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Origin: Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair

DigiTrad:
BLACK IS THE COLOR OF MY TRUE LOVE'S HAIR (1)
BLACK IS THE COLOUR (2)


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GUEST,Mike Yates 06 Oct 14 - 06:05 AM
MGM∑Lion 05 Oct 14 - 01:48 PM
MGM∑Lion 05 Oct 14 - 01:32 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 05 Oct 14 - 12:57 PM
MGM∑Lion 05 Oct 14 - 04:11 AM
MGM∑Lion 05 Oct 14 - 04:03 AM
MGM∑Lion 05 Oct 14 - 02:42 AM
GUEST,Mike Yates 04 Oct 14 - 04:08 PM
GUEST,Andrew 'blind boy' Butler 03 Oct 14 - 11:37 PM
John Minear 08 Jan 12 - 04:16 PM
Richard from Liverpool 07 Jan 12 - 04:35 PM
John Minear 07 Jan 12 - 04:30 PM
Lighter 07 Jan 12 - 10:23 AM
MGM∑Lion 07 Jan 12 - 12:19 AM
Brian Peters 06 Jan 12 - 01:11 PM
Brian Peters 06 Jan 12 - 10:21 AM
GUEST,Listener 08 Oct 08 - 07:26 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 31 Dec 07 - 12:26 PM
Jim Carroll 31 Dec 07 - 05:47 AM
Fiddlin' Jim 30 Dec 07 - 04:37 PM
Stringsinger 13 Mar 07 - 11:50 AM
Kevin L Rietmann 13 Mar 07 - 12:24 AM
Kevin L Rietmann 12 Mar 07 - 07:49 PM
GUEST,Nellie Clatt 18 Feb 07 - 04:39 AM
GUEST,Jordi 18 Feb 07 - 12:04 AM
Malcolm Douglas 17 Feb 07 - 11:20 PM
GUEST,Jordi 17 Feb 07 - 11:18 PM
GUEST,Jordi 17 Feb 07 - 11:11 PM
John Minear 08 May 06 - 05:52 PM
John Minear 08 May 06 - 05:24 PM
Declan 26 Apr 06 - 02:31 PM
John Minear 26 Apr 06 - 07:36 AM
GUEST,Bobby McMillon 25 Apr 06 - 05:01 PM
John Minear 24 Apr 06 - 08:07 PM
The Fooles Troupe 24 Nov 05 - 12:17 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 23 Nov 05 - 11:42 PM
Stephen R. 23 Nov 05 - 10:44 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 23 Nov 05 - 08:23 PM
Lighter 23 Nov 05 - 06:26 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 23 Nov 05 - 04:40 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 23 Nov 05 - 03:29 PM
Malcolm Douglas 22 Nov 05 - 10:23 PM
The Fooles Troupe 22 Nov 05 - 10:07 PM
Malcolm Douglas 22 Nov 05 - 09:44 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 22 Nov 05 - 02:26 PM
GUEST,robinia 22 Nov 05 - 12:19 PM
Cluin 22 Nov 05 - 11:43 AM
GUEST,robinia@eskimo.com 22 Nov 05 - 11:35 AM
GUEST,george_mcarthur@hotmail.com 22 Nov 05 - 10:59 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 13 Nov 05 - 06:18 PM
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Subject: RE: Origin: Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair
From: GUEST,Mike Yates
Date: 06 Oct 14 - 06:05 AM

Don't forget Mary Ann Haynes's opening verse from "The Colour of Amber". Clearly from the same group of songs.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair
From: MGM∑Lion
Date: 05 Oct 14 - 01:48 PM

... and of course the Vernon Dalhart mentioned was a well-known singer in various genres, including grand opera -- he sang in Puccini's Girl Of The Golden West and as Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly for a NY opera company -- and Gilbert & Sullivan. Best known probably nowadays for his famous recording of Wreck Of The Old 97, in which he committed the notable mondegreen, "It was on that bend he lost his average"; when what he had clearly lost were his "airbrakes" -- much more likely to have caused "Into the rock he crashed."! Dalhart's real name was *Marion Try Slaughter.

≈M≈

*Drift: Another instance of that Transatlantic-flack-causing variation between our two languages, whereby over there Marion is a male name [John Wayne, the Duke himself, another who had if as a birth name], while Robin is a female one. What you make of the Robin Hood ballads, so many of which feature Maid Marian as the virile outlaw's squeeze, we cannot imagine.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair
From: MGM∑Lion
Date: 05 Oct 14 - 01:32 PM

Now that one is aa beautiful an amalgam of floaters as ever you did see & hear. Interested, tho, that the syntax of the phrase in question has been tidied up in the course of [consciously or otherwise] collating all those verses from multiple sources.

≈M≈


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Subject: RE: Origin: Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 05 Oct 14 - 12:57 PM

THE SAILOR'S SWEETHEART
Missouri, Coll. 1928 by Randolph

Black is the color of my true love's hair,
His cheeks are as red as the roses fair.
If he would return it would give me joy,
For none will I have but my sweet sailor boy.

Oh mother, oh mother, build me a boat,
That over the ocean I may float,
An' ev'ry ship that I pass by
Where I may enquire for my sweet sailor boy.

She built her a boat an' she floated on the main,
She spied three ships just out of Spain,
She ask of the captain as he drew nigh,
Of him she did enquire of her sweet sailor boy.

Fair lady, fair lady, that never can be,
For he was drownded in the gulf sea,
Near by Rock Isle as we pass by,
There's where we lost your sweet sailor boy.

She stove her vessel against the rock,
An' I thought this lady's heart was broke,
She wrung her hands an' tore her hair,
Just like some lady in great despair.

Go bring me a chair and set me down,
An' a pen an' ink to write it down,
At the end of every line she dropped a tear,
At the end of the verse cried oh my dear.

