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Sugar Babe was the first piece I learned, when I was a little boy about 13 years old. Reason I know this so good, I got a whippin' about it. Come out of the cotton-patch to get some water and I was up at the house playin' the git-tar and my mother come in; whopped me cause I didn't come back - I was playin' the git-tar. Yeah, I got a whippin' bout Sugar Babe - I never will forgit that one - Mance Lipscomb, from his biography

Author Topic: Misogynistic lyrics  (Read 1935 times)

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Offline Mr.OMuck

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Misogynistic lyrics
« on: June 24, 2017, 07:08:25 AM »
There are some lyrics I just can't sing anymore. Of course a conflict arises re authenticity vs. contemporary comfort zones, and I'm not a knee jerk PC type of guy, but I just can't get past the most violent lyrics. Especially not when so many cops are "snapping' pistols" in people's faces and getting away with it. To whit, I've substituted a verse in "Crow Jane", "I feel like snapping' my pistol in your face, some lonesome graveyard be your resting' place" with one I wrote, " I feel like kissing the lips right off your face, some lovely bedroom be our trystin' place" . I know, I know.."trysting"? a bit Weenie for sure but I just can't do that other one anymore.
Anyone else running into this problem? Anyone else substituting homemade lyrics for the originals?
« Last Edit: June 24, 2017, 10:54:23 AM by Mr.OMuck »
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline Slack

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Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2017, 07:25:57 AM »
Good topic Phil, and I agree - there is enough violence in the world.  I change Bo Carter's 'Old Devil''s 2nd (awful) verse from

I beat my baby, man with a rope and a line (x2)
ain't no joke no lie this time.... I beat my baby with a rope and line until she went stone blind

I love my baby, man and she's so fine (x2)
ain't no joke no lie this time... she's so fine, wanna make her mine, all the time.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2017, 07:51:13 AM »
Good! Why not make a positive and corrective contribution to the "Folk Process"? Good substitution John.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Online Johnm

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Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2017, 08:58:55 AM »
Phil and John, I've had a similar response to singing lyrics in the last number of years that I sang heedlessly when I was a kid.  Gleeful or earnest posturing is a more natural place to be coming from in your 20s--you're still in the process of becoming who you will eventually be.  Once you've lived long enough to have a more concrete sense of who you are, you may realize, "Wow, this lyric is so not who I am, I don't even want the words coming out of my mouth." 

I do think you have to own what you sing, though, perhaps especially in this music.  It absolutely does not work to sing something and in the same breath disavow what you just said.  It makes what is being communicated way too complicated for the listener, who may be left wondering, "Does the person mean this, or is he just screwing around?"  It's so much easier and more natural to sing lyrics when you can put yourself plausibly in the place the lyrics are coming from, and believe it yourself.

All best,
Johnm

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2017, 10:53:22 AM »
Yes JohnM a good point regarding personal rather than historical authenticity.
                 
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline waxwing

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Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2017, 11:50:35 AM »
I've seen discussion, some of it possibly here on WC quite some time ago, that many songs depicting violence against women were actually "coded" to be a description of the singer's desire to do just such violence to a white overseer or some other overly proud and vindictive white person in power. This seems particularly apt for Crow Jane.

It's difficult for me to play this music without fully honoring those who created the music, which includes a discussion, when possible, of the times and treatment that these people were subjected to, including the explanation above, as well as insights into lyrics and backstories. I guess I'm lucky to be playing to audiences that appreciate this and are capable of accepting that these songs are "of an era" and not necessarily the true thoughts of the singer, even if performed with conviction. But I can understand that other performers would want to divorce the music and lyrics from the times in which they were created and perform purely for the music's sake, or many gradations between these different sensibilities.

Sometimes portraying times "as they really were" can help us see today "as it really is." That may or may not be the intent of any given performer, but it is important to bear in mind that all art is political, even if we don't mean for it to be.

Wax
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
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Offline Stuart

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Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #6 on: June 24, 2017, 12:15:30 PM »
Good points, gents. We probably should start a "taboo lyrics & taboo songs"  thread to discuss the specifics and how to address problems associated with them.

Offline oddenda

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Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #7 on: June 24, 2017, 06:35:26 PM »
Blues lyrics have been misogynistic from the git-go. Since before Ma Rainey's time. Political correcting is one way to go, but is it the preferred one? Remember, blues lyrics are generally NOT of the singer, but are observations of the singer's surround and comments thereof. Then how're ya gonna "do" "Shave 'Em Dry"?! Getting too much "angels on the head of a pin" shit!!!

pbl

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #8 on: June 24, 2017, 08:08:59 PM »
No one's suggesting editing or censoring the originals. Its just a matter of what a performer these days is comfortable singing.
i'm not comfortable singing the "N" word, or songs in praise of Donald Trump either.


