Politically Incorrect Lyrics


Hi Fred,

I was having a hilarious discussion last night at Leeds Jazz Club with Chris Howse (Harmony Hounds/Peter Frank Allstars) about nowadays politically incorrect lyrics written during the early twenties and thirties, frequently by black lyricists.

The original lyrics on the verse for 'Shine' (Chris said - and demonstrated!) would bring down the wrath of every Chief Constable in these Sacred Isles. One anecdote he quoted was about Keith Nichols who was apparently singing 'Mississippi Mud' and the original line was 'When the Darkies beat their feet on the Mississippi Mud'. The amended sanitised version as we know has become 'When the People beat their feet....etc. Keith was half way through the line when he realised what was coming and finished up singing "When the Parkies beat their feet on the Mississippi Mud!". Chris also mentioned the occasion when he sang the first line of "Sugar" i.e. "Sugar, I call my Baby my Sugar" and three emancipated ladies rose in indignant splendour then swept out of the venue in high dudgeon. Careful, fellers. Your next vocal could elicit a visit from Plod and a severe telling off.

Ian Royle, 5th Apr 2006    

Wow, here I am in "politically correct" Canada and I always sing the original version of "Shine" and no one bats an eyelid. On the other hand I sing "Painting the Clouds with Sunshine" with the line "When I'm seeming gay I never feel that way", or "Running Wild" with "Feeling gay and restless too" which used to cause some merriment but now also seems perfectly acceptable, We can't rewrite history and maybe being aware of it is important too. The awful bigotry of early America is the roots of our music. Should we deny it? The most racially embarrassing song to my mind, "Black & Blue" was written by a black musician, Fats Waller. The lyrics are painful and tell us a lot about how it felt to be black at that time. So much so that it can only be sung by a black musician, but we shouldn't rewrite it for then it becomes an insult.

These comments are just an immediate reaction to Ian Royle's letter. Maybe I'll have a different opinion tomorrow.

Trevor Hodgson,  7th Apr 2006   

Dear Fred 

I have the ideal solution for such problems of political correctness as face our vocalists (male and female - incidentally, can we still say 'female?) - the solution is this: 

Have all the relevant, potentially inflammatory lyrics translated into an extremely obscure, possibly dead language or dialect, such as 'Downtown-Upper-Southside Accadic Occitanian' only spoken centuries ago by a highly civilised, but acne-ridden post-Bronze-age tribe on a small outcrop of now sunken rocks off the coast of La Rochelle. That way, no one can feel in the least insulted or slighted, nor can the so-called perpetrators be accused of racism, sexism, ageism, etc. To confuse the issue even further, subtitles could be flashed on a screen in all of the eight dialects of Basque. What do you think?

I remember a conversation with a female cousin of mine in Gloucester as early as the mid-1990s, when all this rubbish began to make its presence felt. I addressed Mary and her female friends as 'ladies'. I thought I was being polite and friendly, and not at all patronising. However, Cousin Mary immediately protested: "I'm not a 'lady', I'm a 'woman' ". I replied: "OK, I stand corrected; you're a 'woman' but you're 'no lady' ." There was deathly silence, but I think I got my message across. 

Very best wishes

Joe Silmon,  8th Apr 2006    

Hello Fred:

This is a great thread to keep going! I'm now at the age where I don't care any more about this: In fact I LOVE to sing songs like 'My Little Bimbo' in salute to any of those who may be in the audience. And I may even sing an alternate line to: And all she wore was a great big Zulu smile to And all she wore was a map of Tasmania. (I'll let you all check your atlases to see what that looks like, but Aussies know...)

Another favourite of mine is 'That's What Reminds Me Of You', where the last stanza says: A cottage for two with a fish-market view That's what reminds me of you... 

And how about Don Redman's 'Gee Baby Ain't I Good To You'?. Wonderfully non-PC.

I've even had those 'emancipated ladies' complain at the title of a song too:I'd just announced 'Let Me Call You Sweetheart' and they bristled.

There's a lot more, but I haven't been up long and my brain still has to wake up properly. :-)


Eric Holroyd, 8th Apr 2006 

Don't we know it ----- WE do "I'm A Little Blackbird" who are those 'whitey's' Clarence Williams refers in the lyrics?

Pete Lay, 8th Apr 2006   

Hi Fred,  Does this only apply if the vocalist is "sitting in"?

Jeff Lewis, 9th Apr 2006

Politically Incorrect song titles: - "Hello Young Lovers, You're Under Arrest" : "What is This thing called, Love?"

Jonathan Critchley, Original Panama Jazzband
9th Apr 2006

Hi Fred,  I bought a C. D. of Tommy Dorsey's Clambake 7 recently and one of the titles was "If the man in the Moon was a Coon" ! This group included Max Kaminsky Bud Freeman and Dave Tough. Hardly racists ! The same, as noted, about " Mississippi Mud" a favourite of Mr. Beiderbecke and what about Chattenooga Choo Choo the opening line of which is " Pardon me ,Boy " ? 

Finally I hate to think of the response you might get if you announced " I Want a Little Girl " !! 

Moe Green, 11th Apr 2006

Never mind the lyrics, I'm reminded of a very well known Swedish trumpet/cornet player, born 1947 by the name of Bent Persson!  Would he be allowed to play here now?

