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Origin: if your skin is brown...skin is black

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GIT BACK BLUES


Related threads:
Anti-racism, anti-prejudice songs (26)
Lyr Add: Little Black Me (Thurland Chattaway) (16)


GUEST,wordy 08 Mar 06 - 10:24 AM
Leadfingers 08 Mar 06 - 10:37 AM
bobad 08 Mar 06 - 10:40 AM
GUEST 08 Mar 06 - 11:18 AM
bobad 08 Mar 06 - 11:46 AM
GUEST,wordy 08 Mar 06 - 12:12 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 08 Mar 06 - 01:24 PM
Deckman 08 Mar 06 - 02:12 PM
Azizi 08 Mar 06 - 02:23 PM
Deckman 08 Mar 06 - 03:28 PM
Cool Beans 08 Mar 06 - 04:46 PM
Azizi 08 Mar 06 - 08:35 PM
Cool Beans 08 Mar 06 - 08:57 PM
Deckman 08 Mar 06 - 09:08 PM
Azizi 08 Mar 06 - 09:44 PM
Mr Happy 08 Mar 06 - 09:45 PM
Azizi 08 Mar 06 - 10:22 PM
Flash Company 09 Mar 06 - 10:39 AM
GUEST,Nicholas Waller 09 Mar 06 - 11:09 AM
Bill D 09 Mar 06 - 12:18 PM
Cool Beans 09 Mar 06 - 02:11 PM
Mark Ross 09 Mar 06 - 04:29 PM
Azizi 09 Mar 06 - 08:47 PM
Deckman 09 Mar 06 - 09:18 PM
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Subject: Origins: anyone know this song?
From: GUEST,wordy
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 10:24 AM

Does anyone recognise this. I have a feeling it was an old blues I heard 50 years ago. I need to trace it please.

.....town, ....town,
they don't want you if your skin is brown,
they'll turn their back if your skin is black
down in....town

It might not be exactly like that but does it ring bells with anyone?


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Subject: RE: Origins: anyone know this song?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 10:37 AM

Only thing I can think is Broonzy's 'Bourgeoise Town' - But that is dredging too !!


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Subject: Lyr Add: OXFORD TOWN (Bob Dylan)
From: bobad
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 10:40 AM

Can it be Dylan's "oxford Town"

Oxford Town, Oxford Town
Ev'rybody's got their heads bowed down
The sun don't shine above the ground
Ain't a-goin' down to Oxford Town

He went down to Oxford Town
Guns and clubs followed him down
All because his face was brown
Better get away from Oxford Town

Oxford Town around the bend
He come in to the door, he couldn't get in
All because of the color of his skin
What do you think about that, my frien'?

Me and my gal, my gal's son
We got met with a tear gas bomb
I don't even know why we come
Goin' back where we come from

Oxford Town in the afternoon
Ev'rybody singin' a sorrowful tune
Two men died 'neath the Mississippi moon
Somebody better investigate soon

Oxford Town, Oxford Town
Ev'rybody's got their heads bowed down
The sun don't shine above the ground
Ain't a-goin' down to Oxford Town


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Subject: RE: Origins: anyone know this song?
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 11:18 AM

Ah, I think it might be the broonzy. Anybody got the lyrics?


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Subject: Lyr Add: BLACK BROWN AND WHITE (Big Bill Broonzy)
From: bobad
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 11:46 AM

Black, Brown And White
(Big Bill Broonzy)

This little song that I'm singin' about,
People, you all know that it's true,
If you're black and gotta work for livin',
Now, this is what they will say to you,
They says: If you was white,
You's alright,
If you was brown,
Stick around,
But if you's black, oh, brother,
Get back, get back, get back.
I was in a place one night,
They was all havin' fun,
They was all buyin' beer and wine,
But they would not sell me none.
They said: If you was white,
You's alright,
If you was brown,
You could stick around,
But as you's black, hmm, hmm, brother,
Get back, get back, get back.
I went to an employment office,
I got a number, I got in line,
They called everybody's number,
But they never did call mine.
They said: If you was white,
You's alright,
If you was brown,
You could stick around,
But as you's black, hmm, hmm, brother,
Get back, get back, get back.
Me and a man was workin' side by side,
Now, this is what it meant:
They was payin' him a dollar an hour,
And they was payin' me fifty cent.
They said: If you was white,
You'd be alright,
If you was brown,
You could stick around,
But as you's black, oh, brother,
Get back, get back, get back.
I helped win sweet victories,
With my plow and hoe,
Now, I want you to tell me, brother,
What you gonna do 'bout the old Jim Crow?
Now, if you is white,
You's alright,
If you's brown,
Stick around,
But if you's black,
Hmm, hmm, brother,
Get back, get back, get back.

