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I never drink unless I'm alone or with someone - R.L. Burnside, festival in Corvallis Oregon, 1983

Author Topic: The Titanic  (Read 11706 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: The Titanic
« Reply #30 on: February 08, 2012, 09:56:40 PM »
Some folk hereabouts might like to know that Chris Smith wrote an extremely interesting and detailed examination of the topic in "When That Great Ship Went Down: Black Songs About the 'Titanic'." Talking Blues no. 9/10 (1979, p 24-31, 43) which, of course, took on board all the 'travellin' man' elements and narrative 'toasts'. He updated this for talk he gave at a black music seminar in 1991, "The Titanic, a Case Study of Religious and Secular Attitudes in African-American Song". This was published in the 1996 as a chapter in the book Saints And Sinners (ed. R. Sacre). It's 15 pages long but should anybody require a OCR scan, PM me with an email address and I'll set about doing it.
Quote
I find that I still have this on my computer. One or two folk did request it at the time but before I permanently delete are there any other takers? Saturday it will be erased...
Despite stating in 2006 that this would be erased I obviously overlooked doing so. Any late takers?

Offline uncle bud

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Re: The Titanic
« Reply #31 on: February 09, 2012, 09:29:43 AM »
I already took you up on the offer, though didn't remember reading it, which I just did now. I agree, an interesting read. Though it does miss something, IMO, by limiting itself to black song.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: The Titanic
« Reply #32 on: February 09, 2012, 10:38:10 AM »
Flora Molton and the Truth Band did "The Titanic", a version of "When That Great Ship Went Down". Available on Introduction to Living Country Blues USA.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: The Titanic
« Reply #33 on: February 09, 2012, 12:09:47 PM »
I already took you up on the offer, though didn't remember reading it, which I just did now. I agree, an interesting read. Though it does miss something, IMO, by limiting itself to black song.
It was originally written for a blues magazine hence limitation of content and the article title of The Titanic a Case Study Of Religious And Secular Attitudes In African American Song.

Maybe here would be a good place to bring to light all the non African American songs.

Offline RobBob

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Re: The Titanic
« Reply #34 on: February 09, 2012, 12:44:38 PM »
Ruthie Foster does an a capella version with the Blind Boys of Alabama on her new CD, "Let it Burn" that is mighty fine.

Offline Johnm

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Re: The Titanic
« Reply #35 on: February 09, 2012, 05:24:20 PM »
Hi all,
William and Versey Smith's "When That Great Ship Went Down" is one of the wildest versions of "Titanic".  Almost nothing is known about the duo,  who recorded four titles for Paramount in August of 1927.  At least on the basis of the recorded evidence, William Smith played everything out of Spanish tuning and sang the lead parts, while Versey sang response lines and whaled on the tambourine with abandon.  It's interesting that in their version of the song William repeats two of his verses.  I'd appreciate help with the problem areas.  I've made no attempt to transcribe Versey's response lines, which are almost more of a musical texture than words which are felt as having meaning.  Harry Smith chose this recording for his Anthology of American Folk Music.

   On a Monday mornin', just about nine o'clock
   Great Titanic began to reel and rock
   Children screamin' and cryin', "Guess I'm going to die!"
   Wasn't that sad when that great ship went down?

   REFRAIN: Sad when that great ship went down
   Sad when that great ship went down
   Husbands and wives, children lost their lives
   Wasn't that sad when that great ship went down?

   When that ship left England, makin' for the shore
   The rich had declared, would not ride with the poor
   Put the poor below, well, first they had to go
   Wasn't that sad when that?

   REFRAIN: Sad when that great ship went down
   Sad when that great ship went down
   Husbands and wives, children lost their lives
   Wasn't that sad when that great ship went down?

   When that ship left England, makin' for the shore
   The rich had declared, would not ride with the poor
   Put the poor below, well, first they had to go
   Wasn't that sad when that great ship went down?

   REFRAIN: Sad when that great ship went down
   Sad when that great ship went down
   Husbands and wives, children lost their lives
   Wasn't that sad when that great ship went down?

   People on that ship, long ways from home
   Their friends all around, they know their time had come
   Death come a-riding by, sixteen hundred had to die
   Wasn't that sad when that?

   REFRAIN: Sad when that great ship went down
   Sad when that great ship went down
   Husbands and wives, children lost their lives
   Wasn't that sad when that?

   People on that ship, long ways from home
   Their friends all around, they know their time had come
   Death come a-riding by, sixteen hundred had to die
   Wasn't that sad when that?

