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African American Secular Folk Songs

Related threads:
African-American Spirituals Permathread (96)
Song Origins PermaThread™ (16)
Origins of: Found on Mudcat:PART THREE (48)
Origins of: Found on Mudcat -PART TWO (79) (closed)
Origins of: Found on Mudcat (121) (closed)


Azizi 14 May 05 - 12:37 AM
Azizi 14 May 05 - 12:41 AM
Azizi 14 May 05 - 12:59 AM
Azizi 14 May 05 - 09:24 AM
Abby Sale 14 May 05 - 09:25 AM
GUEST,Russ 14 May 05 - 09:47 AM
GUEST,Azizi 14 May 05 - 10:17 AM
GUEST,Azizi 14 May 05 - 10:24 AM
GUEST,WYSIWYG 14 May 05 - 11:05 AM
GUEST,Azizi 14 May 05 - 12:21 PM
GUEST 14 May 05 - 01:04 PM
dianavan 14 May 05 - 09:17 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 14 May 05 - 10:24 PM
Azizi 14 May 05 - 10:46 PM
Azizi 14 May 05 - 11:38 PM
Azizi 15 May 05 - 11:47 AM
Azizi 15 May 05 - 11:59 AM
Azizi 15 May 05 - 12:14 PM
GUEST,Allen 15 May 05 - 01:43 PM
Azizi 15 May 05 - 03:11 PM
Lynn W 15 May 05 - 04:00 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 15 May 05 - 05:16 PM
wysiwyg 15 May 05 - 05:48 PM
Uncle_DaveO 15 May 05 - 06:18 PM
Azizi 15 May 05 - 06:31 PM
Azizi 15 May 05 - 06:36 PM
Azizi 15 May 05 - 08:11 PM
Azizi 15 May 05 - 08:33 PM
Azizi 15 May 05 - 09:04 PM
Azizi 15 May 05 - 09:13 PM
mg 15 May 05 - 10:37 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 15 May 05 - 11:17 PM
GUEST,Miriam 15 May 05 - 11:19 PM
wysiwyg 15 May 05 - 11:24 PM
wysiwyg 15 May 05 - 11:28 PM
GUEST,Allen 16 May 05 - 04:23 AM
Azizi 16 May 05 - 05:33 AM
wysiwyg 16 May 05 - 11:01 AM
GUEST,Allen 16 May 05 - 11:29 AM
Azizi 16 May 05 - 12:21 PM
PoppaGator 16 May 05 - 12:38 PM
GUEST,Allen 16 May 05 - 01:10 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 16 May 05 - 08:36 PM
GUEST,Azizi 17 May 05 - 01:57 PM
GUEST,Azizi 17 May 05 - 02:05 PM
GUEST,Azizi 17 May 05 - 02:36 PM
GUEST 17 May 05 - 02:40 PM
GUEST,Azizi 17 May 05 - 02:51 PM
GUEST,Allen 17 May 05 - 04:01 PM
Azizi 17 May 05 - 04:19 PM
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Subject: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi
Date: 14 May 05 - 12:37 AM

I believe that many people are aware of the existence [if not specific examples of] a large number of religious songs {spirituals}that were composed by unknown African Americans prior to the end of the Civil War.

However it seems to me that far fewer people are aware that during the three centuries of slavery a number of non-religious {secular} songs were also composed by anonymous African Americans.

A number of these dance songs, and children's play songs have been assimilated into the melting pot of American folk music. Usually when these songs are included in contemporary [1960s-2005)music books, they are presented without any acknowledgement of their African American origin. However, it seems to me that books published prior to the 1960s are more likely to contain some information on the origin of the songs included. Often this information includes some mention of the race of the persons or population from which the song was collected {or from which the song appears to have been best known}. I have found that the older the book, the more likely a reference will be given of a song's origin, including information about the African American origin of the song [or of that particular adaptation of the song].

Generally speaking, I have also found that most contemporary music books use an inconsistent system for categorizing antebellum African American songs. In another current Mudcat thread on the origins of songs, I provided a list of African American folk songs that demonstrated this practice. I created that list [which I will re-post in the next post on this thread] from songs that were included in a book about folk songs from the world. The songs were not listed as African American, but were categorized by state, region, or nation. Other some songs were listed as "traditional". It should be noted that the same book had a category for 'Negro spirituals'.
In addition, that music book also included a small category of African American {Negro} folk rhymes and work songs. IMO, by presenting one category for African American spirtuals and one category for secular African American songs and the EXCLUDING a large number of songs presented in that book that are generally considered to be of African American origin, that book was likely to cause readers to make an erroneous conclusion that the songs on those two lists were the only ones in that book which were of African American origin.

As I indicated in that other thread I have a number of concerns about the use of arbitrary categories for folk songs from the USA that do not mention the racial background of the song's composers.
I will also repost my comments about that in this thread.

I am creating this separate thread because it is a subject I am very concerned about. Because two posters to that other thread commented on my posts about this subject, this may also be a subject that could be of interests to others.

I am interested in knowing whether you think it is appropriate and/or important to include information that is known about the racial/ethnic origin of folk songs.

I also would like to know if others have noted inconsistencies in how folk songs are categorized in music books.

And I would also be interested in any help that could be given in listing and providing documention of American folk songs that are considered to be of African American origin or probable African American origin.

Thank you.


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi
Date: 14 May 05 - 12:41 AM

Here is a repost of my first & second comments on this subject in the "Origins: do they matter?" thread:

Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Azizi
Date: 13 May 05 - 05:58 PM

Torctgyd wrote that when he was growing up he was told "by many English people that the English had no folk music of their own; it was all Irish or Scottish in origin."

When I was growing up I was told that Black people in the United States and where ever, never had ANY culture apart from "Negro" spirituals.

Currently music books still feed into that erroneous conclusion by continuing to abitrarily categorize many non-religous songs of African American composition as 'folk', 'traditional', or United States {American} folk music, while appropriately crediting a few to us {African Americans}.

As others on this thread have written, knowing the origin of songs helps the listeners to understand the context and meaning of the song.

I would also add that knowing the origin of a song may help enhance the self-concept and group concept of members of the group who composed the song...And it may also correct ethnocentric misinformation that all too often was the standard practice in the past.

****
Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Azizi
Date: 13 May 05 - 06:51 PM

As a follow-up to my previous post, below is a list that I compiled last year from a book called the 'Folksong Fake Book'[sorry I didn't record the editor, publisher, publication date of that book}.

IMO, this list serves as a representative sample of folk songs that I believe are of African American origin, and which are categorized by state, or nation with no mention of their African American origin. At the same time other songs in that book are credited as being of African American composition. Most of the songs in that book that were categorized as being of African American origin were "Negro" spirituals. However, there were a few secular songs in that book that were listed as being of African American origin.

It is my contention that such inconsistent categorizing can be interpreted as meaning that the only songs that we {African Americans} only composed religious songs during the three centuries of American slavery.

IMO, it is important to correct this misconception to give credit where credit is due and to honor and celebrate the creativity of those who created these songs. In addition, iI believe that it is important to credit these songs as being of African American origin and showcase other antebellum African American songs that don't usually get included in mainstream folk music books because knowing about the full range of African American songs from those times- including protest songs-presents a FAR different picture of slave culture than that which is usually taught.