There's only one thing that I crave,
Is a marble tomb stone on my grave,
An' on my breast a mournin' dove,
To show the world I died for love.

Randolph reviews the various English and American texts, and notes that "Some very similar lines are found in "Captain, Oh Captain" as recorded phonographically by Vernon Dalhart."

No. 68, THE SAILOR'S SWEETHEART, pp. 296-298. Musical score for the first two verses, which differs from the melody for the subsequent verses.
Randolph collected other versions, but this is the only one with "Black is the Color."

Vance Randolph, Ozark Folksongs, Vol. 1, British Ballads and Songs.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair
From: MGM∑Lion
Date: 05 Oct 14 - 04:11 AM

... especially as that obsolete initial 'y', equivalent of later suffix -ed to imply adjectival participle, gives one that final letter of 'rosy'. "Like a rose fair" would make good sense, given poetic inversion of noun & adjective. But "like a rosy fair" must be a garbled form of something; so where might that final 'y' have floated in from?

Speculation? Maybe. But think of interpretative implications, even so.

≈M≈


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Subject: RE: Origin: Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair
From: MGM∑Lion
Date: 05 Oct 14 - 04:03 AM

And "Rosy Fair" isn't in itself a meaningful formulation, is it? I mean, what, precisely, is a "rosy fair" which her/his face/cheeks/lips is/are like? A flower market? Scarcely makes sense, does it? So surely the words must be a corruption of something? So why not Spenser's 'redde rose medled with the White yfere'? as well as anything else with roses & (homonyms of) fair in?


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Subject: RE: Origin: Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair
From: MGM∑Lion
Date: 05 Oct 14 - 02:42 AM

So it was, Mike. But it was published in Folk Review.

And surely all suggestions as to verbal influence are going to be "speculative"?

≈M≈


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Subject: RE: Origin: Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair
From: GUEST,Mike Yates
Date: 04 Oct 14 - 04:08 PM

Another version of "Black is the Colour" is included in volume 5 of "Far in the Mountains" (Musical Traditions MTCD513). It was sung to me by Inez Chandler of Madison County, NC in 1980. Inez was a friend of Dellie Norton, whose own version of the song can be heard on MTCD503-4.

As regards MGM's "Rosy Fair" idea. He did submit this for publication in the Folk Music Journal, but it was rejected as being too speculative.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair
From: GUEST,Andrew 'blind boy' Butler
Date: 03 Oct 14 - 11:37 PM

When I was just starting out, a friend of mine who shall remain nameless as Dr James Garnett, told me that this song comes from the 'pubic wig' tradition.

Works for me


Butler


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Subject: RE: Origin: Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair
From: John Minear
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 04:16 PM

Better late than not at all. I've quickly scanned this thread and I don't see a link to the Lizzie Roberts version, so here it is:

http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/english-folk-songs/southern-appalachians%20-%200355.htm

This is taken from the earlier and shorter collection that Sharp did with Olive Dame Campbell. I have been unable to find, quickly, which of these songs were collected by Campbell, before Sharp arrived. Surely that list must exist. I am curious to know if "Black is the Color" was perhaps collected by Campbell. Is there information about this in Sharp's notebooks by any chance. I've not found any mention on his part to Lizzie Roberts.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair
From: Richard from Liverpool
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 04:35 PM

Christy Moore, in his book "One voice: My Life in Song" does indeed note that his version of this song is "from the singing of Hamish Imlach". He the following to say (along with some comments about Hamish Imlach himself):

"Once, I was standing in the queue outside the MSG [Manchester Sports Guild Folk Club] to hear Hamish Imlach. He walked down the street and, seeing me with a guitar case, he stopped to chat and then invited me in as his guest. It was the beginning of a long friendship that lasted until he died in the first minutes of 1996...

"This song was a mainstay of Hamish's set and I only started doing it when I returned to Ireland and off his patch. In recent years it has become part of the national repertoire. There is another fine version I heard sung by the late Lian Weldon. The words are quite similar but Liam's melody was a lot more dramatic and may have been based on a slow air of the same name that I heard Willie Clancy play on the pipes."


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Subject: RE: Origin: Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair
From: John Minear
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 04:30 PM

Brian, thank you so much for the clarification on the Lizzie Roberts/Emma Hensley Shelton version of "Black is the Color." I think I really wanted that to be Lizzie Roberts singing her version of that song! And I am very glad to know that it was her! Those recordings are so valuable, but so frustrating. Please pass along my thanks to Mike Yates for helping to clear this up. It would be really helpful if somebody could start a new thread and publish a corrected track listing (as near as possible) for both volumes of the Karpeles collection.

And while I have not read back over this entire thread yet, I am wondering if anyone has been able to find a source for Lizzie Roberts' version? While its collection of verses probably evolved from a number of sources, the tune seems unique and the song as a whole seems to cohere in such a way as to suggest that it had been around for awhile. And it certainly is a different creature from the "Niles version" !


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Subject: RE: Origin: Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair
From: Lighter
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 10:23 AM

Isn't "roses fair" or "rose so fair" more likely?


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Subject: RE: Origin: Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair
From: MGM∑Lion
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 12:19 AM

I once had a piece in Folk Review, suggesting that the somewhat garbled 2nd line of Black Is The Color, common to Lizzie Roberts, Niles, et al, of 'rosy fair', seemed to furnish a, perhaps remote, echo of Edmund Spenser's song to Elisa, Queen of the Shepherds, obviously a pastoral idealisation of Queen Elizabeth I, in the April eclogue of his The Shepheardes Calender [sic, 1579]:

"The redde rose medled with the White yfere,
In either cheeke depeincten liuely chere." [sic spelling passim].