   REFRAIN: Sad when that
   Sad when that great
   Husbands and wives, children lost their lives
   Wasn't that sad when that?

   While they was building, prisoners there, too
   Now they would build a ship the water can't come through
   Oh God, now
   Wasn't that sad when that great ship went down


Edited 3/20 to pick up corrections from Rivers

All best,
Johnm

   





   
   
« Last Edit: March 20, 2012, 03:40:43 PM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: The Titanic
« Reply #36 on: March 16, 2012, 04:39:56 PM »
Hi all,
I was just wondering if anyone had heard anything with clarity to fill those missing spaces in the transcription of William and Versey Smith's "When That Great Ship Went Down" (in the previous post in this thread).  Any help is appreciated.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Rivers

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Re: The Titanic
« Reply #37 on: March 16, 2012, 05:48:35 PM »
I had to dig out the headphones, Versey cuts loose with the harmony vocal over the top which makes it hard to hear.

Under the headphones I first thought 'presidents' but that being less likely than 'prisoners' went with the latter, as in:

 While they was building, [prisoners] there, too

What I think I hear is a 3 syllable word starting with 'pr..', with a sibilant 's' in the middle, and an 's' on the end.

I had not heard prison labor was employed when building Titanic but maybe. Could be wrong though.

Offline Johnm

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Re: The Titanic
« Reply #38 on: March 16, 2012, 06:28:19 PM »
Thanks for giving it a listen, Mark.  I will re-listen with what you heard in mind.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: The Titanic
« Reply #39 on: March 16, 2012, 07:33:05 PM »
Quote
On a Monday mornin', just about nine o'clock
   Great Titanic began to reel and rock
   People were [sleepin'] and cryin', "Guess I'm going to die!"
   Wasn't that sad when that great ship went down?

Purely from memory , 'cause I haven't heard it in a while and with the possibility of pollution from other versions here is what I remember:
"People were screaming' an' cryin' at just one thought of dyin'"
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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

Offline Rivers

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Re: The Titanic
« Reply #40 on: March 16, 2012, 08:50:34 PM »
Whoops, missed the phrase in verse one that's in doubt. I think I hear:

 Children screamin' and cryin', "Guess I'm going to die!"
« Last Edit: March 16, 2012, 08:54:43 PM by Rivers »

Offline Lyle Lofgren

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Re: The Titanic
« Reply #41 on: March 17, 2012, 05:27:47 AM »
I can't be of any help with the words beyond what you already have (although I thought he said, "Lawd, Lawd" at the end), but I think the busted last verse was because they'd been told that, when the  light came on, they had to wrap the song up. They took that statement to heart, although I think the artist had a significant amount of time (30 seconds?) to finish. They ran overtime because of the repeated verses. I wonder if William did that because he couldn't remember the rest of the song? They were supposedly street singers, and under those circumstances, no one would care if you're repeating -- there's no warning light out on the street.

Lyle

Offline Rivers

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Re: The Titanic
« Reply #42 on: March 17, 2012, 06:21:31 AM »
Sounds like a good explanation for the hurried ending. The whole thing runs 2:57, how many seconds from time did the red light tend to go on?

The whole of the last verse I hear as this. Italicized two minor differences:

While they was building, [prisoners] there, too
Now they would build a ship, the water can't come through
Lawd, [Molly? my way?]
Wasn't that sad when that great ship went down?

Offline Johnm

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Re: The Titanic
« Reply #43 on: March 17, 2012, 07:56:01 AM »
I think there is much in what you say, Lyle.  It must have been tricky giving blind musicians (which I believe William Smith was) the "hi" sign, indicating that time was running out.  I've often wondered how that was handled in such instances.  Maybe in this instance a visual cue was given to Versey, who then tapped William on the shoulder, or some such method.  However it was done, I can imagine it being very difficult to keep the music flowing smoothly through the receipt and assimilation of that information.  It goes a long way towards explaining a lot of the odd endings that recorded performances had, especially for musicians who ended up having only one day, ever, in the studio, like the Smiths.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: The Titanic
« Reply #44 on: March 20, 2012, 03:43:06 PM »
I finally got a chance to re-listen to this, Rivers, and adopted pretty much everything you heard, as well as catching a few places earlier in the song where William cut off the tail ends of lines.  Thanks so much for the help, and I suspect this is as close as we're going to get it.
All best,
Johnm

 


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