Note-I have placed the category that the editor gave for each song in parenthesis:

All The Pretty Little Horses {listed as "Southeastern American
                              Lullaby"}

Bile Them Cabbage Down {listed as "19th Century American"}

Cotton Eyed Joe {listed as "Folksong from Tennessee"}

Frankie and Johnny {listed as "Anonymous Blues Ballad, possible from
                   St. Louis or Kansas City"}

Freight Train {listed as "American"}

Grizzley Bear {listed as "Southern American Chain Gang Song"}

Hush Little Baby {listed as "American from the Carolinas"'}

John Henry {listed as "folk ballad from West Virginia circa 1870s"}

Michael Rowed The Boat Ashore {listed as "Traditional American"}

Midnight Special {listed as "American"}

Mister Rabbit {listed as "Southern American"}

Nine Pound Hammer {listed as "American"}

Old Aunt Kate {listed as "American Children's Song"}

Old Joe Clark {listed as "Tennessee Folksong"}

Oh Mary Don't You Weep {listed as "American Gospel Song") *

One More River {listed as "American Gospel Song"}*

Polly Wolly Doddle {listed as "Southern American"}

Railroad Bill {listed as "American"}

Run, Children, Run {listed as "Southern American"}

Shortnin' Bread {listed as "Plantation Song from the American
                South'"}

Take this Hammer {listed as "Work Song from the South"}

The Boll Weevil {listed as "Folksong from Texas"}

The Paw Paw Patch {listed as "Southern American Singing Game Song"}

The Ole Grey Goose {listed as "19th century American"}

* "American Gospel Song" is listed separately from the
"Negro traditional spiritual" category


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi
Date: 14 May 05 - 12:59 AM

Also see other posts from other 'Catters and myself on this subject in Origins; Do They Matter?

Included among those posts is a request to provide information as to why I categorized some songs on that list as African American folk songs.

I will try to address that request as soon as I can, as cogently as I can, and as accurately as I can given the limitations of my knowledge as an 'arm chair' student of African American folk culture.

Needless to say, I welcome any help from those who may have information & documentation about this subject.

And I also am open to new knowledge that might refute my current opinion on that origin of songs that are included on this list.


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Subject: Lyr Add: DIE IN A PIG PEN FIGHTING
From: Azizi
Date: 14 May 05 - 09:24 AM

I noted in the other thread that I referred to that there were several typos in this example that I had provided about a little known African American protest song that dates from plantation slavery days:

Here is that repost:

"Inconsistent categorization of African American folk songs in United States music books-and the failure to include other known African American folk songs that don't conform with the stereotypical image of resigned or happy slaves-is a pet peeve of mine.

For an example of the protest rhymes that you seldom will see in any folk music book, see what I believe is a coded message rhyme that is included in Thomas W. Talley's Negro Folk Rhymes, originally published in 1922:

DIE IN A PIG PEN FIGHTING

Dat ole sow said to de barner:
'I'll tell you wha' let's do:
Let's go an' git dat broad-axe
And die in de pig-pen too,"
"Die in de pig-pen fightin'!
Yes, die, die in de wah!
Die in de pig-pen fightin'
Yes, die wid a bitin' jaw!"

{p. 39 Talley}

****

Of course, 'Jimmy Crack Corn' can also be read as an African American protest rhyme. One way to deal with something threatening is to make it safe and funny. And IMO, that was done with the JCC song. Too many people are too stuck in the happy slave motif to realize what that song is really saying."


-snip-

I believe "Die in a Pig Pen fighting' is a coded call to Black people fight to defend themselves and-perhaps to actually fight in the Civil War.


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Abby Sale
Date: 14 May 05 - 09:25 AM

Azizi,

No doubt you are completely right in this. To me, until a song has evolved so far as to remove nearly all elements of the original singers, origins are vital to understand a song and its setting. Without the setting and cultural orientation (and the greatest possible effort - never popssibly perfect - to understand the words, nuances, codes and references) one might as well be singing rote-memorized unfamiliar language. Of course, most entertainment-singing has no discernable meaning but I don't care about or listen to that.

OTOH, categorizing is another story. Most collectors I've read admit of the flaws in categorizing. Even so simple a distinction as separating sea chanties by type of task or chantey/forcastle or even chantey/ballad, is misleading when a song does two or three functions at different times. After all (eg) "All The Pretty Little Horses" is a 'Southeastern American Lullaby,' among those of other races, and the author wouldn't want to include it twice in two sections.

Dr Greenhaus has often railed (or commiserated) about the                               necessarily artificial and necessarily often misleading results of such categorizing - even while such makes orienting in a book easier for the reader. This, of course, is one of the main geniuses of the Digital Tradition. He intended it to be fully and nonlinearly searchable so category becomes irrelevant. But category is also still usable in the Keywords. Thus a song can have multiple categories - one song might have @religion, @Negro, @lullaby and @spiritual.   (Unfortunately, "All The Pretty Little Horses" only has @lullaby!)


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 14 May 05 - 09:47 AM

Azizi,

What counts as evidence that an item might be classifiable as "African American Secular folk Song"?

What counts as sufficient evidence that an item should be classified as "African American Secular folk song?"

Note that I am NOT asking you why we should use your category. I am asking you how we deteremine whether an item belongs in that category.

If you are going to do categorization, do it right.


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Azizi
Date: 14 May 05 - 10:17 AM

Abby and Russ, thank you for your comments.

It is my hope that I will not be alone in responding to the critical question "What counts as sufficient evidence that an item should be classified as "African American Secular folk song?"

My initial thoughts would be to examine how the record of collectors of folk songs, and what the earliest documentation about the song says about who and where the song came from.

I would also look at the structure and text of songs from the Southern USA and elsewhere in the USA to determine if they meet the common elements of African American {African} music-for instance:

Is the song made up of short often ryhming [or near rhyming] phrases or sentences?

Is the song utilize a call & response structure?

Is the song open ended?

Is improvision a part of the performance of the song?

Is the song highly percussive?

Is dance and other body movements closely associated with the performance of the song?

Does the song contain floating verses that have been associated with other established African American songs?

Does the song include vernacular phrases and words that are most closely associated with African Americans from that time period?

****

Again, I would very much welcome your thoughts on what guidelines should be used to categorize a song as a secular African American folk song.


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Azizi
Date: 14 May 05 - 10:24 AM

As context to this discussion, I offer this very interesting essay on
African retentions in Louisiana

Here is one excerpt from that article:

African cultural retention abounds in the region and is taken for granted when not appropriated for sale to the public as a variant of so-called "mainstream" culture. The banjo, for example, is commonly considered European and is a staple of Appalachian culture that is usually associated with Whites. History, forgotten or distorted, has removed this instrument from its original cultural base. Joseph Holloways' book, Africanisms in American Culture presents an argument, in an essay entitled "African Heritage of White America," which ties the instrument and its playing technique to Senegambian music. In New Orleans, the late Danny Barker brought the instrument back into prominence during the career.

There are many commonplace musical links that demonstrate elemental ties to African culture. Ululation (yodeling), improvisation, the use of call-and-response and syncopation are characteristics of African music continent-wide. The use of a 17-21 tonal scale is common to African music whereas European music utilizes a 12-tone scale. Scholars and musicians involved in research are finding African music far more complex, harmonically as well as rhythmically, than previously noted. Far from being primitive, African music is considered to be advanced by those knowledgeable of its origins. Diminished tones utilizing the minor mode, as found in today's blues, typify the diversity found within the world's oldest music tradition.

Some years ago, Dr. Hashimi Maiga (a native of Mali) played a tape and asked me to identify the player. I totally blew it, identifying the player alternately as John Lee Hooker or one of the other musicians out of the Delta Blues genre. The guitar player, rendering centuries-old Malian melodies on a contemporary instrument was Ali Farka Toure. The question that has bugged me since hearing that tape is, "Was the 'first' person to play the blues in this country playing a familiar tune from his homeland on a new instrument?"