(The red rose mixed together with the white paint lively cheer in each of her cheeks)

'Yfere' meant 'together' ~~ no connection with fairness, but would sound so. {A pretty-well obsolete word even when Spenser was writing ~~ he acknowledged a great debt to Chaucer, his 'well of English undefiled', who flourished 200 years earlier, and so affected an obsolescent style and vocabulary.}

Probably a fanciful association; but perhaps just worth taking into consideration as a possible distant source. The chiming redolence of 'rosy fair' with 'rose ... yfere' raises a distinct echo in my mind. Could Spenser's pastoral 'shephearde' Hobbinol, singing in praise of an idealised Gloriana, have descended through who knows what anfractuous ways, to Mrs Lizzie Roberts in N Carolina singing in praise of an unnamed narrator's dark-haired love?

~Michael~




~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Origin: Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair
From: Brian Peters
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 01:11 PM

I said there were a couple of points to clear up; here's the other one.

Just in case anyone's as confused as I was about the relationship between the Lizzie Roberts recording, the Niles version and the various renditions by Irish singers, here's John Jacob Niles' version
And here's Christie Moore's version

What Christie is singing is very close to the Lizzie Roberts version, and the same goes for the Corrs, Sinead O'Connor, Cara Dillon and so on. Whereas if you look up the Joan Baez recording, she sang the Niles composition (and I reckon it's sufficiently different from the traditional one to be called 'a composition'). Someone further up the thread suggested that Willie Clancy popularised the song in Ireland, having learned it from Jean Ritchie, and Jean herself said that she'd learned it from her sisters who had been at Berea college, and most probably learned the Cecil Sharp / Lizzie Roberts version there.

So there we have it: Lizzie Roberts' 'Black is the Colour', collected in Hot Springs, Madison County, North Carolina, has joined 'The Wild Rover' and 'Dirty Old Town' as another 'Honorary Irish' song. It's probably been obvious to everyone else for years, but I thought I'd share it anyway.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair
From: Brian Peters
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 10:21 AM

I looked up this old thread in the course of researching the Sharp / Karpeles Appalachian collection, and thought I should clear up a couple of points. Some way up above, my good friend John Minear wrote:

"In the early 1950's Maud Karpeles made a return trip to the Southern Appalachians to see if she could find any of the singers that she and Cecil Sharp had visited earlier. This time she took a recording machine. She found Lizzie Roberts and recorded her singing "Black is the Color"...

This is an incorrect statement and I would like to clear up my mistake. Maud Karpeles recorded Emma Hensley (Mrs. Donald Shelton) of Carmen, N.C. singing Lizzie Roberts' version of "Black is the Color" in the 1950s. This is on the Folktrax 908 CD. I say that this is Lizzie Roberts' version, that is in Sharp's collection. It looks the same to me.


I've corresponded with Mike Yates on this point, and you were right the first time, John. The track listings on that Folktrax release are inaccurate. It was Lizzie Roberts that MK recorded singing 'Black is the Colour' when she went back to Hot Springs in 1950 - we know this because she makes reference in her own account to Ms. Roberts' acquisition of a harmonium with which she accompanied the song, "completely spoiling the lovely tune." On the Folktrax release you can hear her sing it both with and without the harmonium - the defiantly major-key accompaniment sounds almost comically strange, if you're used to the unaccompanied version.

The Folktrax track listing for this album is all over the place, I'm afraid. It lists Emma Shelton both under her married name, and her maiden name of Hensley, and incorrectly attributes several tracks. Tracks 1, 2 and 19 - all credited to 'Emma Hensley' seem to be Lizzie Roberts. Track 20 ('Dear Companion') is credited to 'Ella (sic) Shelton', but is almost certainly Emma Shelton-Hensley, since the song as sung is identical to that Cecil Sharp collected from her mother Rosa. On the same grounds I would say the attribution of tracks 24 and 25 to Emma Shelton is correct, and the spoken piece (#22) describing her running away from the school that Sharp had assisted her to attend is definitely Emma too.

But what of tracks 14, 15 and 16, all attributed to 'Emma Hensley'? To me the voice here sounds harsher than the singer of the songs we can confirm as Emma's. Also, the version of 'Gypsy Laddie' at #14 is almost identical to that sung to Sharp by Becky Mitchell of Burnsville, NC, in September 1918, whereas this ballad doesn't appear anywhere else in the (quite extensive) Hensley family repertoire - and neither did the two 'jigs' at #15 and #16, come to that. I suspect that this is a different singer, but I suppose you'd have to go to the original recordings or Karpeles' diaries to be certain who it is.

Oh, and I would guess that the fiddle tunes at #3, yet again credited to Emma, are the work of her husband Donald Shelton, who contributes several other fiddle pieces. What a shambles!


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Subject: RE: Origin: Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair
From: GUEST,Listener
Date: 08 Oct 08 - 07:26 AM

l love this song its one of my favourites.It has so much meaning


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 31 Dec 07 - 12:26 PM

Malcolm Douglas reproduced comments by Vaughan Williams and A. L. Lloyd in the Penguin book in thread 22870: A Sailors Life .
The version from the Penguin book is posted in that thread.
Malcolm Douglas added notes in his revision of the Penguin book, "Classic English Folk Songs," EFDSS.

A Sailor's Life, Died for Love and its derivative, Tavern in the Town, and others, have been joined to Black Is the Color (see post by John Minear 06 Aug 02, above, for a version that is relatively free of the older English songs) by singers for some 100 years.


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 31 Dec 07 - 05:47 AM

Jim,
What you have there is a song usually known on this side of the Atlantic as 'A Sailor's Life', with a bit of 'Died For Love' thrown in.
We recorded it on numerous occasions from Irish Travellers and used the title for an album of them (Early In The Month of Spring).
This is the version we got from Kerry Traveller Mikeen McCarthy, along with our note when we re-issued the cassette as 'From Puck To Appleby'

2 - Early in the Month of Spring
(Roud 273, Laws K12) Mikeen McCarthy

Oh, 'twas early, early in the month of spring,
When my love Willie went to serve the king;
The night was dark and the wind blew high,
Oh, that parted me from my sailor boy.

