Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Saturday, February 11, 2006

"We're singing about getting drunk and dancing on our owner's grave."

How flippin’ weird is it that a 165-year-old song about a slave making whisky, getting drunk, and celebrating his master’s death is a children’s song now? When I was a kid, I had no idea what
Jim Crack Corn was about. I don’t remember caring; if anything I remember enjoying the nonsense, but that’s the thing: it wasn’t always nonsense. And when my kid asks what the song is about, should I lie and say it’s nonsense? Yes, I probably should, because to most of our culture today, it signifies nonsense.

“Home on the Range” at one time was the most popular song on the radio. A long time ago. Now, a childrens song.

Am I right to suspect that “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” was a minstrel song? I’ve thought so for a while, and a 1935 songbook called “America Sings” that my friend Jay gave me recently gives more evidence: that ol’ minstrelsy atrocious approximation of African American speech: “I’ve Been Wukkin’ On De Railroad.”

60 years from now, most of the Beatle canon will be children’s music. It’s on its way already.

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