world of thinking and its demented "logic." It suffices to say that I think people who used the quip about Berlin were adeptly (if that can be said) using the racial language to convey what they wanted —the idea of an essential Black character/ way of being/ musicality/ etc— without any extra unwanted connotations and within prescribed ideas of what one could say so as to not be perceived as "a racist" per se (while of course still subscribing to ideas about race).

My last sentence was a long one so in brief: My opinion is that while "pickaninny" (or "little colored boy") is rich with connotations, I doubt that in the context of the quip there was any intended meaning re: Berlin beyond the one "Berlin is a White man amazingly adept at capturing Black musical style."

I think your various interpretations are well thought out, Morwen, and interesting. Could be; they don't ring especially true to *me* though.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 18 Aug 13 - 04:38 PM

As a point of information,I've been looking through the complete book of Irving Berlin lyrics, and I cannot find one single lyric that could be characterized in any way as a "blackface minstrel song"--"Alexander's Ragtime Band" doesn't have any of ethnic caricatures that inhabited the "coon songs"(and many of them, such as "All Coons Look a Like to Me", were written by black composers and lyricists), and in one song that uses a form of the "c" word, he uses it as a synonym for ragtime music...given that lyrics of the time were full of this sort of thing, Berlin was actually an exemplary writer...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 18 Aug 13 - 07:06 AM

Gibb, could the "logic" have had something to do with the belief that Black people are childlike and incapable of looking after themselves, which, as you know, was a common justification for slavery. I was thinking it might have a religious element to it as well because Berlin was a Belarusian (or Russian) immigrant from a religious Jewish family. The "fact" that the boy in the closet is, well, a boy might (if the rumour reflects religious prejudice) might be intended to portray Berlin as a child exploiter, like the old fence Fagin in Oliver Twist.

That's just my opinion though.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 18 Aug 13 - 04:20 AM

I think the quip is intended to say that Berlin was adept at writing music in the "Black" idiom—or at least as that idiom was perceived at the time. People thought his music had the ring of authenticity. However, this sense of authenticity could be *separated* from the individual (Berlin). He was not perceived to *embody* Blackness. It was one of the "tricks up his sleeve." (in his closet ~ up his sleeve).

There is a racist logic to why the person in the closet was a boy rather than a grown adult. I don't know whether you want to explore that 'logic', but I believe at least, intuitively, that I understand why people did that. That is, why at the time racists —who weren't all about Racism, but who were racist nonetheless— used images of Black kids.

What I am trying to say is that I think the fact that the person in the closet was a boy is merely incidental (i.e. incidental to the language of racism people were using). The main point was to note Berlin's skills of (as it was perceived) imitation. And to say it in such a way as made clear that "Black" stuff was indeed both distinct in its characteristics AND *district from* the (perceived) essential make-up of Jews and/or Whites. It's a comment that rejects the idea that anybody can learn anything and that culture is independent of race. In later eras, it would be looked at as a good thing if a White/Jewish performer had "grown up with" African-American culture because that would provide an elegant way to account for the authenticity of their music. This quote, however, reveals that while people appreciated the "Black" characteristic in the music, they did not want to view the performer as partly Black himself.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 17 Aug 13 - 06:48 PM

Also that comment about "Russian birth and ancestry."


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,Morwen Edhelwen1
Date: 17 Aug 13 - 01:07 AM

i think the idea that Berlin mocked Black people comes from the fact that he used to write blackface minstrel tunes-- pretty common back then, but unacceptable now.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,Dani
Date: 16 Aug 13 - 10:47 AM

How could I not have KNOWN of "Suppertime"?! Amazing.

http://youtu.be/Y5Zvjjbc-Hk

Dani


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 15 Aug 13 - 05:57 PM

@McGrath: Yes, and in other Asian countries too. Last year my parents, brother and I went to Singapore to visit relatives, and I noticed a lot of stores there sell skin-whitening creams and other skin-whitening products. IIRC, it has to do with the days when poverty and hard labour meant you spent most of your time working out in the sun while a rich person could afford to stay inside because they had servants/tenants (if their family owned land).


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 Aug 13 - 03:41 PM

Unfortunately the stuff about shades of skin still operates in many places - for example just today in the Guardian there's a piece about how it works in India "India's unfair bsession with lighter skin".


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 15 Aug 13 - 09:35 AM

It seems to me that the song is a street scene that characterizes the night life in a very exciting place. At the time, lots of women wore spangled gowns, and, of course, lots of people spent money like they had a lot of it, even when they didn't. It's still like that, at least in some places;-)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 15 Aug 13 - 12:48 AM

Q and Stim: Thanks for the explanation.

Do you think the "high browns" in the song referred to the women who worked at the Cotton Club? For some reason I always thought the song referred to "slumming", mzybe because of these lines:

Come with me and we'll attend their jubilee
And see them spend their last two bits
Puttin' on the Ritz.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 14 Aug 13 - 08:43 PM

During the Harlem Renaissance, there was a relationship of social standing and income to the shade of brown.

The lighter the color, the easier it was for a performer to get a job in the Cotton Club and the other venues in Harlem, which were well-attended by white New Yorkers, or to get a job in the City.

This color shade form of "racism" is well-known in Haiti and the Caribbean.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 14 Aug 13 - 06:40 PM

People might be uncomfortable with the reference to "High browns from down the levy". It's not one of my favorite Berlin lines, because it harkens to a time when skin color was connected to social standing, and legal rights. That wasn't his intention, though. Consider that POTR was introduced in a 1930 film of the same name, and had the distinction of being the first song ever sung in a film by an interracial chorus. Not really something any sort of racist would be likely to do.

Anyway, he re-wrote the lyric when the song was filmed again 1946.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 14 Aug 13 - 05:12 PM

In that context, why is POTR sometimes seen as racist?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,Morwen Edhelwen
Date: 13 Aug 13 - 10:44 PM

Thanks, Stim- as I said, I love that version.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 13 Aug 13 - 09:00 PM

Sorry, that was from me, and it got away before editing. The Fred Astaire version from "Blue Skies" changes Lennox Avenue to Park Avenue and has different verses.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Aug 13 - 08:57 PM

Check the lyrics:

Have you seen the well-to-do
Up on Lennox Avenue
On that famous thoroughfare
With their noses in the air

High hats and Arrow collars
White spats and fifteen dollars
Spending every dime
For a wonderful time

If you're blue
And you don't know where to go to
Why don't you go where Harlem flits
Puttin' on the Ritz
Spangled Gowns upon the bevy of
High browns from down the levy
All misfits
Puttin' on the Ritz

That's where each and every lulu-belle goes
Every Thursday evening with her swell beaus
Rubbin' elbows

Come with me and we'll attend their jubilee
And see them spend
Their last two bits
Puttin' on the Ritz

If you're blue
And you don't know where to go to
Why don't you go where Harlem flits
Puttin' on the Ritz
Spangled Gowns upon the bevy of
High browns from down the levy
All misfits
Puttin' on that certain Ritz

That's where each and every lulu-belle goes
Every Thursday evening with her swell beaus
Rubbin' elbows

Come with me and we'll attend their jubilee
And see them spend
Their last two bits
Puttin' on the Ritz


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Pickaninny in closet
From: GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 13 Aug 13 - 06:28 PM

@Stim: How could I have forgotten 'Suppertime'?

@Q: Never knew that about POTR! I personally love the original version- sounds much less clunky IMO than the later one.


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