"Oh, then, father, father, build me a boat,
It's on the ocean I mean to float,
To watch those big boats as they pass by;
Have they any tidings of my sailor boy?"

Oh, she was not sailing but a day or two,
When she spied a French ship and all her crew,
Saying, "Captain, Captain, come tell me true,
Oh, does my love, Willie, sail aboard with you?"

"Oh, what colour hair has your Willie dear?
What kind of clothes do your Willie wear?"
"He've a bright silk jacket and it trimmed all round,
And his golden locks they are hanging down."

"Oh. indeed fair lady, your love is not here,
For he is drownded, I am greatly feared,
For in yon green island as we passed by,
Oh. we lost nine more and your Willie boy."

Oh, she wrung her hands and she tore her hair,
She was like a lady all on despair,
She dashed her small boat against the rocks,
Saying, "What will I do if my love is lost?"

Oh, I'll write a letter and I'll write it long,
In every line I will sing a song,
In every line I will shed a tear,
And in every verse I'll cry, "Willie dear."

"Oh, then, father, father, dig me my grave,
Oh, dig it long, both wide and deep,
Put a headstone to my head and feet,
And let the world know it was in love I died."

English folk-song scholar, A L Lloyd, in his note to the Sussex version of this, entitled A Sailor's Life, pointed out that this is often com¨bined with Died For Love, although he held them to be two different songs. He might also have added that is has become entangled with several other songs, including The Butcher Boy and Black is the Colour.
The evocative 'month of spring' opening line can also to be found in the version recorded from Traveller Lal Smith in 1952, which is hardly surprising as Mikeen and Lal's families were closely associated in Mikeen's youth. Lal's father, Christie Purcell, was a showman who, among other occupations, ran a travelling theatre company (known in Ireland as a Fit-Up). They performed plays such as East Lynne and Murder in the Red Barn around the towns and villages of rural Kerry in the nine¨teen thirties and forties and Mikeen and his three sisters participated in the productions as stage crew and as actors.
Mikeen learned the song from his father's singing and it was one that he sold on a ballad sheet when he was involved in that trade as a young man.

Ref: The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, R Vaughan Williams and A L Lloyd (eds.), Penguin Books. 1959.
Other CDs: Liz Jeffries - Topic TSCD 653; Phoebe Smith - Topic TSCD 661; Harry Cox -Rounder CD 1839.

Jim Carroll


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Subject: ADD Version: Black Is the Color
From: Fiddlin' Jim
Date: 30 Dec 07 - 04:37 PM

BLACK IS THE COLOR

I learned this in the late 1950s from a field recording in the possession of the late Bil Godsey, Champaign, Illinois . (see http://www.riverfronttimes.com/1999-08-25/news/strip-search/4)

It was sung by a Missouri woman with a guitar, in very loose time, almost like John Jacob Nile's dulcimer style. It bears no resemblance to Niles's famous "Black is the Color," nor to any other song I've heard, nor have I ever heard anyone else sing it.

BLACK IS THE COLOR

Chorus:
Black, black is the color of my true love's hair,
His face is like some lilly fair.
If ever he returns it will give me great joy,
For none can I love but my sweet sailor boy.

Oh Ma, oh Mother, go build me a boat
That I may on the ocean float,
And call to the ships as they pass by,
Tell me, pray, have you seen my sweet sailor boy.

She built her a boat on the deep, deep main,
And she spied three ships come out from Spain,
And she called to the captain as they passed by,
Tell me, pray, have you seen my sweet sailor boy?

Chorus.

"Oh no," said the captain, "That never can be,
"For your love was drowned in the deep salt sea,
"There off Rock Island as we passed by,
"It was there that we lost your sweet sailor boy."

She stove her boat into the rocks,
And I thought that the poor lady's heart was broke.
She wrung her hands and she tore her hair
Just like someone in deep despair.

Chorus.

Go dig me a grave both wide and deep,
Place a marble slab at my head and feet,
And on my breast place a mourning dove
To show to the world I died for love.


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 11:50 AM

Niles was a showman. He butchered a cello and made a dulcimer out of it. His voice was supposed to emulate a traditional Appalachian singer.

If he wrote "I Wonder as I Wander", "I Met Her In Venezuela", "Lass From the Low Countree",
"If I Had a Ribbon Bow", "In My Little Cabin", "Go 'Way From My Window".....he was one helluva great songwriter.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: Kevin L Rietmann
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 12:24 AM

Sorry, meant to say origins of the song in Ireland.


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: Kevin L Rietmann
Date: 12 Mar 07 - 07:49 PM

To perhaps illuminate the origins of this song, Click Here. This is an introduction to the tune from Liam O'Flynn, the piper who was a close friend of Willie Clancy's. Date of recording was late 1972, about six months before Willie died. As he says the words were known in Ireland but the tune was lost, and his source in Warsaw was an American girl whose parents or grandparents were Irish. Liam I think had formed Planxty with Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny, and Christy Moore by this time, so certainly Christy could have had a chance to learn this from Liam or Willie. Never heard his take or Hamish's so I can't say which one it resembles more.
From the liner notes of SeŠn 'ac Donnchadha's LP An Aill BŠin: The White Rock (Claddagh CC9), liner notes by Seamus Ennis = "Dark is the Colour of My True Love's Hair. I had already heard this song sung by Robin Roberts of New York, to her own guitar accompaniment, but to another tune, when Willie Clancy of Miltown Malbay, County Clare, brought it home from a folk-festival in Warsaw in the 1950s, and played it on the Uilleann pipes for me. Many of us fell immediately in love with the tune and SeŠn made sure to learn the words of the song too. He tells me it is now one of his favourites when he is in the mood for this type of song."


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: GUEST,Nellie Clatt
Date: 18 Feb 07 - 04:39 AM

I can't understand this reverence some of you have for JJ Niles, to me he sounded like a feckin howling banshee, and claimed to have written a lot of songs collected from the tradition.