Hashimi reminded me also that the entire region, at the beginning of the Atlantic slave trade was still known as Mali, then a remnant of a civilization that had endured for more than a millennium. This area included all of the aforementioned African nations, Senegal, Gambia, Nigeria, Ghana and others. This made me mindful that the modern geographic designations are the results of the European division of Africa for the benefit of those colonial powers that wrecked the continent.

Dr. Ibrahima Seck, a native of Senegal, has long been fascinated by the cultural links that exist between his country and Louisiana and has studied these for years. In an effort to bring the information to people on both sides of the Atlantic, he created the Bouki Blues Festival, which is scheduled for January 2002 in Senegal. Music and scholarly presentations on the links are a part of the program for the festival."

-snip-

This article also talks about other examples of African retention such as the processional tradition, masking, food and architecture.


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,WYSIWYG
Date: 14 May 05 - 11:05 AM

Azizi, as you probably know, many of the songs indexed in the Spirituals permathread had multiple uses or had origins and interpretations not strictly limited to however one might choose to define "spirituals". I hope you will add your interpretations to the threads for those songs. There is also the start of a discussion in that thread about the need to catalog the secular genre related to the spirituals in time, sound, and culture of origin-- an additional index, and I would welcome your contributions to such a list.

IMO this is part of the reason people talk about songs as "African American" and by other adjectives-- I know that, for me, it's part of appreciating and attributing the cultural source and the people whose names so seldom were attached at the time of most of those songs' origins.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Azizi
Date: 14 May 05 - 12:21 PM

WYSIWYG,

Thanks for your reminder about the African American Spiritual Permathread that you and Q and others have done such a magnificent job on.

I can't access the hyperlink feature now. Could you or someone else please provide the link to that Permathread to make it easier for folks reading this thread to visit it?

Thank you.


****

I notice that I had forgotten five other characteristics of African American secular and religious music:

repetitious phrases

heavy syncopation

staggered entrance of voices, instrumentation

changes in tempo within the same song {a song may start slow and
all of a sudden becomes faster}

the song ends with a low note and not a high note

****

Those people who have an ethnomusicalogy background or know how to read and write music could probably have used the proper musical terms for these points..but that's the best I can do now.

****

Also this may be an extention of this subject, but there seems to be a preference in African American music [and other music of the African Diaspora} for 'dirty' sound {as opposed to 'pure' sound};
for example the inclusion of foot stomps, hand claps, body patting, interjections, spoken commentary, etc. The inclusion of police and/or ambulance sirens in Hip-Hop and Dancehall Reggae music is an example of what I am referring to as 'dirty' sound.

Also there is a noticable perference for gritty, gravely voices in African American vocalists {think Louis Armstrong} and also Caribbean vocalist.

There is also a blurring of the line between talking and singing.

And Black vocalists and musicians also throughout the African Diaspora are expected to add make the song or music their own
{or using Hip-Hop terms, they are supposed to add their own flava to the mix}. This is done by extending a word {or a note}, repeating phrases, adding interjections etc.

Audience participation is another feature of African Diaspora music but of course this is found in other world music too.


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST
Date: 14 May 05 - 01:04 PM

Another easy way to find any thread is to use the filter box at the top of the forum's thread list-- put in a word you know is in the thread title, such as:

spirituals

Set the age box next to it back 30 days and go from there. The list of threads with that word in the title will pop up in the results.


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: dianavan
Date: 14 May 05 - 09:17 PM

Azizi -

What a job! This must require a huge effort! I can see how you can separate the religious from the secular but once it is secular, don't you have to account for the influence of the regional immigrants? For instance, Afro-American songs from Kentucky might have a strong Irish influence or those from New Orleans might be mixed with French flavours sprinkled with a dash of hoodoo.

I can't pick apart the tunes themselves so I guess I'll leave that up to you. I applaud your effort to reclaim that which has been culturally appropriated and hope that you can give credit where credit is due.


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 14 May 05 - 10:24 PM

Perhaps the fake book you looked at, Azizi, was "The Folksong Fake Book," printed by Hal Leonard Pub., edited, I believe, by Hal Leonard. There are piles of these fake books, which are useless for origins. Azizi, I would not quote from them. (Or perhaps they should be discussed. Many performers never get beyond that state of knowledge)

The best info that we have comes from older periodicals, journals, books and song collections from before WWI, and some later ones that are backed by scholarship. The comments on origin are often qualified, deservedly so, because the origins have been muddied or lost.
I have been working through several collections for my own enlightenment the last few days. Two are on line courtesy Mehlberg and his www.immortalia.com website, landmark works by Perrow and Odum, the latter devoted entirely to secular songs. The insistance on christianization had already affected much of the music heard in spirituals, and loss of nearly all of the pre-emancipation secular music.

The music in African-American collections has been modified to fit the European system of musical notation (the words were also modified to fit European schemes of rhyme and poetry). A reading of some careful early verbal descriptions shows just how far interpretations have departed from those of century and a half ago. Presentations of spirituals, even by African-American groups, often are completely Europeanized.

I don't know how you want to organize this thread (or threads), or what content you are looking for.

The older spirituals and few secular songs in Allen, Ware and McKim-Garrison already were Europeanized in order to fit the scale imposed on them. This week I received a copy of "Slave Songs of the United States" edited by the composer and arranger, Irving Schlein. He added piano accompaniment and chords, adding 'harmony for color.' A comparison of the melodic line in his sheet music and that in the original collection by Allen shows a number of slight, subtle changes- perhaps making the songs more singable, but departing even further from the versions as first heard by Allen et al.

Ali Farka Toure- a great musician, an excellent electric guitarist, trained in sound engineering, familiar with American blues and who has performed with Americans. I am afraid that much of his music is not pure 'Mali.' Great stuff, though.


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi
Date: 14 May 05 - 10:46 PM

Q,

I was hoping that you might know the particulars about the book I was referring to.

I accept that this book may not be a reliable source as to its categorizations of the songs included therein. Certainly one of my main criticisms of that book and others is that the system used to categorize the songs that are included in the book appears to me to be very inconsistent.

I am wondering if you and others also have noted the arbitrary way editors lists songs by genres and also without mention of race-when those racial origins are generally known.

As an example, see the list I reposted from the "Origins-do they matter?" thread.

My question to you, Q, and to others is "Would you consider these songs to have been collected from African Americans or Whites who indicated that they had heard them from African Americans {as was the case with the White informants quoted in Dorothy Scarborough's late 1920s collection 'On the Trail of Negro Folk Songs'?


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi
Date: 14 May 05 - 11:38 PM

I am also interested in considering the similarities between the structure & texts of those folk songs that are considered to be of African American origin and the differences between these songs and non-African American folk songs.

And when I use the term 'origin', I do not mean to imply that these songs were all fully and freshly created by one or more anonymous African American slave or freed person or free person.

As Scaborough demonstrated in her book, and others have also written about, African Americans were 'instrumental' in preserving a great many folk songs from Europe-and the folk process was used to create interesting variants of those songs.

However, there were also song that WERE created whole cloth. And I'm interested in finding out information about those songs to-and advocating for credit to be given where credit is due.

And since I am not a believer in art for arts sake, what drives my interest in this is my belief that a more consistent listing of American folk songs that includes acknowledgement of racial origin when known can enhance the self-esteem and group esteem of African Americans, and can also provide a more accurate picture for African Americans and non-African Americans about slave culture and Black responses to their situations.

