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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2JO
NEGRO FOLK-SONGS
thinking of the values of the racial music of the Negroes, and he de­termined to develop his talents along the lines of Negro art.
I asked him if the blues were a new musical invention, and he said, "No. They are essentially of our race, and our people have been singing like that for many years. But they have been publicly de­veloped and exploited in the last few years. I was the first to pub­lish any of them or to feature this special type by name." He brought out his Memphis Blues in 1910, he said.
The fact that the blues were a form of folk-singing before Handy published his is corroborated by various persons who have dis­cussed the matter with me, and in Texas the Negroes have been fond of them for a long time. Early Busby, now a musician in New York, says that the shifts of Negroes working at his father's brick­yard in East Texas years ago used to sing constantly at their tasks, and were particularly fond of the blues.
Handy commented on several points in connection with the blues — for instance, the fact that they are written, he says, all in one tone, but with different movements according to the time in which they are written. The theme of this modern folk-music is, according to Handy, the Negro's emotional feeling apart from the religious. As is well recognized, the Negro normally is a person of strong religious impulse, and the spirituals are famous as expressing his religious moods; but they do not reveal all his nature. The Negro has long­ings, regrets, despondencies, and hopes that affect him strongly, but are not connected with religion. The blues, therefore, may be said to voice his secular interests and emotions as sincerely as the spirituals do the religious ones. Handy said that the blues express the Negro's twofold nature, the grave and the gay, and reveal his ability to ap­pear the opposite of what he is.
"Most white people think that the Negro is always cheerful and lively," he explained. "But he is n't, though he may seem that way sometimes when he is most troubled. The Negro knows the blues as a state- of mind, and that's why this music has that name.
"For instance: suppose I am a colored man, and my rent is due. It's twenty dollars, and my landlord has told me that if I don't pay him to-day he'll put me and my things out on the sidewalk. I have n't got twenty dollars, and I don't know where to get it. I Ve been round to all my friends, and asked them to lend me that much, but they have n't got it, either. I have nothing I can sell or pawn. I have scraped together ten dollars, but that's positively all I can get and that's not enough.
"Now when I know the time has come and I can't get that twenty







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