« Last Edit: June 24, 2017, 08:13:53 PM by Mr.OMuck »
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Slack

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Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #9 on: June 24, 2017, 08:20:28 PM »
Quite a few different takes!  Ahh, that Phil, knows how to bring up provocative topics.    :D

Quote
I've seen discussion, some of it possibly here on WC quite some time ago, that many songs depicting violence against women were actually "coded" to be a description of the singer's desire to do just such violence to a white overseer or some other overly proud and vindictive white person in power.

Wax, this seems like such a cop-out to me.  A way to make us white guys better about our favorite blues artists.  As Peter points out misogyny lyrics and deeds, including blues players - why would they be immune?, have been around since the get go.

 
Quote
We probably should start a "taboo lyrics & taboo songs"  thread to discuss the specifics and how to address problems associated with them.

Nothing taboo about historical lyrics and songs.... sing whatever you want!  I think the topic is what do YOU feel comfortable singing/playing, or not playing these days.  I think Johnm makes a good point about what we do in our youth, we might not do later in life.  I used to sing All 'Old Devil' Lyrics.  I used to watch a lot of sports.  I used to like to hunt birds.  Times change.

Quote
Then how're ya gonna "do" "Shave 'Em Dry"?!

Big difference, make that a huge difference.  Know any men who sing "Shave 'Em Dry'?  Women expressing their own sexuality (I love it when Lucille
Bogan cracks up at her own raunchy lyrics) ain't even close to misogyny.

Quote
blues lyrics are generally NOT of the singer

But we are talking contemporary audiences here.  Who wants to waste time explaining: "the following lyrics do not necessarily represent the views of the this station, err, I mean this artist".  My bet is that contemporary audience think and expect that you ARE a singer/songwriter.... and just a little confused about why you are not singing about shipwrecks, pirates and fairies.   :P

I see Phil posted while I was composing... and obviously agree...

Online Johnm

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Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #10 on: June 24, 2017, 09:28:28 PM »
I think a desire to be historically authentic is the worst reason to do anything involved with playing the blues.  What's historically authentic?  Virtually nothing about the way the music is performed and presented nowadays is as things were done in the past--nor should it be.  I think art and music are like living beings in that in the long-term sense, the abiding principle is "change or die".  There is currently such an emphasis on getting a song "exactly" as the original artist performed it, getting the lyrics "exactly" the way they were sung on the source recording, etc.  Sense a trend?

In the past, when a blues musician covered a recording, it was presumed that he/she would change the song into his/her style in order to showcase what he/she did really well, rather than trying to reproduce exactly what someone else did really well.  This personalized changing of a shared repertoire by individual musicians to express their different takes on a song resulted in a tremendous vitality and richness of style.  One need only listen through the clips accompanying the various Song of the Month threads to see what a wealth of music was generated by this approach to music-making.

So in this sense, I really believe personal authenticity, or striving for what is authentic for the musician playing the music is the only kind of authenticity that matters, and is moreover the simplest definition of what is historically authentic, as well.

All best,
Johnm

Offline Stuart

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Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #11 on: June 24, 2017, 09:57:25 PM »
I should have only put "taboo" in quotation marks and been a little more expansive. Anyway, not everything considered "taboo" is misogynistic. "Prohibited or restricted by social custom" (current social custom? who's social custom?) and then we could take specific songs or lyrics--and the  context--from there if anyone was interested. One person's taboo is another person's entertainment--depending on the audience. Singing Bo's "Cigarette Blues" to a kindergarten class? I don't think so. (--As an extreme example.)

NAS had no problem with "On The Road Again" in the American Epic series. Neither did the Memphis Jug Band in their day. Some of the other artists featured in the AE Sessions might not have been as comfortable with it though.

As for John's comment re: "historically authentic," I tend to agree, but also recognize that in some contexts, "historically authentic" may be preferred. But to each his or her own. And if one really wants "historically authentic," one can play the original recordings in a seminar or other classroom setting.

Offline harriet

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Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #12 on: June 25, 2017, 06:49:11 AM »
Perhaps in some respects it's easier for me as a woman to sing as third person some of lyrics of men since it's removed one person whereas for a man it might be highly personal.

I'd eliminate a lyric rather than than edit it because there I'm changing the perspective to first person- I pretty much know when I encounter one that's "not coming out of my mouth"

I'm sensitive of my age and avoid songs of a seductive nature from a woman's point of view or with male braggadocio.

Anyhow,
Harriet
« Last Edit: June 25, 2017, 06:50:26 AM by harriet »

Offline Blind Boy Joe

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Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #13 on: June 25, 2017, 07:12:38 AM »
I constantly alter words from old songs, and the music itself too.

Offline islandgal

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Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #14 on: June 25, 2017, 08:05:06 AM »
Like Harriet, I also eliminate verses that I find objectionable to sing. They may not be specifically misogynistic, but rather sometimes too violent for me to feel comfortable in voicing.  I do sometimes change the gender of songs (substituting he for she, man for woman, etc.)
There are some songs that I love, musically, but when I sit down to learn the words and theme, I abandon my quest. I'm not judging the original artist; they lived through different times and circumstances and can shed light on that time for us.
I agree with John that personal authenticity is key.

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