bourgeois town

(G7) Me and my wife went all over town
And everywhere we went people turned us down
Lord, in a (C7) bourgeois town
It?s a (G) bourgeois town
I got the (D7) bourgeois blues
Gonna spread the news all a- (G) round

Home of the brave, land of the free
I don?t wanna be mistreated by no bourgeoisie
Lord, in a bourgeois town
Uhm, the bourgeois town
I got the bourgeois blues
Gonna spread the news all around

Well, me and my wife we were standing upstairs
We heard the white man say ?I don?t want no niggers up there?
Lord, in a bourgeois town
Uhm, bourgeois town
I got the bourgeois blues
Gonna spread the news all around

Well, them white folks in Washington they know how
To call a colored man a nigger just to see him bow
Lord, it?s a bourgeois town
Uhm, the bourgeois town
I got the bourgeois blues
Gonna spread the news all around

I tell all the colored folks to listen to me
Don't try to find you no home in Washington, DC
?Cause it?s a bourgeois town
Uhm, the bourgeois town
I got the bourgeois blues
Gonna spread the news all around


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Subject: RE: Origins: anyone know this song?
From: GUEST,wordy
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 12:12 PM

Hmm. Thanks all. Black, brown and white seems nearest. Still, if anyone else recognises my chorus please let me know.


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Subject: RE: anyone know this song? - skin is brown/black
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 01:24 PM

Wordy's short extract suggests a blending with "Oxford Town."
Also see "Git Back Blues" in the DT (another Broonzy version of BB&W).


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Subject: RE: anyone know this song? - skin is brown/black
From: Deckman
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 02:12 PM

Earl Robinson?????


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Subject: RE: anyone know this song? - skin is brown/black
From: Azizi
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 02:23 PM

As an aside, these lines appear to be commonly known African Americans:

If you're white,
you're alright.
If you was brown,
stick around.
If you're black,
Get [or "step"]back.


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Subject: RE: anyone know this song? - skin is brown/black
From: Deckman
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 03:28 PM

Azizi ... Very common. I heard that many times in Seattle in the 1950's. Bob


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Subject: RE: anyone know this song? - skin is brown/black
From: Cool Beans
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 04:46 PM

"Bourgeois Blues" is Leadbelly's, not Broonzy's.


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Subject: RE: anyone know this song? - skin is brown/black
From: Azizi
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 08:35 PM

Deckman,

I'm curious. Did you hear White people sayin that "rhyme" or Black people. I've never heard any White people say it, but maybe they wouldn't say it around me.

****

I've always considered this saying as succient commentary on who is favored and who is the low "man" on the totem pole in race conscious America. "Brown" in this rhyme means "Black people who aren't real dark skinned" like those the rhyme refers to as "black" . Actually, to better fit reality, the rhyme should have had a line that said "if you're almost White [in skin color] you're alright."

Although tremendous strides have been made to promote positve self-concept among Black people, color consciousness and preference for light skinned over dark skinned [Black] people is still prevalent among many people of African descent-at least in the USA, if not elsewhere.


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Subject: RE: anyone know this song? - skin is brown/black
From: Cool Beans
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 08:57 PM

The excellent play "Yellowman" speaks to the subject Azizi brings up. I highly recommend it.


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Subject: RE: anyone know this song? - skin is brown/black
From: Deckman
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 09:08 PM

Hi Azizi,

I will try to answer your question honestly and accuratly.

As you guessed, I am white, although I am totally color blind as my eyes only see shades of grey. That's not a joke ... I was born with an absence of rods and cones ... I DO live in a black and white world.

