collapse

* Member Info

 
 
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

* Like Us on Facebook

Wow - but Bessie Smith spills fire and fury in Hateful Blues on Columbia Record 14023D. Talk about hymns of hate - Bessie sure is a him-hater on this record. The way she tells what she is going to do with her "butcher" will make trifling fellows catch express trains going at 60 miles an hour. The music is full of hate too. You can almost see hate drip from the piano keys. Every note is a half-note. No quarter for anyone - Chicago defender ad, July 1924

Author Topic: Misogynistic lyrics  (Read 1936 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Mr.OMuck

  • Member
  • Posts: 2605
    • MuckOVision
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)

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

Offline Slack

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • Posts: 8839
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

  • Member
  • Posts: 2605
    • MuckOVision
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

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 11065
    • johnmillerguitar.com
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

  • Member
  • Posts: 2605
    • MuckOVision
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

  • Member
  • Posts: 2559
    • Wax's YouTube Channel
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."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Offline Stuart

  • Member
  • Posts: 2695
  • "The Voice of Almiqui"
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

  • Member
  • Posts: 597
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

  • Member
  • Posts: 2605
    • MuckOVision
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

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • Posts: 8839
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

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 11065
    • johnmillerguitar.com
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

  • Member
  • Posts: 2695
  • "The Voice of Almiqui"
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

  • Member
  • Posts: 518
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

  • Member
  • Posts: 7
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

  • Member
  • Posts: 50
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.

Offline Chezztone

  • Member
  • Posts: 296
  • Hey!
    • Steve Cheseborough 1920s-30s-style blues
Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #15 on: June 26, 2017, 08:36:45 AM »
Excellent subject for discussion, thanks for bringing this up, O'Muck.
I think racial epithets should never be uttered in song or any other manner, unless you are obviously a member of the group the epithet applies to.
Violent lyrics -- I agree with Waxwing that it depends if the audience is listening and understands that this is a historical re-creation. So at a concert or workshop it might work better than at a bar or restaurant, where someone might just catch that one line out of context and become offended.
Another point about those is that the audiences of the original artists generally laughed at lyrics that some of us find offensive today. They wisely understood that the character in the song, like most of us, sometimes has feelings of wanting to do harm to our spouses. Those feelings, I believe, are a natural part of relationships -- acting on them is not natural or acceptable! And singing about them, or hearing them sung in a community setting, might even help release those feelings harmlessly!
Singing suggestive or double-entendre lyrics probably should be in another thread, but since someone mentioned that here: they are not going to hurt or corrupt kids. If the audience is little kids the suggestiveness will sail over their heads. If it's teenagers they hear explicit filth in contemporary music, movies, jokes etc., you aren't going to hurt them. The only people who might get offended are any parents or teachers who happen to be there and might claim you are singing "inappropriate" material and not invite you to sing at that school again. But don't convince yourself that it is really inappropriate in any sense. It's very refreshing to be at a blues show in the deep South, when Bobby Rush and his scantily clad dancers are performing erotically charged song and dance, and parents hold up their young children to give them a better view.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2017, 11:12:01 AM by Chezztone »

Offline Stuart

  • Member
  • Posts: 2695
  • "The Voice of Almiqui"
Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #16 on: June 26, 2017, 10:17:50 AM »
Steve: Since I'm the one who put forth the opinion that some lyrics and songs are not appropriate for children of certain ages and maturity levels, I disagree with your opinion as I understand it. While lyrics and songs may not hurt or corrupt children in the long run, they may raise questions the honest answers to which children are not ready for.

This may be a topic for another thread as you suggest. Perhaps given the focus of Weenie Campbell, it may not a topic for discussion at all. But if you want to pursue it, I'll be glad to contribute. As a parent of a 33 year old son and a 31 year old daughter, and as one who was on the advisory board of the pre-school they attended as well as a member of the board of directors of the after school program they attended, I'm no stranger to the subject. We dealt with it as a policy matter regarding guidelines for our staff on numerous occasions.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2017, 10:19:51 AM by Stuart »

Offline Chezztone

  • Member
  • Posts: 296
  • Hey!
    • Steve Cheseborough 1920s-30s-style blues
Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #17 on: June 26, 2017, 11:13:44 AM »
Yes, exactly my point. Parents, teachers (and advisory-board members) might get bent out of shape about it.