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: GUEST,Jordi
Date: 18 Feb 07 - 12:04 AM

The discussion was where does Black is the color come from if you go to the Kentucky music musuem hall of fame you'll see that Jean Ritchies fame was not "Black is the Color of my true loves hair" whereas John Jacob Niles was.....

http://www.kentuckymusicmuseum.com/hall_of_fame.htm


Born April 28, 1892 in Louisville, Kentucky - Died May 1, 1980

Music played an important part in the early life of John Jacob Niles, and he would spend his life collecting, composing, and performing folk songs. By the age of 15 he had begun collecting songs in the Appalachian Mountains, a habit he would continue while serving as a ferry pilot in the U.S. Air Corps during World War I. Niles remained in France after the war, studying music at the Universite de Lyon and the Schola Cantorum in Paris.

He would continue his studies for two more years at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music upon returning to the United States. In 1921, he came to New York where he met the singer Marion Kerby. Kerby shared his love of folk music, so the two decided to work as a team, traveling throughout Europe and the United States.

Niles collected folk songs in the Southwest while working as a guide and chauffeur for photographer Doris Ulmann. During the '20s and '30s, he began publishing collections of folk songs, including Singing Soldiers (1927), Songs My Mother Never Taught Me (1929), and Songs of the Hill-folk (1934). In the '30s he began to perform solo, traveling widely and singing at high schools, churches, and colleges. He dressed in bright-colored shirts, wore corduroys, and sang in a striking, high falsetto. Barry Alfonso, recalling the first time he heard Niles on record, wrote, "Out of my stereo came his startling, other-worldly voice, the sound of someone enraptured ó or maybe possessed. He seemed to embody his dire ballad, rather than to merely perform it."

Niles wrote a number of classic folk songs that are often mistaken for traditional material, including, "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair," "Go 'Way From My Window," and "I Wonder as I Wander." He recorded numerous albums, including Early American Ballads (1939) and American Folk Lore (1941). He also composed more formal music, writing the oratorio "Lamentation," which would receive its first performance at the Indiana State Teachers College in 1951. Between 1967 and 1970 he would compose a work based on the poetry of Thomas Merton titled "The Niles-Merton Songs." The Songs of John Jacob Niles was published in 1975 and Niles would continue to perform publicly until two years before his death in 1980. Part Renaissance man, part traveling minstrel, Niles left an invaluable body of recordings, folk song collections, and compositions behind. His work has greatly aided the preservation and continued vitality of American folk culture.


(1922 -    ) Viper, KY

Mountain Dulcimer Performer, Folk Singer, Songwriter. Jean Ritchie was the youngest of 14 children from a well-known family of traditional singers. Jean's father taught her to play the Mountain Dulcimer and she was first recorded in 1948. A Fullbright Scholar, her 1952 release Jean Ritchie Singing Traditional Songs of Her Kentucky Mountain Family, was the first folk recording to be issued on the Electra label.


Folklorist Alan Lomax recorded Ritchie's songs for the Library of Congress Folksong Archives. Her light voice and simple arrangements have made her very popular. Ritchie's composition, My Dear Companion was recorded by Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton in 1987. Over the years, Jean Ritchie's name has become synonymous with excellence in traditional music.


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 11:20 PM

I think you may need to read this discussion a little more carefully, Jordi.


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: GUEST,Jordi
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 11:18 PM

The song is called Black is the Colour nothing else not sailor boy or My pretty little pink fare thee well.... "Black is the Colour of my true loves hair"


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: GUEST,Jordi
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 11:11 PM

Black is the Colour is from John Jacob Niles unless you wanna change the lyrics and the tune.... Mr Malcolm Douglas has other ideas but they are all speculative with no fact and even the facts he has. have changes the lyrics and tune.... From the Christy Moore and John Jacob Niles versions that everyone loves....so unless you have something contructive to add Mr Douglas then pipe up...


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: John Minear
Date: 08 May 06 - 05:52 PM

In his headnote on "Pretty Little Pink", Leonard Roberts refers to Vance Randoph's OZARK FOLK SONGS, no 756. I haven't had a chance to look that one up yet. He also references Carl Sandburg's AMERICAN SONGBAG, p. 166, and some versions in the Frank Brown Collection of NORTH CAROLINA FOLKLORE, III, no. 78. The texts in the Brown Collection are under the title of "Coffee Grows on a White Oak Tree". Out of the nine versions mentioned by Brown, three refer to "little Pink", but don't seem to have anything else in common with the Kentucky version. The Sandburg version is similar to those in Brown, and he thinks that it goes back to at least the Mexican War as a marching song. The tunes published by Brown and Sandburg, as near as I can tell, don't seem similar to either Leonard Roberts' Kentucky version or to the North Carolina "Black is the Color" traditions.

Other than the reference to "little Pink", I don't see any connection between Leonard Roberts' Kentucky version and this other tradition of "Coffee Grows on White Oak Trees". I am also aware that there are other "Pretty Little Pink" songs. I don't think that they are directly related either.

There does seem to be a relationship between Leonard Roberts' Kentucky version and the one sung by Dellie Norton from Madison County, North Carolina, which is printed earlier in this thread. She has as her first verse the following:

My pretty little pink, so fare you well.
You've slighted me, but I wish you well.
If never on earth I no more see,
I can't slight you like you've slighted me.

She also has the verse:

The winter have broke and the leaves are green.
The time has passed that we have seen.
But I hope the time will shortly come,
Never you and I will be as one.

These are very similar to verses in the Kentucky version. Mike Yates recorded the Dellie Norton version on August 28, 1980. Leonard Roberts recorded Doris Breeding's version in 1957. While there are definite relationships with some of the verses, the two tunes don't seem to me to be similar at all. Dellie Norton uses a variation of the Lizzie Roberts' version of "Black is the Color".