To that end, I am also interested in [here on Mudcat and elsewhere} in heightening awareness of the existence of African American secular slave songs that do not support the sterotypical image of the complacent Black slave who was resigned to his and her fate and made no protest or took no actions against that fate {apart from the periodic eruptions of slave revolts}.

"Die in the pig pen fighting" that I posted above is one example of the type of songs I mean. However, as I mentioned before if one really examines the very familiar "Jimmy Crack Corn" song from the perspective of the Black slave who was singing it, it has a rather different meaning than just fun and games.


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi
Date: 15 May 05 - 11:47 AM

I have decided to use this thread to periodically post lyrics of the songs that I listed above as well as other folk songs that I believe should be in that list.

I intend to also provide links to online articles and excerpts from printed works that I believe directly or indirectly relate to that this topic.

See for example this quote from a website that I just found abou the song 'Stagger Lee':

"The black writer and folk tale collector Zora Neale Hurston has stated that every African-American folk tale has had a point to make. All of them have had something to teach black Americans about themselves and the world they lived in. So what was the point or meaning of the story of Stagger Lee? What did it teach? James Baldwin would probably answer these questions with one word: survival.

Baldwin thought that survival was a main ingredient which African-Americans put into their folk tales (Note 1). And the story of Stagger Lee can certainly be understood as carrying a message of survival--Stagger Lee was killed by the white man as punishment for the killing of Billy, but he triumphed in the end as he defeated the devil and turned hell into his own version of paradise. This story offered hope for survival to black men who knew that they could suffer, at the hands of whites, a fate similar to Stagger Lee's--whether it would be by execution, by lynching, or by having their lives slowly sucked out of them bit by bit in any number of ways.

And there may have been a second way that the legend of Stagger Lee dealt with survival. It may have made the point that directly challenging the white man's authority would pose a threat to the black man's survival. After all, if a man as powerful and "bad" as Stagger Lee lost his life by placing himself at odds with the white man's authority, the average black man would not stand a chance challenging the white man. Therefore, the message of the folk tale may have been that blacks would have to bide their time before they could directly challenge their white oppressors. They would have to work indirectly to improve their lot, and use their wits to survive until they could take a chance at defying the white man's discriminatory laws."
source: The AKA Blues Connection*

-snip-

* I believe that 'AKA' here refers to 'Alpha Kappa Alpha,Inc.'. Alpha Kappa Alpha is the first African American Greek letter University sorority. [BTW, I'm a member of that sorority though have been inactive for decades].

For the entire article, click Essay on Stagger Lee

Needless to say, I very much welcome comments on the subject of African American secular folk songs from other 'Catters and from Guests.


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Subject: Lyr Add: NINE POUND HAMMER
From: Azizi
Date: 15 May 05 - 11:59 AM

A poster in the thread on 'Origins-do they matter' asked for the words to 'Nine Pound Hammer'. Here is one version of that song:   

NINE POUND HAMMER

Nine-pound hammer-
Kill John Henry-
But 't won't kill me, babe,-
'Twon't kill me!

If I live-
to see December-
I'm goin' home, love,
I'm goin' home.

I'm goin back-
To the red-clay country-
That's my home, babe,-
That's my home.

Source: Dorothy Scarborough, 'On The Trail Of Negro Folk-Songs'         {Hatboro, Pennsylvania, Folklore Assoicates, 1963; p. 220
         originally published in 1935 by Harvard University Press

Scarbough describes this as a work song and introduces the song with this comment:

"Evelyn Cary Williams, of Lynchbrug, sends a version taken down from the singing of Charles Calloway, of Bedford County, Virginia, a Negro worker on the road."

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Subject: Lyr Add: NINE POUND HAMMER / WORK SONG
From: Azizi
Date: 15 May 05 - 12:14 PM

Scaborough also provides a second version of Nine Pound Hammer song [p.220-221]:

WORK-SONG

Nine-pound hammer, nine-pound hammer, nine-pound hammer,
Can't kill me, can't kill me, can't kill me
Nine-pound hammer can't kill me!
Oh, my papa and my mamma think I'm dead, think I'm dead,
Oh, my papa and my mamma think I'm dead!

Who shot Ida? who shot Ida? who shot Ida?
In de laig?
Who shot Ida? who shot Ida? who shot Ida?
In de laig?

-snip-
Scarborough writes that Joesph Turner of Hollins' Virginia sent this variant to her [Scaborough sources were White people she either knew or who heard about her interest in this subject and then sent her examples for her book that they remembered or had heard.

The "Who shot Ida" verse is typical of the inclusion of topical information into already 'established' folk songs. This practice can also be found in Blues, Calypso, and other forms of folk music from the African Diaspora.


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Allen
Date: 15 May 05 - 01:43 PM

Ululation, call-and-response, improvisation and rough voices aren't grounds enough to decide origins I'm afraid.
They are found in practically every rural culture, nothing unique there.


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi
Date: 15 May 05 - 03:11 PM

Thanks for that opinion Allen.

I grant you that these characteristics can not definitively determine if songs or music originates from a person or persons from the African Diaspora.

My point was that these are generally listed in books I've read as signature characteristics of African music [I'm not sure if ululation belongs on this list for African American music if that term means the chanting of high pitched sounds that I associate with Arabic and some South African music].

And I would hasten to say just from personal experience it is evident that all African music {including African American music} doesn't have all of these characteristics.

Note: I forgot to add the use of the falsetto voice for men that is also found in African American music {think Smokey Robinson}.


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Lynn W
Date: 15 May 05 - 04:00 PM

Falsetto is also common in (white) Cajun singing - it was simply a way of getting the vocals heard over the noise of the dance floor.


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 15 May 05 - 05:16 PM

The songs from Scarborough are worth posting, but I am a little worried about splitting threads, especially when previous threads are not linked.

Nine Pound Hammer- Several versions and a discography in thread 55453: Nine Pound Hammer
The Nine pound hammer is mentioned in the song, "Hammer Ring," black convict work gang, thread 48886: Hammer Ring

I don't believe that these hammer songs should be separated only on the basis of hammer weight, not mentioned in some, and a ten-pound hammer in one I have seen. There is a tie-in with "John Henry," where a nine-pound hammer is used in some versions. (Mudcat still sick- can't get to the Henry threads), and with the hammer in "Roll On, Johnnie-Buddy," and with coal-mining songs.

Digressional trivia- When was the first 9-10 pound hammer made? Was it a general purpose heavy driver that later found use on the developing railroads? I found one in the barn of a little farm (western Canada) that I once had (actually 9 1/2 lb head).

"Stagger Lee" has received attention in more than one previous thread, and versions inc. Scarborough's were posted in thread 3018: Stagger Lee


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: wysiwyg
Date: 15 May 05 - 05:48 PM

Q, you're right-- it is important to use existing threads whenever possible. When we started the AA spirituals permathread, we discovered also the importance of searching and listing existing posted material. I used certain search criteria to do that backwards look, even without having specific song titles. I'm not sure what criteria if any would work on Azizi's project, because I think her point is partly that the songs were posted without the cultural attribution that would facilitate the search. But it would at least be very helpful if each time a song is posted in this thread, there is first a search to see if other variants are already posted.

It's also important (according to the FAQ as well as Joe's recent posts in the Help forum), that when a song is added in any thread, the post's subject line is changed to refelct the added song, for example:

ADD: Nine Pound Hammer

This makes all the people's hard work of posting and documenting songs worthwhile when folks come along later, searching by song title. (It's not too late to fix that if Azizi wants to ask Joe Offer to retitle the posts where she has added songs.)