Offline Stuart

  • Member
  • Posts: 2695
  • "The Voice of Almiqui"
Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #18 on: June 26, 2017, 04:05:21 PM »
Ha! That's funny. --The expected response. So, how old are your kids?

And why should your concerns as a performer be more important than the concerns of the parents of children in your audience? And please spare us the freedom of expression, it's art,  it's historically authentic, they're going to eventually hear it anyway, etc. stuff. That's what they all say and I've heard it all  before.

Offline jphauser

  • Member
  • Posts: 140
  • Howdy!
Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #19 on: June 26, 2017, 07:05:40 PM »
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

I agree.  In my opinion, it's quite possible that a blues song with lyrics depicting violence against women could have held a coded message of resistance for the performer and members of his/her audience.  Bluesmen Willie Ford and Brownie McGhee have stated that they sang about women mistreating them as a substitute for a white boss or other white man mistreating them.  And Big Bill Broonzy pointed out that sometimes men would cuss out their boss by pretending to cuss out a mule.   It wouldn't surprise me if Ford and McGhee (and many other bluesmen) also sang about doing violence to a white man who mistreated them by singing about a woman instead.  But they probably would have been much less inclined to admit this to a white researcher or writer. 

Back in 1919, WC Handy published an article on the significance of the blues which included the following statement:
 
Most ?Blues? are ambiguous.  They are modeled after the spiritual of slave days.  The slave would sing, ?Go down, Moses, tell old Pharaoh let my people go.?  He had no interest in Pharaoh or Moses, but was thinking about his own freedom.  But he dared not sing about himself so he sang of Pharaoh.

Wax, I think you're on the right track.  Keep investigating the roots of the songs you perform and sharing what you learn with your audience whenever you can.  It may not be the thing to do for all musicians and I'm fine with that.  But I think it's great that it's the thing to do for you.

Jim


« Last Edit: June 26, 2017, 07:31:14 PM by jphauser »

Offline Mr.OMuck

  • Member
  • Posts: 2605
    • MuckOVision
Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #20 on: June 27, 2017, 07:56:58 PM »
Thanks for the support Chezz, bit I really have to differ regarding it being OK for members of an ethnic or racial group to use a derogatory identifier like the "N" word.
Best if it dies. I find it cringe inducing whenever I hear it (Which since I teach in a majority Black college is like every half hour). Its dangerous even if said with love as a symbol of inclusion and camaraderie. Too much blood has been shed to make it unsayable, and in my opinion it shouldn't be used. The idea that it offers ownership and control over cultural representation, assumes that the same conditions in which it does so will exist forever. Does anybody want that or think its even possible?
And once again, even IF the original intent of the lines were to express anger towards overseers, Plantation owners, sheriffs etc. singing some of the overtly misogynistic lines in "mixed company" can only lead to disaffection for this music from women and some men who by and large are unfamiliar with the subtleties of these kinds of Blues specific social intricacies.
This btw, from a man who accidentally found himself singing "Your Southern Can is Mine" in front of  a group of radical Lesbians in Central Park. I was Loudly and publicly denounced despite my pleading that I had impeccable revolutionary credentials.


My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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

Offline alyoung

  • Member
  • Posts: 334
Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #21 on: June 28, 2017, 03:49:09 AM »
Sometimes, you've just gotta duck out from under some lyrics. I've been doing Robert Lockwood's Little Boy Blue for years, but I don't use the verse that says:
"I'm gonna take my whip and beat her,
Gonna whip her to the ground
Gonna take my dirk and stob her
Y'know I'm gonna turn it round and round."
I just can't fancy my chances of getting away with that today ... even Lockwood eventually dropped the verse, although he continued singing it until well into the 1970s. 

Offline Chezztone

  • Member
  • Posts: 296
  • Hey!
    • Steve Cheseborough 1920s-30s-style blues
Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #22 on: June 28, 2017, 04:13:32 PM »
There's also the trick of mumbling some of the lyrics to preclude clear understanding.

