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Songs from my childhood

Every now and then I think about songs from my elementary school music classes, and in looking back, I ask, "Whiskey tango foxtrot?"

In the Weirdness Department, two types of songs remain distinct in those nearly 50 years' worth of memory fog. One of those categories is songs black people from the 1800s are reputed to have sung.

I say "reputed" because one song in particular comes to mind, and it has to do with the death of a slavemaster. The only lyrics I can remember are these:

Hear that mournful sound
All of the brothers am a-weepin'
Massa's in de cold cold ground

See, kids! Slavery—if you've even heard of it—wasn't all that bad. It wasn't until years later that I became suspicious of the provenance of these songs because I learned that in the songs we learned, the word "brothers" was used instead of the word "darkies" from the original version.

The other category was Protestant hymns. I don't recall us singing any well-known hymns like "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood," but one of them, "Come Ye Faithful People," reminded us grade-schoolers that "God, our maker," was making sure our needs would be met.

I always was uncomfortable singing about God in music class. The songs with alleged black origins? They didn't bother me because in elementary school, the evils of slavery weren't part of the curriculum. I had no idea of their context.

When I finally learned that slavery lives just this side of genocide, and when I thought back on the elementary school songs we sang, I realized just how much had been hidden from us.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 3rd, 2015 01:20 am (UTC)
I remember singing, "Jump down, turn around, pick a bale of cotton..."
which I don't imagine was about hippie cotton growers in a commune.
Jan. 3rd, 2015 02:29 am (UTC)
You're right: Some of the original lyrics of the song have nothing to do with hippies, nothing at all.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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