Some of the verses in the Kentucky version also seem similar to those collected by Mellinger Henry in Tennessee. It seems to me like a number of songs have gotten mixed up here and have on occasion been reworked with other materials. It is still not clear to me that anyone has turned up anything that is directly parallel to the version that Cecil Sharp collected from Lizzie Roberts in 1916 in Hot Springs, NC. The Kentucky version from Doris Breeding was "learned from her mother". That would mean that it could easily go back into the 19th century, except we don't know when her mother learned it.

We have a number of tantalizing relationships and definitely a number of missing links in the transmission of this song, and as near as I can tell, nothing that we know for sure pre-dating Lizzie Roberts' version.


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Subject: ADD Version: Pretty Little Pink
From: John Minear
Date: 08 May 06 - 05:24 PM

Here is "Pretty Little Pink" from Leonard Roberts' book IN THE PINE - SELECTED KENTUCKY FOLKSONGS (1978). He says that "The song was sung and tape recorded in 1957 by Doris Breeding, Adair County, learned from her mother." (pp. 234-235)

PRETTY LITTLE PINK

My pretty little Pink, so fare you well,
You slighted me, but I wish you well;
If you on earth no more I see,
I couldn't treat you like you have me.

The fairest face and the neatest hands,
The fairest face and the neatest hands,
The fairest face and the neatest hands,
I love the ground where on she stands.

I would build my house on some mountain top.
I would build my house on some mountain top.
I would build my house on some mountain top.
Where the sun it failed to shine.

I will love you till the day I die,
I will love you till the day I die,
I will love you till the day I die,
To think of you it makes me cry.

The winter had broke and the leaves turned green,
The winter had broke and the leaves turned green,
The winter had broke and the leaves turned green,
And me, a poor boy, is going to be slain.

Come, my little Pink, come and see me die,
Come, my true love, come and see me die,
Come my dearest dea, come and see me die,
I will meet sweet Jesus in the sky.

And when you pass on by my grave,
So when you pass on by my grave,
And when you pass on by my grave,
You can view the green grass which over me waves.

I can't see any particular relationship between the tune that Leonard Roberts provides and the tune of the Lizzie Roberts version of "Black is the Color". But I am not trained to read music.


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: Declan
Date: 26 Apr 06 - 02:31 PM

Although there were older versions of the song floating around in Ireland, I can confirm that Hamish Imlach is acknowledged by Christy Moore's as the source for his version of the song. It was also recorded by Christy's younger brother Barry (now known as Luka Bloom) on his first album "Treaty Stone" in about 1978.

Barry (Luka) used a sort of a bluesy guitar riff behind the song which as far as I can remember is the way Hamish used to play it as well.

By the way Sean 'Ac Donnchadha mentioned above was a closed friend of Willie Clancy, so they may have learned the song from each other or for a common source. Willie was a well known traditional uileann piper from West Clare, so many people hearing him playing the tune might have assumed it was an Irish Traditional tune. In this case the song seems to have come to Ireland from the US rather than the other way around.

I have heard the great Irish flute player Matt Molloy playing "Dark is the Colour of my true loves hair" as a slow air. It certainly sounds traditional played in this style, but it could well be that Matt learned the tune from Willie Clancy.


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: John Minear
Date: 26 Apr 06 - 07:36 AM

Bobby, I appreciate your response on this. It's obvious that others in the Madison County region (and also just over the mountain in Tennessee) who must have known "Black is the Color" besides Lizzie Roberts and just because Sharp didn't find them doesn't mean they weren't there. And the fact that there were different versions and relationships to other songs also current at the end of the 19th century would show that the more recent versions are not necessarily all dependent upon Sharp's collection. Your background on this puts the Roberts' version in a much clearer context, and nicely ties together the versions I posted earlier in this thread from Dellie Norton and the one collected by Henry, your own version, and Evelyn Ramsay's and Sheila Adams' versions. I'll have to go look up the versions in the Brown Collection. Surely I've seen them but I don't recall them at the moment. And I completely missed seeing the one in Leonard Roberts' collection from Kentucky! Thanks.


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: GUEST,Bobby McMillon
Date: 25 Apr 06 - 05:01 PM

I learned "Dark is the Colour of My True Loves Hair" in my youth from Mrs. Mae Shults Phillips, originally from the McMillon Settlement, near Cosby, Tennesse in the Great Smoky Mountains. She told me that, as a school girl (prior to 1916, the year she married)she and her girl friends would sing this song as the boys passed by as if they were crying as they sang it, to tease the boys. Her tune was close, but with differences to the Roberts melody. Dellie Norton, of the Burton Cove, near Revere, NC, told me in 1976 that she knew it to begin both as "Black is..." and "Dark is...". The tune she sang was quite a bit different than the way Evelyn Ramsey sang it. She said it was originally called "Fair Pink". Her neighbor Cas Wallin sang the same tune, but his words were often different and had the verse about "I'd ruther make my home on some cold,icy lake", a verse found in "Midnight on the Stormy Deep" which, in turn, is related to "Earlye Earlye in the Spring". Mae Phillips sang her variant also to a tune in a faster, livelier tune in a major key, but which was longer than the one in a minor key, and is very close to the song Henry collected in neighboring Sevier Co. as well as two others that may be found in the Frank Brown Collection of NC Folklore. In 1988 I learned a version called "Come All Ye Girls of Adams Race" from Mrs. Rendie Smith (appx 88 years old) of Mollie, Columbus County, NC, near the coast. I believe there is a version that Leonard Roberts collected in Kentucky and included in his work "In the Pine". As to the question of "the Clyde" in this song, I have heard all that have been mentioned in the discussion as well as "I go to Christ...". On more than one occasion I've wondered if the "I go to Troublesome" verse couldn't possibly be "I go to trouble some, to mourn and weep" which certainly would be in context with the drift of the song.