Offline Mr.OMuck

  • Member
  • Posts: 2605
    • MuckOVision
Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #23 on: June 28, 2017, 11:26:28 PM »
Fortunately I can now rely on forgetting them anyway, :P
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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

Offline DerZauberer

  • Member
  • Posts: 43
  • I woke up this morning... (well I hope I did)
Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #24 on: June 29, 2017, 05:10:12 AM »
We actually had a discussion of how appropriate even the Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen" is these days. Mind you, the more sexually charged "My Ding-a-Ling" is a tongue in cheek double entendre, more along the "Banana in your fruit basket" or "My pencil won't write no more" vein, but publicly calling a little 16-year-old girl sweet?

Or, one step further, the "good morning little schoolgirl" line...?

On the other hand, if you look at Hip-Hop lyrics and various Pop-Chart-Topping hits currently, a little "historic" country blues rudeness does not seem so bad.

In my mind, it depends on the way it is presented (and to whom). A recorded version might work well with a little disclaimer note, as might a live performance with a few historic info bites to the audience to ensure that the audience sees that the performer recognises the context.

Personally, I'm very resilient (and have found children to be so as well), its the verklempt adults that fail to do their job and talk to their kids about important things regarding life, human beings, the physical body, and history.
"The blues is not a plaything like some people think they are." - Son House

Offline StoogeKebab

  • Member
  • Posts: 116
  • Howdy!
    • LAW Records
Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #25 on: June 29, 2017, 05:59:03 AM »
If performing anything risqu? in public, I like to start off with a disclaimer, then do it anyway (I refer more to innuendo here than murdery songs, though I've done A to Z blues a couple of times to a more specifically morbid audience) but on the whole, I was still cautious enough to invent a character to release my album of suggestive blues.

I had a teacher at my school find it while looking at what my label was putting out, only able to pick it was me due to the spoken introductions as I played an electric guitar, had a cold, and sung deeper - I really mean I invented a whole character. The next time he saw me, he walked up to me, exclaim "The red hot thing that smells like fish and tastes like gravy?" (combined one riff with a bunch of sets of lyrics) "The hell would you know about that?" then burst into laughter.

Most of all, I think it's about taking things the right way. A Chaplain I know gave me a record containing Me and My Chauffeur Blues for my birthday this year (an apparent nod to the hours at I used to bring his daughter home after parties combined with something he knew I'd like), he's an all around music lover (once did a service containing a reference to Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly and how much he liked it) who knows how to take music and enjoy that kind of music with the benefit of either context or a total abandonment of context and as a product to laugh at/with and enjoy.

On the whole, if it can be seen as fun, an appreciation can be developed. For the more violent stuff, context can inform that understanding to enhance one's appreciation for it. That's what I reckon anyway.

As for "Good morning little schoolgirl" - I've got three more months where I'm at school so I'm personally right with that. If I pursue my current goal of becoming a teacher however, I'd be best to give it a miss I'd think  :P
Confident that I'm probably almost definitely the youngest record label owner in my street

Live Acoustic Wollongong - LAW Records

https://www.facebook.com/law.nkjc/

https://itunes.apple.com/au/artist/james-r-cooper/id992309035

Offline Chezztone

  • Member
  • Posts: 296
  • Hey!
    • Steve Cheseborough 1920s-30s-style blues
Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #26 on: June 30, 2017, 12:23:21 AM »
And singing a filthy number is a great way to suddenly turn an inattentive audience attentive.

Offline GhostRider

  • Member
  • Posts: 1271
  • That'll never happen no more!
Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #27 on: June 30, 2017, 12:35:41 PM »
So true.

Offline Rivers

  • Tech Support
  • Member
  • Posts: 6946
  • I like chicken pie
Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #28 on: June 30, 2017, 08:36:37 PM »
Just my opinion, if we present-day singers can't get our heads around the original intent of the lyric, adjusted for all contexts, we shouldn't be attempting to sing it. No need to overthink it, just come up with your own version that captures the TF hilarity of living in the 21st century BUT powered by the original impulse of the song,

As I said, just my opinion. If it is heartfelt and thought-through it will succeed.

