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Author Topic: Misogynistic lyrics  (Read 1934 times)

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Offline Chezztone

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.


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Offline alyoung

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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

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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

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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.
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Offline DerZauberer

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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

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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
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Offline Chezztone

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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

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Re: Misogynistic lyrics
« Reply #27 on: June 30, 2017, 12:35:41 PM »
So true.

Offline Rivers

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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

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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 »

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