I was very blessed when I was 16 to be accepted as the "Token white" in an all black theater group in Seattle. It took the group about one year to grind off the rough edges of my racism. But they did, and they continued to accept me and educate me.

The phrase you posted was often heard amongst us. This was in the mid fifties ... 1954 to about 59. I heard it from black people.

This was during a very chaotic time in Seattle, extreme racism, tensions. The song, "We Shall Overcome" was just starting it's long journey into the breath of America. Guy Carawan came to town, singing it.

My dim memory recalls this as a "song' ... but more of a "liteny" (sp?).

Does that make any sense to you?

I'd appreciate your feedback to my feeble contribution. Best wishes, Bob Nelson


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Subject: RE: anyone know this song? - skin is brown/black
From: Azizi
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 09:44 PM

Let me first apologize to GUEST,wordy for taking this thread off into a tangent that is still somewhat related to the initial request for information about that song.

Cool Beans, I don't know about the play you mentioned. Would you please post more information? When I saw the name "Yelloman",
I thought of the reggae singer by that name.

See this excerpt about that singer:

"Born in Jamaica in 1956 as Winston Foster, the person who would come to be known as Yellowman faced a youth frought with hardship. Because of his albinism, a condition that was looked down upon by natives of his country, he endured hostility and scorn from those around him and was placed in an institution. During those difficult years, he drew inspiration from the Jamaican folk music of the sixties, which encouraged him to create his own songs in the hopes that he would one day gain acceptance in spite of the stigma placed upon him."...

-snip-
Click Yellowman-Reggae Singer for more information about this singer.

****

I previously wrote that many Black people favor those {Black people} who are lighter skinned. Yet, it is also true that those Black people who are light skinned are also taunted and otherwise picked on by darker skinned Black people. I think this is at least partly because of jealousy. I find it both terrible and sad that the author of this article writes that Yellowman wanted to be successful composing songs so that "he would one day gain acceptance in spite of the stigma placed upon him."...And isn't it terrible and sad that the same people who stigmatized him were also stigmatized?

What a crazy world we live in!


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Subject: Lyr Add: BLACK AND WHITE (from The Spinners)
From: Mr Happy
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 09:45 PM

BLACK AND WHITE
As performed by 'The Spinners' [Liverpool:f circa 198?]


The ink is black, the page is white
Together we learn to read and write
To read and write
A child is black, a child is white
The whole world looks upon the sight
A beautiful sight

And now a child can understand
This is the law of all the land
All the land
The world is black, the world is white
It turns by day and then by night
It turns by night

And now at least, we plainly see
The alphabet of liberty, Liberty

The world is black, the world is white
It turns by day and then by night
A child is black, a child is white
Together they grow to see the light
To see the light


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Subject: RE: anyone know this song? - skin is brown/black
From: Azizi
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 10:22 PM

Deckman,

I'm sure that I'm not alone in thanking you for the honesty of your post.

It would seem to me that if you had the interest, and courage to participate in that Black theater group than you were well on the way to facing up to & eradicating any ideas/feelings of racism that you might have had. I'm also betting {and hoping}that those members of that Black theater group learned from you and worked through their racism as much as you learned from them.

Bob, you wrote that "My dim memory recalls this as a "song' ... but more of a "liteny" (sp?)." I guess you mean "litany" LOL!

But I'm not sure which song you mean-"We Shall Overcome"? or "If you're white...

I think you might have meant "If you're white"...because I'm sure you know that "We Shall Overcome" was a {Black} gospel song called
"We'll Overcome". That song was more uptempo than the civil rights version.

I don't recall "If you're white" ever being sung. That verse was usually inserted as spoken word into adult conversations as a statement of fact commentary on the reality of race in the USA.
I said "was" but this verse is still heard nowadays.

As to you seeing only shades of gray, I wish there was some way to change that condition so that you can see the colors in the world. But you are ahead of alot of people in that you recognize that skin colors aren't important at all-or at least you know that they shouldn't be important.

Best wishes, Azizi


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Subject: RE: anyone know this song? - skin is brown/black
From: Flash Company
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 10:39 AM

Bill Broonzy used to introduce Black Brown & White with the comment 'There's on'y me, Pete Seeger an' Brownie McGee sing this, 'cos in the States you can get a whole lot of trouble singing songs like this!'