Fred Burnett, 14th April 2006

Talk about PC, I played a little tune by the Cornerhouse jazz band of Perth, entitled "Have you seen my pussy " and I dedicated it to a female presenter,. she didn't hear it and I told her about it.  It was taken off the station logger and the woman {no lady) has  put in a complaint of sexual harassment. All over a cat chasing a rat down a drain.  I think next time it will be Linda Hopkins and "Meet me with your black drawers on". Jazz in OZ is alive and well

Ron Knight (Oz), 16th Apr 2006

I note Jeff Lewis's query about the application of Political Correctness being only applicable if the vocalist is 'sitting in'.

Of course it does Jeff. Don't you know the lyric to "Right Key, Wrong Kehole"? I'm sure that the cuckolded gent locked out of his former abode by his former 'squeeze' and the gentleman 'sitting in', believed that various forms of correctness were not being observed - political amongst them!

Ian Royle, 18th April 2006

" All God's Chillun got Rhythm " I quote; " Maybe they don't have money, maybe they don't have shoes but they have plenty of rhythm to push away those Blues. " and " they may have trouble but trouble don't mean a thing when they sing Ho,Ho de o doh all they do is swing " Patronizing or what ?  How about " Please don't talk about me one eye's gone " ?   There's also a little gem by Barrel House Annie (honestly!) " If it don't fit don't force it ".

Moe Green, 19th April 2006

Here is one that isn't smutty or suggestive; what it is, is a genuinely POLITICALLY INCORRECT LYRIC and title of a well-known but infrequently played Jazz tune. 'Politically', because it involves politics, and 'incorrect', because, since the tune was written, what it heralds hasn't happened so far. Specifically involved, are the currency of the two opposing political movements of America's North and South in the American Civil War, i.e. the Confederate Army and the Union Army. Dizzy Burton's Jazz Aces, and possibly Eric Batty's earlier Jazz Aces, used to play this spirited little tune. I heard it at the Thatched House, Cross St., Manchester (UK) in late 1959. I think I played it with them once.    The title: "KEEP YOUR OLD CONFEDERATE MONEY, BOYS, THE SOUTH WILL RISE AGAIN". Composer's name not to hand - but some bright spark out there will know

Keep your old confederate money
Even though itís made of tin
Press all those crinolines, Honey
The South Shall Rise Again.

No, Susannah, donít you cry for me
For Iím off to Alabama
In hopes to make it free.

Joe Silmon, 19th April 2006

Hi Fred, re Joe Silmon's query about " Save your Confederate money, boys " I'm the bright spark who knows the answer. The composers were Marks-Fort-Stone whoever they were. I know this because when I was with the Jazz Aces it was my record that we got the tune from ! How about that well known cry " I'm coming, Virginia " 

Moe Green 20th April 2006

How about Fidji Defeat

John Bratby, 23rd April 2006

Hi Fred, Somewhere in the old family collection of music passed down from my mother's family, I have the sheet music to a song from the twenties by Brown, De Sylva & Henderson (good songwriters with Sonny Boy, Birth of the Blues & Button up Your Overcoat to their credit among others, I think) entirled, I kid you not, "That's why Darkies were Born"!!!

If I can find it, will send sample of the lyrics. I bet they are excruciating, probably about strumming banjos and dancing on the levy for the white folks, I should think !!!!

Does anyone know the tune ?

Roy Swift, 24th April 2006

Hi Fred,

Here are the words to the Brown and Henderson song from 1931. Buddy Da Silva was not involved. The song was featured in George White's Scandals of 1931 (stage show)and also the film.

That's Why Darkies Were Born Henderson & Brown 

Someone had to pick the cotton, Someone had to pick the corn, Someone had to slave and be able to sing, That's why darkies were born; 

Someone had to laugh at trouble, Though he was tired and worn, Had to be contented with any old thing, That's why darkies were born; 

Sing, sing, sing when you're weary and Sing when you're blue, Sing, sing, that's what you taught All the white folks to do; Someone had to fight the Devil, Shout about Gabriel's Horn, Someone had to stoke the train That would bring God's children to green pastures, That's why darkies were born. 

Louis Lince, 29/04/06

Somewhere in what Beryl calls "the Hobbit Hole" - MY Music Room - there finds itself a cd called "The Blues Ladies" - I think?
We used to play tracks from it on "Tradtime each week - the cd machine objected - but no one else ever ever complained and I believe most of 'em were so p.i.c we shoulda been shot!

Tony Davis, 07/05/06

Dear Fred, in 1897 The Tuxedo Club Minstrels from Toledo had a big hit with " All Coons look the same to me " Unfortunately I don't have the words. 

Moe Green 30/08/06

04/10/12 - Hello Fred,

I came across your site quite by accident and enjoyed some old posts on "politically incorrect" from 2006. It reminded me of an incident in Anacortes, Washington in the early 1980s. A ferry grounded in questionable circumstances. Fortunately no one was hurt and the town treated the incident with a certain amount of hilarity, including a song by the local jazz band. By today's standards the song is not even "racey", but is it politically correct? Anyway, an example of how history is preserved in songs.

Below are links to the song and to the story if you're interested.

Link to the story - http://www.dennisnybackfilms.com/2012/02/1313/

Link to the song - http://sanjuanupdate.com/updatepix07/elwarocks.mp3

P. Grotzki


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