Offline Stuart

  • Member
  • Posts: 2695
  • "The Voice of Almiqui"
Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #29 on: June 30, 2017, 10:18:54 PM »
This btw, from a man who accidentally found himself singing "Your Southern Can is Mine" in front of  a group of radical Lesbians in Central Park. I was Loudly and publicly denounced despite my pleading that I had impeccable revolutionary credentials.

Hi Phil: Perhaps if my great aunt Marie had been there, things would have been different. --Difficult to say how, though. Maybe she would have given you a few pointers on revolutionary credentials, as well as instruct you on how to stay out of San Quentin.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Equi

http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/marie-equi
« Last Edit: July 11, 2017, 03:43:08 PM by Stuart »

Online Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 11065
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #30 on: June 30, 2017, 11:19:16 PM »
Hi all,
I suspect I'm in the minority, but I'm not a fan of all the explaining of music and lyrics that is being talked about in performance, to counteract the effect of misogynistic, racist, or otherwise potentially offensive lyrics.  To me, such explanation smacks of the performer attempting to distance him/herself from the content of the lyrics being sung, which seems to be exactly the tactic that will sap all sense of the performer's conviction in what he/she is doing.  Moreover, explanation also serves to accentuate the extent to which a performer is standing outside the tradition, commenting on it, rather than being in it.  Can you imagine Skip James explaining the lyrics of "Devil Got My Woman" to an audience in 1931?  What's the explanation for?  The lyric is perfectly clear.

Why not give the audience more credit for being able to figure things out on their own and make their own choices as to whether they consider what they hear something they'd like to hear more of or something they find objectionable?  Apologizing for a violent or salacious lyric, especially in advance of singing it, makes the singing of the lyrics a pointless exercise, because the performer has already distanced him/herself from what is being sung and essentially disavowed it.  And if the potentially offensive lyric is sung without preamble, explanation or apology, it's not impossible that the performer may find himself/herself in the kind of contretemps that Phil found himself in when he sang "Southern Can"--and the resulting dialogue is much more likely to be a two-way street and possibly get at something than an explanation during a performance makes possible.  Explanation puts the performer outside of the music.  Attributing sources is only fair and musical debts to previous performers should be acknowledged, but to my way of thinking that's enough background information. 

All best,
Johnm

« Last Edit: July 03, 2017, 06:20:42 AM by Johnm »

Offline alyoung

  • Member
  • Posts: 334
Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #31 on: July 01, 2017, 05:18:14 AM »
You are absolutely right in theory, John -- but not, I would suggest, in practice. When Skip James sang Devil, he was singing to an audience  of his own culture, and familiar with the genre in which he performed. When most of us Weenies perform in public, we will almost certainly be playing to an audience that knows nothing of the blues culture and little of its music. Under these circumstances, I think you'd be foolish in the extreme to drop Southern Can, Little Boy Blue or their likes on the audience in the same way as Skip James would have sung an unintroduced Devil. "I beat my woman with a single tree/She wouldn't even holler 'cause she's so damn mean." You wanna get up and sing that to a white 21st century audience then expect a civilized "two-way street" discussion? Good luck! I wouldn't even try it. But I agree with you about the negative effects of careful explanations. So, my answer? Easy. Don't sing troublesome lyrics anywhere they're likely to get you into trouble. When I do Little Boy Blue, I don't use the whip/dirk verse anywhere. (I do not think I compromise my performance -- apart from anything else, Lockwood also dropped it eventually.) I'll do All Round Man at some gigs, but not others; ditto Stavin' Chain. It's a simple matter of letting the material fit the gig -- and I suspect that's also exactly what the original blues performers did (witness the bowdlerized versions of Shave 'Em Dry and The Dozens (Dirty Motherfucker), for example.   

Offline Slack

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • Posts: 8839
Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #32 on: July 01, 2017, 06:03:56 AM »
Fascinating read about your great aunt Stuart, extraordinary!