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: John Minear
Date: 24 Apr 06 - 08:07 PM

In a note dated August 3, 2002, above, I say:

"In the early 1950's Maud Karpeles made a return trip to the Southern Appalachians to see if she could find any of the singers that she and Cecil Sharp had visited earlier. This time she took a recording machine. She found Lizzie Roberts and recorded her singing "Black is the Color".

This is an incorrect statement and I would like to clear up my mistake. Maud Karpeles recorded Emma Hensley (Mrs. Donald Shelton) of Carmen, N.C. singing Lizzie Roberts' version of "Black is the Color" in the 1950s. This is on the Folktrax 908 CD. I say that this is Lizzie Roberts' version, that is in Sharp's collection. It looks the same to me. There are no additional notes provided with the Karpeles recording.

Another note of interest on this song is that Betty Smith, in her liner notes to her Folk-Legacy recording of "Songs Traditionally Sung in North Carolina", says about her version of "Black is the Color"
that she got it from Sharp's collection and that it is Lizzie Roberts' version. She goes on to say this about Evelyn Ramsay's version (printed in the discussion above): "I asked her who she had learned it from and she told me she had learned it from Sharp's book, English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians."

Sheila Adams has said that she learned her version from Evelyn Ramsay, so there would seem to be a fairly direct line of descent here from Lizzie Roberts through Cecil Sharp to Evelyn Ramsay to Sheila Adams. It is unclear whether others in the Madison County area of North Carolina knew the song besides Roberts at the time Sharp was collecting. He gives no evidence of this. It does seem clear that Emma Hensley learned it from somewhere. Was her version from Sharp's book as well? It wasn't recorded until the 1950s. It may well be that Sharp was the one to have preserved this song, even in its own native area.


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 24 Nov 05 - 12:17 AM

I apologise for my typo - I meant to post

"Black is the true colour of my Love's Long Hair".


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 23 Nov 05 - 11:42 PM

Hold hard is right. I was listening to Dyer-Bennet and got my wires crossed with John Jacob Niles. SORRY!


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: Stephen R.
Date: 23 Nov 05 - 10:44 PM

Hold hard! How did we get from John Jacob Niles to Richard Dyer-Bennet? Has anyone claimed that RDB wrote a version of "Black is the Color"?

Stephen


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 23 Nov 05 - 08:23 PM

Born in England, Dyer-Bennet's family moved to British Columbia in 1919, so if he wrote "Black....." in 1916, it was written in England before he moved to the U. S. in 1923. The family moved to Berkeley, California in 1923, but much subsequent movement involved. RD-B spent high school years in Santa Barbara and Germany. He enrolled in Univ. California, Berkeley, 1n 1932, studying English and seriously involved in sports. By the end of his junior year, he was well into serious voice study with Gertrude Wheeler Beckman. She suggested he study with the Swedish minstrel and art song specialist Sven Scholander. This was followed by a brief stay in Wales. Engagements at private concerts followed, but the break came in 1941, when a Harvard professor underwrote his first recording. Later that year, he received his first engagement, at Le Ruban Bleu, a small sophisticated club in New York. Work followed at the Village Vanguard and 'the rest is---', with concerts at Town Hall and Carnegie. He began serious guitar study with Ray de la Torre in NY in 1944; A tour on the Sol Horok circuit followed in 1945. He toured annually until 1970 but limited his yearly concerts so that he could devote more time to study, his translations, and sports.

He translated and performed Schön Müllerin by Schubert, and later in life devoted full time to the epic "Odyssey."

Nowhere in the biographical note does Bonnie Dyer-Bennet, in notes prepared for Smithsonian-Folkways, mention any contacts with "unsophisticated, musically illiterate folks of Kentucky and North Carolina." This 'may' have happened during his period on the concert stage.

Listening to his recordings (available from Smithsonian Folkways), one is always aware that he was a professionally trained singer of art songs, and he did it very well. He was especially good on songs by Thomas Moore, poems by Yeats ("Down by the Sally Gardens") and English and Scottish folk and music hall songs ("Vicar of Bray").
As Lighter emphasized, he rewrote both words and music to suit his voice and inclinations.


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: Lighter
Date: 23 Nov 05 - 06:26 PM

As we've observed in other threads, JJN was not a "thief." Quite the contrary. He wrote and rewrote lyrics, and adapted and composed melodies. He built himself a giant dulcimore from a bass fiddle and cultivated his countertenor. Then he more or less suggested to his audience thathis performances came straight from the unsophisticated, musically illiterate folks of Kentucky and North Carolina and, by an undeviating route through them, directly and pristinely from Ye Middle Ages.

He really does deserve composer credit for most everything he put before the public.


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Subject: Lyr. Add: THE SAILOR BOY (Belden)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 23 Nov 05 - 04:40 PM

THE SAILOR'S TRADE
(The Sailor Boy)
, 1909

The sailor's trade is a dreary life,
It causes poor girls to lose their heart's delight,
It causes them for to weep and mourn
The loss of their true love, never to return.

'Brown was the color of my true love's hair,
His cheeks resembled a lily's fair.
If ever he returns it will give me joy,
For none can I wed but my sweet sailor boy.

'Father, father, go build me a boat,
That I may on the river float;
I'll hail each captain as I pass by,
And there I'll inquire for my sweet Willie boy.

'Captain, Captain, tell me true,
Does my dear Willie sail with you?
Tell me quick, for 'twill give me joy;
For none can I wed but my sweet sailor boy.'

'No, kind madam, he is not here,
He's drowned in the gulf and we left him there;
All on the rocky island as we passed by,
There we let your true lover lie.'

She wrung her hands and she tore her hair
Just like some lady in despair:
'All on the rocky island as they passed by,
There they let my true lover lie.

'Hand me a chair till I sit down,
A pen and ink for to write it down.'
At the end of every line she shed a tear,
At the end of every verse she cried 'Willie, my dear.'

