Ballads & Songs of Southern Michigan-songbook

A Collection of 200+ traditional songs & variations with commentaries including Lyrics & Sheet music

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Introduction
ii
call, however, in spite of his wife, who was reputed to be a religious fanatic, he invited us to come again for an evening of song, promis­ing that he would sing slowly and repeat as much as we liked. When at the appointed time we arrived at his home, we were met by a forbidding-looking woman who opened the door a crack and delivered the ultimatum: "You can't see him either tonight nor any other time." With that she slammed the door shut and noisily shot the bolt. Feeling that discretion was the better part of valor, we beat a retreat with the best grace we could muster. But we were convinced that the church had played no minor part in shortening the life of some fine old secular songs and in badly corrupting others.
A good example of the latter process is furnished by the last stanza of our text of "The Dying Miller." To fulfill the requirements of the rhyme scheme and to close the ballad with appropriate finality the word "hell" is needed, but when our informant sang the ballad to her young children she always substituted for the satisfactory last two lines which she knew, the flat ending:
And where he's gone no man can say, But it's our opinion he's gone far away.
Out of fairness to those children it should be said that, when they grew old enough to think for themselves, they changed the lines which their mother had sung to them to:
And where's he gone there's no excuse, But it's our opinion he's gone to the deuce!
On the whole, as many men as women sang for us, although some of them required considerable coaxing, and a few substituted chant­ing or intoning for singing. One of these was Duncan MacAlpine of Bad Axe; several years before the fall of 1935, when we called upon him, his daughter had given me copies of songs which she had heard her father sing when she was a child. But alas, we had waited too long. He had grown old and shy, and exercising true Scotch deter­mination insisted that his voice had become too harsh and broken for singing. Although his wife added her entreaties to ours that he sing with such voice as he had, he refused to be moved. But finally he proved his good will by graciously volunteering to recite the words of some of the songs which he had learned as a boy in On­tario and which he had formerly sung. Thereupon he presented for us in an unforgettable, monotonous chanting style the song "Betsy of Dramoor," with its classical names correctly pronounced. He laugh­ingly explained that he did not know what some of the words







E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III