Online Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 11065
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #33 on: July 01, 2017, 06:46:19 AM »
I absolutely agree with the choice you propose, Al.  I think it is far better to choose not to sing troublesome verses/songs, especially if they're not in accord with one's own feelings, than to sing those same verses/songs with an explanation/disclaimer.  If I can't own it, I don't sing it, though I reckon every performer has to come to terms with the issue in his/her own way.
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: July 01, 2017, 07:42:23 AM by Johnm »

Offline eric

  • Member
  • Posts: 605
Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #34 on: July 01, 2017, 09:31:33 AM »
Your great aunt was an interesting person, Stuart.  I particularly enjoyed the novel way she dealt with the Rev. Taylor.
--
Eric

Offline Mr.OMuck

  • Member
  • Posts: 2605
    • MuckOVision
Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #35 on: July 01, 2017, 10:03:19 AM »
Stuart! Thanks for introducing us to your Great Aunt! She was a true pioneer and human rights hero, and let me add, would not at all be an unfamiliar kind of person to find among my parent's circle of friends, the people I grew up with, who garnered me two playground interviews by men in grey fedoras before I was seven.


PS. Yes Ms. Equi, probably WOULDN'T have pleaded the need for protection from offensive lyrics because to TRUE REVOLUTIONARIES equality of the sexes (and races) was IMPLICIT!
Separatist movements were KNOWN to be manufactured by the power elite for the purpose of dividing the strength of the serious revolutionary movement! 
« Last Edit: July 01, 2017, 10:09:35 AM by Mr.OMuck »
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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

Offline chickenlegs

  • Member
  • Posts: 37
  • Howdy!
Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #36 on: August 05, 2017, 01:41:30 PM »
To the original question? an interesting topic, and a dilemma probably for most anyone who wants to sing these old songs. As for myself, I'll often change or omit lyrics I'm not comfortable with in songs I want to play. For example I have no problem with R. Johnson's "me and the devil" but change the line "l'm gonna beat my woman, till I get satisfied" to "I'm gonna need my woman, ?". Likewise with Patton's "pony blues" (a song I've been attempting for a long time, and wouldn't consider not playing) I don't sing the "but a jet black woman? don't put your hands on me" but instead "? she can be mighty sweet". I can remember wanting to learn Elmore James' version of "it hurts me too" and finding one or two verses personally disagreeable (I can't remember them now) and giving up on it. For me it depends on context. I can usually relate to say? a violent lyric expressed as a feeling or thought but not as an action. But even subtle racism is disagreeable. Again, it's all about context.
I agree with those who say it's a personal choice. I can remember a friend years ago saying that they didn't enjoy Steve James because of all the sexist and violent lyrics in the songs he sang? no matter how good his playing was. Personally, I don't have a problem with other people singing lyrics true to the original song because I can put in the context of the times, just like when I listen to the originals. But the same lyrics in a new contemporary song would be off putting.
As an aside, I remember reading somewhere (I think it was Calt's book on Skip James) that he wouldn't play "special rider" to a college audience because it's meaning in his mind was overtly sexual, and inappropriate for an audience of young people. Truth is, they would have understood it differently and most certainly wouldn't have been shocked or offended.



Offline Rivers

  • Tech Support
  • Member
  • Posts: 6946
  • I like chicken pie
Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #37 on: August 07, 2017, 08:05:08 PM »
This Pete Seeger quote came up as I was catching up on this thread:

To make music is the essential thing. To listen to it is accessory.

I so agree with that. I get itchy fingers listening to live music and just want to get out and play myself. Just censor the bad words and ideas you can't embrace, that is totally your choice to make as a player, and damn the torpedoes. Different people will object, either way you decide to go.
« Last Edit: August 07, 2017, 08:07:52 PM by Rivers »

Offline Slack

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • Posts: 8839
Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #38 on: August 07, 2017, 08:12:44 PM »
Ha!  Don't think I'd seen that - it's a great quote.  Small quival, no disrespect to Pete, --- you've got to listen to it in order to make it.   :P

Tags:
 


anything
SimplePortal 2.3.7 © 2008-2020, SimplePortal