FC


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Subject: RE: anyone know this song? - skin is brown/black
From: GUEST,Nicholas Waller
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 11:09 AM

Coincidentally I just had Rory McLeod singing "Black, Brown, White" (no and) by Big Bill Broonzy on CD2 of a 2CD "A Festival of Folk" sampler on the Emporio label from 1996... DEMPCD 002, song taken from McLeod's 1992 album "Travelling Home", according to the sleeve notes.


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Subject: RE: anyone know this song? - skin is brown/black
From: Bill D
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 12:18 PM

it took some looking, but hereis a page of Leadbelly songs, including "Bourgeois Blues". The "white, brown, black" lines are not in this version, but I'm sure I've heard them plugged in by others.


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Subject: RE: anyone know this song? - skin is brown/black
From: Cool Beans
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 02:11 PM

Azizi and all: Here's a review of Dael Orlandersmith's play "Yellowman"

Bigotry is pernicious, even more so when it comes from within. Hate hurts, self-hate hurts worse. Thus, in her "Romeo and Juliet"-like play "Yellowman," Dael Orlandersmith does Shakespeare one better.
   Her story, presented in Tim Rhoze's beautiful and heart-wrenching staging at Detroit Repertory Theatre, is about two young black people facing the cruel phenomenon of internal racism: the mutual resentment between light-skinned black people and darker-skinned black people.
    Alma, the play's Juliet, has dark skin; Eugene, the play's title character, has lighter skin.
    Left to their own devices this wouldn't be a problem. In an opening scene of infinite charm, "Yellowman" shows Alma and Eugene, at ages 7 and 9 respectively, meeting in the schoolyard. Cecilia Foreman and Bernard Owens Jr. -- the entire cast -- play Alma and Eugene and a host of other characters.
    There is a third childhood friend, a dark-skinned boy named Alton, and the kids play at Batman and delight in singing the Monkees' theme song, the one about how they get the funniest looks from everyone they meet. Leave it to Orlandersmith to find profundity in this fluffiest of songs.
    As Alma and Eugene grow up, funny looks are only the beginning. In
Orlandersmith's rural South Carolina of the late 20th Century, as in
Shakespeare's Verona of the 16th, parents always mess things up. More
precisely, parents, grandparents, neighbors and so-called friends combine to make life hell for Alma and Eugene, individually and as a couple.
    Orlandersmith's play isn't so much about skin as who gets under it, and how.
    Rhoze, who launched his acting career at the Rep some 25 years ago and has gone on to Chicago theaters, movies and network TV, is making his professional directing debut; everything about his staging, though, bespeaks experience as well as understanding. He has guided Foreman to a performance as Alma and her very different mother that will be talked about for years, and has elicited
excellent work from Owens.
   One can't imagine Orlandersmith's powerful and poetic play, a 2002 Pulitzer finalist, receiving a better production anywhere.


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Subject: RE: anyone know this song? - skin is brown/black
From: Mark Ross
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 04:29 PM

THE INK IS BLACK was written by Earl Robinson and I think it was a hit for Frank Sinatra.

Three Dog Night recorded it in the '70's.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: anyone know this song? - skin is brown/black
From: Azizi
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 08:47 PM

Thanks, Cool Beans.

In the early 20th century, African AMerican scholar/activist W.E.B. DuBois wrote that "The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line, the relation of the darker to the lighter races in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea."

As a very light skinned man, DuBois surely knew first hand the problems of color preferences within African American & other Black families, groups, and communities.

It's a shame that in the 6th year of the 21st century, we [human beings]and we [Black people] have not done more to eradicate skin color valuations.


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Subject: RE: anyone know this song? - skin is brown/black
From: Deckman
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 09:18 PM

I've ALWAYS known that my inability to see colors was a boon. Why ... some of my very BEST friends are black ... or white ... or whatever they want to call themselves!!!! Bob

P.S. I well remember sitting in the audience in 1956 as Earl Robinson gave a two hour, solo presentation of his new opera "Sandhog." He also sang "Black and White." I was blessed to be able to attend his memorial service in Seattle ... what a man.


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