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Author Topic: Dress in red for a funeral?  (Read 16521 times)

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Offline outfidel

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Dress in red for a funeral?
« on: February 24, 2005, 05:41:05 AM »
When Mance Lipscomb's Ella Speed & Mississippi John Hurt's Louis Collins are found dead, all the people dress in red.

Why is that? I thought black was the usual funeral color, and occasionally white in some cultures.

Where/when is it customary to dress in red? Is this appropriate only when the deceased, like Ella Speed & Louis Collins, has been murdered?
« Last Edit: February 24, 2005, 06:06:59 AM by outfidel »
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Offline ozrkreb

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Re: Dress in red for a funeral?
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2005, 07:33:36 AM »
I posted this over in the woodshed, but I'll post a reply here also. This information comes from Cat Yronwode's website. There is a tremendous amount of material on her site, much of which I find utterly useless, but the information on the blues is very interesting. I sometimes question the validity of her claims and information, but it's interesting nonetheless (the spelling errors aren't mine).
Az

"White folks, accostomed to black being the colour worn both for funerals and for post-funereal mourning, sometimes think that references in blues songs to dressing in red signify a party atmosphere or happiness over a person's death. Not so. In Africa, and among African-Americans in earlier times, drssing in red has been a funerary custom. As such, it is reminiscent of burial with red ochre pigment, which was used among neolithic poeople (the "red paint people") the world around. The religious idea behind this custom is that as a baby is born from the mother's womb through blood, so will rebirth occur (after interrment in Mother Earth) through blood."

www.luckymojo.com/blues.html
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Offline TX_Songster

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Girls all dressin in red
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2008, 09:23:00 AM »
Does anyone know what this lyric means?  Basically it is saying the girls get dressed in red after a funeral.  It shows up in a couple songs: Duncan and Brady, and M. John Hurt's Louis Collins.  I am guessing it implies that people are celebrating the death.

Offline CF

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Re: Girls all dressin in red
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2008, 10:00:14 AM »
I thought the red signified it was a murder & not a natural death . . .
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Girls all dressin in red
« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2008, 11:39:30 AM »
In about 2003 the late Keith Briggs's Words, Words, Words column in Blues & Rhythm magazine covered this topic at some length. I'll see if I can locate it.

Offline TX_Songster

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Re: Girls all dressin in red
« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2008, 11:56:37 AM »
Thanks for the replies.  BH- That would be great if you can find it! 

The muder theory is good, and that would make sense too.  The reason I thought it was celebration is that in Duncan and Brady, the sherrif is killed, and I figured everyone was happy to see him gone.  However, Louis Collins is such a sad song in which the mother is weeping for her son who was murdered.  If people were celebrating his death that puts a whole new spin on things- Collins was a good son to his mother, but maybe misunderstood to everyone else.  You can really let your imagination run wild.

Offline CF

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Re: Girls all dressin in red
« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2008, 12:29:13 PM »
They dressed in red after Ella Speed was murdered too
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Offline dj

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Re: Girls all dressin in red
« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2008, 02:08:21 PM »
It wasn't just murders:  "When the news reached town that Casey Jones was dead, the women went home and now they're out in red..."  - Jesse James, "Southern Casey Jones"

Maybe they dressed in that color because it rhymed with dead? 

Offline Johnm

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Re: Dress in red for a funeral?
« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2008, 02:12:58 PM »
Hi all,
Thought you might be interested in an earlier thread on this same topic, so I merged the old thread, which was hiding in the Jam Session with this new one.
all best,
Johnm

Offline Richard

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Re: Dress in red for a funeral?
« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2008, 02:32:49 PM »
Doesn't the song Cocaine have a line that goes something like "See that woman dressed in red..."
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline TX_Songster

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Re: Dress in red for a funeral?
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2008, 02:42:16 PM »
Ha!  Well, at least I'm not the only one who has been puzzled over this line.  Thanks for merging the two threads.  I like DJ's explanation, maybe it's as simple as that :)

Offline Cambio

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Re: Dress in red for a funeral?
« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2008, 03:14:57 PM »
I know that red is the color that symbolizes the Holy Spirit.  On Mother's Day, on the South Side of Chicago, black folks used to wear a red flower if their mother had passed, and a white flower if she was still living.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Dress in red for a funeral?
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2008, 05:54:49 PM »
I look forward to BH digging up the Blues and Rhythm article. I have two very vague recollections of this subject being discussed elsewhere. One involved an African tradition of dressing in red for a funeral. The other was from David Evans, who postulated that women dressing in red possibly indicated some affiliation with the, er, less than legitimate business practises of prostitution, pimping, whorehouses, gambling etc., and that this practise of dressing in red was meant to show solidarity with a "rounder" or less than savory character. Like I said, vague memories, and I would not want to myself (or Evans) to be held to account for what I've just typed. But looking forward to any forthcoming elucidations (as FrontPage might say).

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Dress in red for a funeral?
« Reply #13 on: February 05, 2008, 09:58:41 AM »
I look forward to BH digging up the Blues and Rhythm article. I have two very vague recollections of this subject being discussed elsewhere. One involved an African tradition of dressing in red for a funeral. The other was from David Evans, who postulated that women dressing in red possibly indicated some affiliation with the, er, less than legitimate business practises of prostitution, pimping, whorehouses, gambling etc., and that this practise of dressing in red was meant to show solidarity with a "rounder" or less than savory character. Like I said, vague memories, and I would not want to myself (or Evans) to be held to account for what I've just typed. But looking forward to any forthcoming elucidations (as FrontPage might say).
DJ, the light bulb is glowing, all this is very familiar to me. I think Keith Briggs originally raised the topic on MKA's prewar group. I'm sure Cat Yronwode supplied lots of differing historical usage.

Offline waxwing

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Re: Dress in red for a funeral?
« Reply #14 on: February 05, 2008, 07:08:27 PM »
I became aware of a similar red for black, cultural dissonance while performing a performance art piece in Cairo, Egypt, about 10 years ago. The name of the very surreal piece was "Seeing Red", which, of course, for us had the connotation of 'being angry' (altho' there was no depiction of anger in the piece, but a heck of a lot of red -G-). We had quite a bit of interplay with locals and after discussion found that when an Egyptian gets angry, they see black.

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