Before it makes sense to start move forward with indexing secular AA material in the spirituals permathread, I'd like to hear Azizi's contribution to the just-begun discussion about that indexing, in the permathread. When I first started that thread, I had a lot of really helpful input from my Mudcat elders. I'd like to help Azizi in her present effort, but I am not sure yet how she sees her project shaping up or if she wants or would appreciate any help.

Another place to look for connections might be the ORIGINS permathread, where there is an index of many songs for which there ha sbeen an "origins" discussion. Azizi might find a lot of the songs she wants to discuss, using that thread as a starting point when she wants to see if a song is already posted. HERE is that one.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 15 May 05 - 06:18 PM

Azizi, you included in your list Old Joe CLark. I can't say who woriginally wrote it, but Old Joe Clark was a real, identifiable, and white character about Civil War time and after. That doesn't necessarily preclude a black songwriter, of course.

Freight Train is demonstrably a black-authored song, but not technically a folk song. Written by Libba Cotten, I understand, who was "discovered" by Pete Seeger.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi
Date: 15 May 05 - 06:31 PM

Here are my responses in brackets to WYSIWYG's 15 May 05 - 05:48 PM
comments:

"..it would at least be very helpful if each time a song is posted in this thread, there is first a search to see if other variants are already posted"

[Alright]

"It's also important (according to the FAQ as well as Joe's recent posts in the Help forum), that when a song is added in any thread, the post's subject line is changed to refelct the added song, for example:

ADD: Nine Pound Hammer"

[Alright. And I will ask Joe Offer to add that to those posts that I have already written in this thread]

"Before it makes sense to start move forward with indexing secular AA material in the spirituals permathread, I'd like to hear Azizi's contribution to the just-begun discussion about that indexing, in the permathread..]"

[I have previously asked you to provide a link in this thread to that African American spiritual Permathread. I will be pleased to read the comments posted and respond to them as I expect others may want to do also].

"..I'd like to help Azizi in her present effort, but I am not sure yet how she sees her project shaping up or if she wants or would appreciate any help."

[I guess that depends on the definition of "help". LOL! But seriously though see the comments that I have made in this thread thus far:

"I am creating this separate thread because it is a subject I am very concerned about. Because two posters to that other thread commented on my posts about this subject, this may also be a subject that could be of interests to others.

I am interested in knowing whether you think it is appropriate and/or important to include information that is known about the racial/ethnic origin of folk songs.

I also would like to know if others have noted inconsistencies in how folk songs are categorized in music books.

And I would also be interested in any help that could be given in listing and providing documention of American folk songs that are considered to be of African American origin or probable African American origin.

Thank you. " 14 May 05 - 12:37 AM

-snip-

"It is my hope that I will not be alone in responding to the critical question "What counts as sufficient evidence that an item should be classified as "African American Secular folk song?"...

"Again, I would very much welcome your thoughts on what guidelines should be used to categorize a song as a secular African American folk song." Date: 14 May 05 - 10:17 AM

-snip-

"Needless to say, I very much welcome comments on the subject of African American secular folk songs from other 'Catters and from Guests." 15 May 05 - 11:47 AM.

However, I am a bit curious at what WYSIWYG meand by Mudcat Elders. Definition please. Thank you. And thanks also for the link to the Origins Permathead. I will check it out]


Azizi Powell


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi
Date: 15 May 05 - 06:36 PM

I caught this typo meand=means

Here is the corrected sentence:

"However, I am a bit curious at what WYSIWYG means by Mudcat Elders .

This refers to Susan's sentence "When I first started that thread, I had a lot of really helpful input from my Mudcat elders."

****

And thank you Uncle_DaveO -for your comments. I guess what is technically a folk song depends on what the definition of folk music is {Oh, no!! Here we go again!!}


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi
Date: 15 May 05 - 08:11 PM

Thanks to Google, I was pleased to find this essay Negro Folk Expressions Spirituals & Secular Songs.

This essay is written by Sterling Brown, a very highly respected African American scholar.

Here are some excerpts from the portion of that essay that focuses upon secular African American folk songs:

"The slaves had many other moods and concerns than the religious; indeed some of these ran counter to the spirituals. Irreverent parodies of religious songs, whether coming from the black-face minstrelsy or from tough-minded cynical slaves, passed current in the quarters. Other-worldliness was mocked: "I don't want to ride no golden chariot; I don't want no golden crown; I want to stay down here and be, Just as I am without one plea." "Live a humble to the Lord" was changed to "Live a humbug." Bible stories, especially the creation, the fall of Man, and the flood, were spoofed. "Reign, Master Jesus, reign" became "Rain, Mosser, rain hard! Rain flour and lard and a big hog head, Down in my back yard." After couplets of nonsense and ribaldry, slaves sang with their fingers crossed, or hopeless in defeat: "Po' mourner, you shall be free, when de good Lord set you free."

Even without the sacrilege, many secular songs were considered "devil-tunes." Especially so were the briskly syncopated lines which, with the clapping of hands and the patting of feet, set the beat for swift, gay dancing. "Juba dis, Juba dat; Juba skin a yeller cat; Juba, Juba!" Remnants of this syncopation are today in such children's play songs...

..Unlike Stephen Foster's sweet and sad songs such as "Massa's in the Cold, Cold Ground," the folk seculars looked at slavery ironically. And where Foster saw comic nonsense, they added satiric point. Short comments flash us back to social reality: "Ole Master bought a yaller gal, He bought her from the South"; "My name's Ran, I wuks in de sand, I'd rather be a nigger dan a po' white man." Frederick Douglass remembers his fellow slaves singing "We raise de wheat, dey gib us de corn; We sift de meal, de gib us de huss; We peel de meat, dey gib us de skin; An dat' de way dey take us in." Grousing about food is common: "Milk in the dairy getting mighty old, Skippers and the mice working mighty bold. . . . A long- tailed rat an' a bowl of souse, Jes' come down from de white folk's house." With robust humor, they laughed even at the dread patrollers..

[continues with excerpts from 'Run N-----Run']

-snip-

And there is much more. If you are interested in this subject,
I strongly recommend that you read this essay.


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi
Date: 15 May 05 - 08:33 PM

In his post 15 May 05 - 01:57 AM in the 'Origins: Do they matter' thread,Q gave his opinions on the racial origin of some of the songs that I listed as being of African American origin. One of those songs was the Grey Goose. Q's comment was "Grey Goose- several. But if it is the one sung by Lead Belly, it's B." {'B'='Black' origin}

One version of this song is listed in the DigiTrad here:
a href="@displaysong.cfm?SongID=6390">Gray Goose: Leadbelly

It should be noted that this is NOT the 'Go Tell Aunt Rhody" {the old grey goose is dead}song.

For a perspective on the hidden meaning of 'The Old Gray {Grey} Goose' see this excerpt from the Sterling Brown essay that is hyperlinked in my previous post:

"One of the best folk ballads, however, is in the simpler, unrhymed African leader-chorus design. This is "The Grey Goose," a ballad about a seemingly ordinary fowl who becomes a symbol of ability to take it. It is a song done with the highest spirits; the "Lord, Lord, Lord" of the responding chorus expressing amazement, flattery, and good-humored respect for the tough bird:

Well, last Monday mornin'
    Lord, Lord, Lord!
Well, last Monday mornin'
    Lord, Lord, Lord!

