ON THE TRAIL OF NEGRO FOLK-SONGS

A Collection Of Negro Traditional & Folk Songs with Sheet Music Lyrics & Commentaries - online book

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6
NEGRO FOLK-SONGS
Yes, the seeker of folk-songs must be up and doing, yet he has a good time. What game is more fascinating than the study of old songs, what adventure more entrancing than to go in search of them? And there is no closed season — though if collectors do not hurry up, the season will be closed forever as far as many precious old songs are concerned. Such an interest adds thrill and suspense to life, sponges up loose time that might otherwise be wasted, brings you in touch with entertaining people of all kinds, and lends an eager responsive­ness to the call of the telephone or the postman. How could you be bored when any ring might mean a cordial stranger offering you a song? — or any letter a tune you had long yearned for? If weary fmanciers but knew the fun there is in this, they would quit their desks to go in search of songs, — or at least they would finance the quest for those who crave to get away,—instead of leaving the whole job to impecunious college folk and struggling artists. Why does n't some far-seeing state vote an appropriation for research as to its own songs, before they are permanently lost? Why does n't some mil­lionaire endow a chair for folk-songs in some university? Even a modest footstool might do to start with. Think of having lively or lovely old songs rise up to call you blessed, and to go on giving pleas­ure to people long after you yourself have — presumably — started singing in other spheres!
Personally, I have had so much fun collecting Negro songs that I should regard any future deprivation or calamity as merely a matter of evening up. It is not fair for one being to have all the fun and en-joyxnent in life.
I have had this active interest as a collector for about ten years, but in reality I suppose I began in my cradle. Both of my grand­fathers owned large plantations with many slaves, my Grandfather Scarborough in Louisiana and Grandfather Ellison in East Texas, and so my parents grew up amid a wealth of Negro folk-lore and song, which they passed on to us children. And most of my own life has been spent in the South, where I have had opportunity to know colored people as a race and as individuals. How many memories of my childhood and youth are associated with loved black faces 1 How I enjoyed the songs the Negroes sang, even though I was ignorant of their value! If only as I listened I had but learned them accurately, or had begun long ago consciously to collect them and record them, I should be fortunate now. If I might go back to that time and say,
Quick thy tablets, memory!