Go dig my grave both wide and deep,
A marble stone at my head and feet;
And on my breast a sweet turtle-dove,
To let the world know I died for my love.'

Secured in 1909 by Miss Hamilton from Mary Van Wormser of the West Plains High School who wrote it down 'as sung by her grandfather.'
Version C in H. M. Belden, 1940, "Ballads and Songs Collected by the Missouri Folk-Lore Society, pp. 188-189. Music is given for version A, pp. 186-187, which lacks the verse about the 'color of my true love's hair'.
A version D with 'Brown is the color...' obtained in 1914.

These versions with 'brown' or 'dark' hair seem to have spread in America from the English (?) "The Sailor Boy" (and variants), possibly through printed song sheets.

THE SAILOR BOY
(Ashton, 63, in Stone, 1906)

The sailing trade is a weary life,
It's robbed me of my heart's delight,
And left me here in tears to mourn,
Still waiting for my love's return.

Like one distracted this fair maid ran,
For pen and paper to write her song,
And at ev'ry line she drop't a tear,
Crying alas! for Billy my dear.

Thousands, thousands, all in a room,
My love he carries the brightest bloom,
He surely is some chosen one,
I will have him, or else have none.

The grass doth grow on every lea,
The leaf doth fall from every tree,
How happy that small bird doth cry,
That her true love doth by her lie.

The colour of amber is my true love's hair,
His red rosy cheeks doth my heart ensnare,
I'd fain lay a night in his lovely arms.

Father, father, build me a boat,
That on the ocean I may float,
And every ship that doth pass by,
I may enquire for my sailor boy.

She had not sail'd long upon the deep,
Till a man of war she chanc'd to meet:
O, sailor, sailor, send me word,
If my true love William be on board.

Your true love William is not here,
For he is kill'd so I fear,
For the other day as we pass'd by,
We see'd him last in the Victory.

She wrung her hands and tore her hair,
Crying, alas! my dearest dear,
And overboard her body threw,
Bidding all worldly things adieu.

Christopher Stone, 1906, "Sea Songs and Ballads," LXXXVI, pp. 174-176, Oxford Press.
Note: "Ash.[ton] 63. There is another version in the Folk Song Society Journal, vol. i, 3.20." From Ashton, "Real Sailor-Songs."

It was difficult to decide where to place these versions. Thread 22870, Penguin- A Sailor's Life, is related, but lacks the '--- is the color' verse.
Sailor's Life

According to the "Traditional Ballad Index," th song was first mentioned in 1847 in a ship's journal.

The song by John Jacob Niles seems to be a much abbreviated version, with his own tune. He wrote "Black Is the Color," but borrowed lines from American versions of "Sailor Boy" and simplified the song to a love ballad.


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 23 Nov 05 - 03:29 PM

A relationship to the old song, "The Sailor Boy," is likely.


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 22 Nov 05 - 10:23 PM

This was about the only thread on the song where nobody had given into the temptation to mention that tedious little parody; amusing once, but boring thereafter. It was predictable enough, I suppose, that a compulsive poster with nothing useful to say on the subject would eventually make good that omission.


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 22 Nov 05 - 10:07 PM

Oh - "Black is the true colour of my Love's ____ Hair"...


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 22 Nov 05 - 09:44 PM

None whatever that I've heard of. The only apparent Scottish connection is the mention of the Clyde, which in any case appears in some versions only. Almost all sets found in tradition, so far as I know, are American; the song has turned up in relatively recent years in Ireland, probably learned from Jean Ritchie.

The webpage "McArthur" refers to is (shall we be kind?) rather less than reliable. "The lyrics were added for the first time in 1916" is presumably a complete misunderstanding of the fact that the earliest known example was noted by Sharp in that year (Mrs Lizzie Roberts, Hot Springs, NC, 15 September 1916). As for "the tune ... dates back to XVIII Century", no evidence is even hinted at. It may well do (though we should look to the earlier Sailor's Life, as I've already said, for that) but bald, unsubstantiated assertions mean nothing.

Unfortunately, some people will believe that this "McArthur" knows what he's talking about. He clearly doesn't.


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 22 Nov 05 - 02:26 PM

Re Guest McArthur post of "Black Is the Color" from the bravehost website-
"... is a famous traditional Scottish song" - Any evidence in print before 1900-1916?


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: GUEST,robinia
Date: 22 Nov 05 - 12:19 PM

Sorry about that..... I meant to recount my memory of JJN singing "Black, black, black" in the fifties. Singing it to the melody he'd composed, he said, because the song had such a poor tune. Or words to that effect. I was offended because I rather liked the older melody even if it didn't have quite the sweep of the "Niles" version, and I didn't see why he felt called upon to trash it. But I never doubted that he HAD sustantially altered the song (and in so doing made it much more popular) nor have I ever doubted that he wrote one of my family's favorite carols, "Jesus, Jesus, Rest your Head." Is he charged with stealing that too?


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: Cluin
Date: 22 Nov 05 - 11:43 AM

I always liked The Easy Club's version.


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: GUEST,robinia@eskimo.com
Date: 22 Nov 05 - 11:35 AM


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: GUEST,george_mcarthur@hotmail.com
Date: 22 Nov 05 - 10:59 AM

This song has create a very big stir i've a lot of friends from my time in Dublin many have sung it and all my Spanish and Polish friends love it......

Been trying to find out more about it when i said Hamish Imlach to irish Christy Moore fans they said Joe Heaney but i've since found John Jacob Niles and many before Hamish's version.

here are just a few

http://www.blackisthecolour.bravehost.com



Jordi


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Subject: RE: black is the color?from where?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 13 Nov 05 - 06:18 PM

Whenever I sang it, it must've instantly become an "Art song".    ;-)

My version was also on a compilation LP put out by Wisconsin Public Radio called A SIMPLY FOLK SAMPLER.

Art again


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