They went hunting for the grey goose. When shot "Boo-loom!" the grey goose was six weeks a-falling. Then it was six weeks a-finding, and once in the white house, was six weeks a-picking. Even after the great feather-picking he was six months parboiling. And then on the table, the forks couldn't stick him; the knife couldn't cut him. So they threw him in the hog-pen where he broke the sow's jawbone. Even in the sawmill, he-broke the saw's teeth out. He was indestructible. Last seen the grey goose was flying across the ocean, with a long string of goslings, all going "Quank- quink-quank." Yessir, it was one hell of a gray goose. Lord, Lord, Lord!"


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE OLD GRAY GOOSE
From: Azizi
Date: 15 May 05 - 09:04 PM

ADD: THE OLD GRAY GOOSE

Here is another version of The Old Gray Goose from Margaret Taylor Burroughs's "Did You Feed My Cow? Street Games, Chants, Rhymes" revised edition {Chicago,1969; Follett Publishing Company;p. 27-29}

{presented as found in that book}

The leader sings or chants the verse while the group gives response, keeping a definite rhythm. it may also be done with two groups. They may change roles and repeat. Children may be assigned roles of preacher, gray goose, and feather pickers.


Call:      It was on a Sunday morning,
Response: Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          The preacher went ahunting.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!

          He carried 'long his shotgun
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          When along came the gray goose.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!

          The gun went off booloo!
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          And down came the gray goose.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!

          He was six weeks afalling.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          He was six weeks afalling.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!

          And my wife and your wife
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          They gave a feather picking.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!

          They were six weeks picking.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          And they put him on to parboil.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!

          He was six weeks aboiling.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          And they put him on the table.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
         
          Well, the knife wouldn't cut him,
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          And the fork wouldn't stick him.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!

          They put him in the hogpen,
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          And he broke the hog's teeth out.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!

          They took him to the sawmill,
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          And the saw couldn't cut him.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!

          They took him to the sawmill,
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          And the saw couldn't cut him.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!

          And the last time I saw him,
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          He was flying 'cross the ocean.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!

          With a long string of goslings,
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          And they all going quack, quack!
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!


-snip-

My thanks to Mudcat Cafe member, Hollowfox, for the gift of this book.


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE GRAY GOOSE
From: Azizi
Date: 15 May 05 - 09:13 PM

For comparison's sake, here is the version of 'The Gray Goose' that is presently in the DigiTrad:

THE GRAY GOOSE

Well, las' Monday mornin',
Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
Well, las' Monday mornin',
Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.

My daddy went a-huntin'.

Well, he carried along his zulu.

Well, along come a grey goose.

Well, he throwed it to his shoulder,

An' he ram his hammer' way back.

Well, he pulled on de trigger.

Well, down he come a-windin'.

He was six weeks a-fallin'.

He was six weeks a-findin'.

An' he put him on de wagon,

An'he taken him to de white house.

He was six weeks a-pickin'.

Lordy, your wife an'my wife,

Oh, dey give a feather pickin'.

An' dey put him on to parboil.

He was six months a-parboil',

An' dey put him on de table,

Now, de fork couldn' stick him,

An' de knife couldn't cut him.

An' dey throwed him in de hog-pen,

An' he broke de ol'sow's jaw-bone.

An' dey taken him to de saw-mill,

An' he broke de saw's teeth out.

An' de las' time I seed him,

Well, he's flyin' across de ocean,

Wid a long string o' goslin's,

An' dey all goin': Quank Quink-Quank,

@talltale @animal @bird
From singing of Leadbelly


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: mg
Date: 15 May 05 - 10:37 PM

All I can provide here is saying that Carry me back to old Virginey was written by an African American or so I have been told. I am sure they (African Americans) wrote a wide variety of songs...and I am secretly convinced that they liked some of the Stephen Foster songs and sang them...can you confirm or deny? Like Old Black Joe..I can never understand why that is supposed to be offensive. It sounds respectful, very, to me, and the story I read was that he wrote it about an elderly man he knew and had promised him he would write him a song... I hate not to sing it because it was the favorite song of an almost-brother to me who died in Vietnam. mg


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 15 May 05 - 11:17 PM

Well, I was with Sterling Brown a good deal of the way until he started on "Old Dog Blue," the heart felt southern white tribute to a faithful and valiant companion.
(Sniff)

It is arguable.
White rejected it as a black song, although he collected it from blacks (White, American Negro Folk Songs, pp. 207-208) as did Perrow, 1913. Possibly derived from a minstrel song of the 1850s, according to Randolph and White.

I doubt that its origin will be determined definitively.

See versions mentioned in thread 9707: Old Blue


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Miriam
Date: 15 May 05 - 11:19 PM

Azizi, are you sure that those songs you list are all antebellum?


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: wysiwyg
Date: 15 May 05 - 11:24 PM

Azizi, to clarify about changing a subject line-- please look at the empty box where posts are composed, then look above that to find this:

Reply to Thread   Subject:_________________________ Help
From: WYSIWYG

It's THAT subject line you need to change to:

ADD: The Song Title

(Just delete the subject line that shows, and enter your added song title.)

This ensures that people will see that new subject line when they are Supersearching for a song you might have posted, in their search results, so they can tell the "Lyrics Adds" from the posts where a song might have been mentioned but no lyrics added.

Thanks,

~Susan


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: wysiwyg
Date: 15 May 05 - 11:28 PM

Azizi, by "Mudcat elders" (note small e) I mean that once upon a time I was a newbie and full of great ideas, which those who had been here long before me helped me channel positively and effectively (despite my relatively hard head). It's sort of a tradition here that old hands do that for new folks, proactively, because we've all been there and done that. :~) Been new and so excited we don't see all the tools we could use, how we could work smarter and not harder? Help not make work for others? :~)

By "help" in my post above I meant that there are a number of things I can do to help, including on the tech side, but as my following comments indicate, unless I see for myself how I could help to support your goals, I am not sure what to offer. I don't want an offer to help to seem like an effort to steer you.

As far as a link to the permathread, I am happy to provide one, but I do prefer that people add their own links if they know how. At the time I saw your request, Mudcat was down such that I could not get to my personal page to look up the Traced thread and grab the URL to make a link. I saw that someone had suggested how you might go get it yourself, so I assumed you had-- I have not read all of each post in this thread since I had a rather large project to prep for this evening at church. Since then, I have asked Joe to include that link up in the top of the thread as he often does for related threads.... but now I am back from the presentation at church and I see he hasn't responded yet, so here you go:

AFRICAN-AMERICAN SPIRITUALS PERMATHREAD

~Susan


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Allen
Date: 16 May 05 - 04:23 AM

I think another reason it may be hard to assign an origin to some of these is because the way of life for most people was not very differed, and the songs reflect this.

Anyway, for what it's worth, here are songs listed as Negro in the Burl Ives Song Book:

Careless Love
Kemo-Kimi
Lubly Fan
The Grey Goose
Poor Boy


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi
Date: 16 May 05 - 05:33 AM

Mary Garvey, Stephen Foster lived in Lawrenceville, PA whihc mis now a part of Pittburgh, PA and happens to be less than five minutes from my home. While his house is renovated and has a plaque on the grounds, I'm not even sure if they have tours. And few Pittsburghers-Black or White sing ANY Stephen Foster songs now..Rightly or wrongly, they are considered to be patronizing to Black people..I have a book on Stephen Foster that talks about how he was greatly influenced by his Black nanny and later house servant who would take him to her church for services and concerts. Also that book {I'll post the title later put it's something like Doo Dah Day}, talks about Foster's friendship with other Black people including this paticular musical family.

And Martha, I'm sorry about your loss of your brother. One thing I can say if the title Old Black Joe is the origin one-maybe Stephen Foster's use of "Black' instead of "N-----" in those days was a sign of teh respect that I believe he actually had for Black peopel {given the information I vaguely remember reading in that book and elsewhere about Foster.

