Monday, July 02, 2007

Musical Mondays--starting this week!

I thought since Mondays often get me down and music tends to lift me up, I'd start a bit of a new tradition. I'll choose one folk song or hymn that I love (there are lots!), which is in the public domain, of course, and share it with you (either posting the lyrics here and singing it for you, available to download in mp3 format, or linking to a page with lyrics and music.)

I'll also share with you my memories of the song, what it means to me, why I like it, etc.

Hopefully you will either get to enjoy a song you already know, maybe learn something new about it, and share your thoughts about it, or you will get to hear a new song.

We'll see how long this lasts. :)

So here's today's song:

The Leather-wing Bat

"Hi," said the little leather-wing bat,
"I'll tell you the reason that,
The reason that I fly in the night,
It's because I've lost my heart's delight."

Howdy-dowdy diddle-o-day,
Howdy-dowdy diddle-o-day,
Howdy-dowdy diddle-o-day,
Tull-o-leel a diddly-do.

"Hi," said the woodpecker, settin' on a fence,
"Once I courted a handsome wench,
She got saucy and from me fled,
Ever since then, my head's been red."


Then said the blackbird, settin' in a chair,
"Once I courted a lady fair,
She turned fickle and turned her back.
Ever since then, my head's been black."


"Hi," said the bluebird as she flew,
"If I were a young man, I'd have two;
If one got saucy and wanted to go,
I'd have a new string for my bow."


"Hoot," said the owl with her head so white,
"A lonesome day and a lonesome night;
Thought I heard some pretty gal say
She'd court all night and sleep all day."


"No, oh, no," said the turtle dove.
"That's no way for to gain your love;
If you want to win your heart's delight,
Keep her awake both day and night."


This children's song is from the Appalachians, as far as I know. It entered my consciousness at a very early age, via a Burl Ives record (we had two of his kids' records, and yes I do mean records; I think this was on The Lollipop Tree, but I'm not absolutely certain.) The version I sing now is mostly his, but with a few minor variations and a verse or two that he doesn't sing on the record.

An interesting tidbit is that when I was a bit older, maybe 11 or so, I heard an Irish group (can't remember who) on a radio show called The Thistle and Shamrock that we used to listen to just about every week. They were singing a song about a miller, which I have learned is "The Old Man at the Mill," thanks to the wonders of Google-- I remembered the chorus down through the years and from that was able to find the song. (Part of that song also became a play-party game called "Miller Boy" in America. I'm not sure whether "The Old Man at the Mill" actually originates in Ireland and was carried over to America, or the other way around; there has been a lot of cross-over of folk songs going both ways.) I was struck that it was the same melody! (I have since learned that many versions also share many of the same/very similar verses.) I have also since heard a song entirely in Gaelic, using the same melody, although I for the life of me can't remember where or when. (This does not necessarily indicate that the tune originated in Ireland. Like I said, tunes and songs were borrowed freely on both sides of the Atlantic.)

In any case, it's a tune that's fascinated me since I was a young child, and I now sing it to my girls, especially when they need to be distracted; the almost hypnotic rhythm is perfect for bouncing a baby on a hip to, and older toddlers like the names of birds even if they don't understand the "courting" lyrics. (Notice that the final advice is given by the turtle dove, a bird long associated with love and courtship in Appalachian lore.) It's very rhythmic, even unaccompanied, and you can see why it made a good play-party song. (Play-party songs were dances done only to their own singing and clapping by groups of young people on the American frontier and in parts of the South and Midwest even until the 1930's, by teens and young adults whose parents had forbidden dances as "of the devil" or musicians as "bad influences"; apparently if there were no instruments and it was seen as a "children's game", then it didn't count as dancing. Most of the dances were circle dances, although there was the occasional "figure", "promenade", or "thread-the-needle" game.)

I hope you enjoy it! You can download an mp3 of me singing it here.


CareBearMommy said...

Thanks for taking the time to read my story about Dawnyel ("The Odd Cherry). I'm glad it made you laugh...

I've been reading your blog lately, but this is the first time I've commented. I have never heard that song until now, but I really liked it. I listened to it twice, and you did a good job singing it. Thanks for sharing.. the song and your thoughts. This Music Monday is a good idea.

Anne/kq said...

Well, thank you. :)

Music means a lot to me, and I think it's a shame the old folk songs aren't sung much any more. So this is my little effort to keep them going. :)