****

Miriam, you asked am I sure that those songs I listed are all antebellum. My short answer is "No". My slightly longer answer is that I'm learning about these songs right along with every one else.

****
Q Date: 15 May 05 - 11:17 PM
LOL!
I guess most folk song origins won't be determined definitively. i just want to draw attention to the possibliltiy/probablility of African American origin for a lot of folk songs that are lumbed into the 'traditional' American melting pot.

Let the discussion continue!!

****
WYSIWYG 15 May 05 - 11:24 PM
Well, I'm not clear on what you have written here. I will try to figure out what you are saying here. And I did PM Joe Offer about this and got a response from him.

WYSIWYG - PM 15 May 05 - 11:28 PM
I don't see this thread as being any different from any other thread on this discussion forum. I typically like to monitor the threads I start and respond to many of the posts that others' made.
While I probably will post more comments on this thread than I usually do on other threads I start, I have been consistent in saying that I welcome comments from ANYONE and EVERYONE who wants to post here. I also welcome PMs from Mudcat members, including those anonymouse 'elders' {small 'e'} that you referred to in your post.

And Susan, I have been taught to give respect to elders who merit such respect.

As to technical assistance, thanks for your hyperlink.

Let me also take this opportunity to thank Joe Offer for listing those related threads above the list of posters.

****

Allen,
Thanks for that listing. I appreciate that information.

****

HARAMBEE!! {A KiSwahili word meaning "All Pull Together!"}


Azizi Powell


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: wysiwyg
Date: 16 May 05 - 11:01 AM

Azizi,

I have been taught to respect elders simply for being elders, and that it is my responsibility to receive what they offer, not judging their merit but remembering that their wisdom exceeds my own. This has proven especially effective at Mudcat, where I have learned the most from people I originally trusted and "respected" the least.

YMMV

~Susan


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Allen
Date: 16 May 05 - 11:29 AM

What do people make of Bert Lloyd's theory on the origins of St James Infirmary?

BTW, I really liked that Sterling Brown essay you linked to.


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi
Date: 16 May 05 - 12:21 PM

Susan, with regards to your 16 May 05 - 11:01 AM post,
what I understand you to be saying sound to me too much like "my country right or wrong". Therefore, I don't agree with what you appear to be saying.

Since this conversation is tangential to this thread, I prefer not to discuss it further here and I have already PMed you.

****

Allen, would you share what Bert Lloyd's theory is on the origins of St James Infirmary?

Thanks!


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: PoppaGator
Date: 16 May 05 - 12:38 PM

Most if not all of the songs Azizi lists in her first couple of posts are ones that I had always assumed were of African-American origin.

Of course, most of them are also songs that became widely known, widely sung, and thus adapted and "folk-processed" by the population at large (i.e., white as well as black folks), first in the South and eventually nationwide (and worldwide).

It may be a sign of insenstivity on my part, but I had never noticed the contrast between spiritual and secular songs in regard to their attribution to African American sources. It's a valuable insight that poses a pretty interesting question regarding why this anomaly may have arisen: Perhaps it's because the black churches have always preserved a fairly exclusive "just us" identity, while popular (secular) culture at large is open to everyone and allows more room for ambuguity regarding any song's actual origin ~ there are always variations that may have arisen among different social groups, regardless of the people among whom the original version of the sing arose.


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Allen
Date: 16 May 05 - 01:10 PM

http://cjtm.icaap.org/content/27/27_gregory.html

Tracing a Ballad

Lloyd's interest in the relationship between the English and American popular music traditions found expression in another article he wrote for Keynote, his first attempt at ballad scholarship. Titled "Background to St. James' lnfirmary Blues," it was an historical analysis of a tune popular with jazz musicians in London at the time (1947a). He began by pointing out that although "St. James Infirmary" was a jazz tune it was also a song that had long been popular among American blacks. The current version, however, was almost certainly a corruption of an older folk ballad of non-negro origin. He also noted the similarity of both words and tune to an old Western song, "The Dying Cowboy," otherwise known as "The Streets of Laredo." One of the curious things about "Streets of Laredo," he remarked, was why a cowboy should request a military funeral, and this incongruity suggested that the original protagonist had been a soldier. So what light might a little historical research throw upon on these cowboy and jazz songs?

Both the Western song and the negro song, Lloyd suggested, were derived from 'an older hillbilly version collected by Cecil Sharp on the 8 th of June 1918 from Mrs. Laura V. Donald of Dewey, Virginia, called "St. James' Hospital" or "The Sailor Cut Down in His Prime,"' in which the dying anti-hero was a mariner. He then discussed other ' variants of this mountain ballad, including "One Morning in May" from Virginia and "The Bad Girl's Lament" from Nova Scotia, both of which were derived from British sources.6 Indeed the ballad had remained in oral tradition in various counties of southern England. Between- 1909 and 1915 the Journal of the Folk Song Society had printed several version I s, including one collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams in Hampshire and one by Lucy Broadwood in Sussex, while Cecil Sharp had reported six variants from Somerset and elsewhere. Earlier still Frank Kidson had collected in Knaresborough a version called "The Unfortunate Lad" which was printed in the Folk Song Society's Journal in 1904. That in turn was related to a mid 19 th -century broadside ballad, "The Unfortunate Rake," in which the protagonist was a soldier in a military hospital dying from alcoholism and venereal disease. However, this broadsheet was probably a folk-song written down by the ballad-monger, and it was most likely during the 18 th century that it travelled across the Atlantic.

Although Lloyd's detective work in tracing the evolution of 'The Soldier Cut Down in His Prime" was based on textual comparison, he was also interested in what had happened to the tune. Tunes, he argued, were usually more fragile than words, and that was evident in this case. Nonetheless, although most of the airs associated with variants of this song bore little resemblance to each other, there was enough similarity between the tune of "St. James Infirmary" and that of several of Cecil Sharp's versions which used the melody of another ancient ballad, "Henry Martin, the Bold Scottish Pirate," to indicate that the original tune had also crossed the Atlantic. Lloyd's general conclusion was that the English ballad had proven remarkably durable- in its lengthy travels (1 947a: 14):

So through all the changing scenes of character, St. James Infirmary is not very different, after all, from its 18th century original ... A folk song is indeed a tough thing to kill, and though the captains of industry did their damnedest, many songs have survived and adapted themselves to new characters and new conditions...Infirmary's origin is sturdily Anglo-Irish; and in that it resembles many - perhaps even most - well known American negro songs.
The results of Lloyd's investigation had again underlined the close link between British and Afro-American folk music. He refrained from explicitly drawing the further conclusion that the moribund English folk-song tradition might be reinvigorated by a blood transfusion from its healthier American offspring, but the lesson could be easily inferred from his article.


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 16 May 05 - 08:36 PM

The history behind "St. James, starting with "Buck's Elegy" and "The Unfortunate Rake" has been discussed exhaustively in Mudcat threads, 3918 a good place to start. North American progeny are widespread: all wrapped

I very much doubt that the many versions known in North America stemmed from the "hillbilly version" collected by Sharp, since versions of the song were widespread in North America, about soldiers, sailors, lumbermen, stockmen and cowboys, miners, gamblers, drivers, a murder victim, 'bad girls,' etc. It was played at the funeral of "Miss Flora" by the Stockman's Band in Dodge City (1880s).
(Miss Flora was a hound dog, a 'bystander' shot in a gunfight)

"Careless Love" is basically a song from the British Isles, but most of the verses now sung are floaters, many from Afro-American sources. Its popularity largely stems from sheet music pub. by Pace & Handy Music in 1921, probably written by Handy, called "Loveless Love" or "Careless LoveBlues." Some versions can scarcely be related to the antecedent(s), one of which probably is Thomas Moore's "To Sigh, Yet Feel No Pain," written about 1800.
    1st verse:
    To sigh, yet feel no pain,
    To weep, yet scarce know why;
    To sport an hour with beauty's chain,
    Then throw it idly by.
    To kneel at many a shrine,
    Yet lay the heart on none;
    To think all other charms divine,
    But those we just have won;
    This is love, careless love
    Such as kindleth hearts that rove.
From "The Blue Stocking;" appeared in the John Beach MS, 1801, Gloucester, MA.

A 19th c. songwriter (pub. in Baltimore; in Levy Sheet Music) changed the chorus to:
    This is careless, careless love,
    Such as kindleth hearts that rove.


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Subject: Lyr Add: GRIZZLY BEAR
From: GUEST,Azizi
Date: 17 May 05 - 01:57 PM

   

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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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Azizi
Date: 17 May 05 - 02:05 PM

See this information on the Grizzley Dance:

"The Grizzly bear started in San Francisco, along with the Bunny Hug and Texas Tommy and was also done on the Staten Island ferry boats in the 1900's. It has been said that dancers John Jarrott and Louise Gruenning introduced this dance as well as the Turkey Trot at Ray Jones Cafe' in Chicago, IL. around 1909. The Grizzly Bear was first introduced to Broadway audiences in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1910 by Miss Fanny Brice.

-- The dance was rough and clumsy, the picture above is character of the actual Grizzly Bear, as you can see, the hold is where it gets its name. During the dance, the dancers would yell out: "Its a Bear!." The genuine Grizzly Bear step was in correct imitation of the movements of a dancing bear, moving or dancing to the side. A very heavy step to the side with a decided bending of the upper part of the body from one side to the other, a decidedly ungraceful and undignified movement when performed as a dance.

-- Most writers (teachers) of the time wanted to do away with the Grizzly Bear at society dances as it was not a very pretty or sophisticated dance. In 1910, Sophie Tucker (Last of the Red Hot Mama's), was arrested for singing the Grizzly Bear and the "Angle Worm Wiggle." On July 22, 1913, written in a dance card from the Exposition Park dancing pavilion in Conneaut Lake, PA. it was written that the Bear Dance and Turkey Trot would not be tolerated. Most dances of the day would refer to some type of animal in the name, whether it had anything to do with one or not.

-- Vernon and Irene Castle had alot to do with the demise of the Grizzly Bear, as well as the Bunny Hug, the Turkey Trot and Texas Tommy. The Bear was finally shot when the Fox Trot appeared on the scene (1914).

M.F. Ham in his book "The Modern Dance" states that the grizzly bear came from the low Chinese dives of San Francisco.

Birth Place Creation Date Creator Dance Type:
San Francisco, CA. 1909 n/a Ragtime Dance "

Source: http://www.streetswing.com/histmain/z3grzber.htm
[sorry, the hyperlink function won't work}


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Azizi
Date: 17 May 05 - 02:36 PM

I mention the Grizzly Bear dance and include the information posted on Streetswing.com, though I don't agree with that site on where the dance originated.

Y'all know which racial group I believe created these dances. {smile}


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST
Date: 17 May 05 - 02:40 PM

"The Grizzly Bear" (posted in prison adaptation above (not the one that came to my mind and based on the "Preacher and the Bear") appeared in sheet music with words by Irving Berlin and music by George Botsford, 1910, "The Dance of the Grizzly Bear," based on the San Francisco dance and made popular by Maude Raymond. Levy Sheet Music: http://levysheetmusic.mse.jhu.edu/cgi-bin/display.pl?record=077.089.000&pages=5"> Grizzly Bear

I doubt that the two are related in any way.

(All I do is argue?)


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Azizi
Date: 17 May 05 - 02:51 PM

Sorry about that. I meant to write "I mention the Grizzly Bear dance and include the information posted on Streetswing.com, for the historical folkloric value though I don't agree with that site on where the dance originated."

And Guest 17 May 05 - 02:40 PM, I agree with you that there is no connection between these two songs and that the Grizzly dance dos not come from the song that I posted above.

Click here for More on the Grizzly Bear dance

Here is an excerpt from that site:

"'Grizzly Bear,'" better known as "Doing the Grizzly Bear," by Irving Berlin/George Botsford, was a ragtime song intorduced by entertainer Fannie Brice in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1910. The song is often associated with Sophie Tucker who performed it in vaudeville and later recorded it for Mercury. "Grizzly Bear" was recorded for Victor by Bill Murray and the American Quartet. The song's lyrics describe one of the ragtime animal dances supposed to have originated on San Francisco's notorious Barbary Coast. These animal dances of the early 1900s were descended from African-American social dances in which the characteristic manner of various animals is imitated. The grizzly bear dance was a variation of the turkey trot, performed with a swooping, swaying walk culminating in a bear hug between partners. (Bears, incidentally, do not dispatch their prey with death hugs.) Unlike the buzzard lope, snake hip, fish tail, camel walk, bunny hug, horse trot, crab step, kangaroo dip, lame duck, and chicken scratch, the grizzly bear escaped censorship by the strict dance establishment, possibly owing to the absence of grinding steps. In 1911 the grizzly bear was offically adopted on California's state flag, and was later featured in souvenir songs and promotional material for the 1915 San Franciso World's Fair (Panama Pacific International Exposition). Perhaps Beard's image of romping bears in his late 19th century painting, The Bear Dance, suggested itself in 1907 when Scott Joplin began plotting his opera in three acts, Treemonisha. "The Frolic of the Bears" (c. 1915) in act two, wherein costumed actors mimic the bears' frolic, or party, in the Ozark forest, seems rather odd apart from the bear fad. Because bears are not found in Africa and therefore do not figure prominently in African-American folklore, one might speculate that Treemonisha's "BoogerBears" are in essence superstition's hobgoblin, dispelled by the heroine's love, wisdom, and Christian enlightenment."

-snip-

For those who aren't familiar with the name, Scot Joplin was an African American.

And, just for the record, there is no method to what songs I decide to focus on in this thread. My selection of 'Grizzly Bear' was probably influenced by Bobert's current thread on bears.

;o}

Ms. Azizi


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Allen
Date: 17 May 05 - 04:01 PM

You know what I've really grown interested in is the shared reality of plantation life in the 1700s and how the music reflected this, because let's face it, unless you were well-off, things were not so different for black or white.


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Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi
Date: 17 May 05 - 04:19 PM

Well, Allen, while I understand the spirit of what you are saying,
I can't agree with you.

Prior to the end of slavery in the USA, free or freed African Americans in those times who lived in Southern states or in border Northern or Midwestern states like parts of Ohio or Pennsylvania lived daily with the threat of being kidnapped and sold as slaves.
So the legal institution of chattel slavery was a significant difference that had to have contributed to a greater or lesser degree to the behavior, thoughts, and psyche of both Blacks and Whites.

Not to mention laws that regulated the behavior of Black people including free or freed African Americans. For instance, the testimony of an African American was not accepted in court against a White person. And some states didn't allow free or freed African Americans to live there at all.

But if your point was that most Southern Whites were poor and didn't own slaves, the records show that to be true.

And there was secular musical interaction between the two groups.
To site one example, African American musicians were hired out to White 'frolics' and were noted callers at those barn dances.


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