Archive for the 'Tragedy' Category



Barbara Allen


h1 Saturday, January 1st, 2011

I remember seeing Joan Baez sing this at Club 47 in Cambridge MA in 1960. She looked and sounded just like she does in this clip: CLICK HERE

Source of the following: Mudcat Cafe
Samuel Pepys in his “Diary” under the date of January 2nd 1665, speaks of the singing of “Barbara Allen.” The English and Scottish both claim the original ballad in different versions, and both versions were brought over to the US by the earliest settlers. Since then there have been countless variations (some 98 are found in Virginia alone). The version used here is the English one. The tune is traditional.

Child Ballad #84

Lyrics:
[D] In Scarlet town where I was born,
There was a [G] fair maid [A] dwellin’
[G] Made every youth cry [Bm] Well-a-day,
[A] Her name was Barb’ra [D] Allen.

All in the merry month of May,
When green buds they were swellin’
Young Willie Grove on his death-bed lay,
For love of Barb’ra Allen.

He sent his man unto her then
To the town where she was dwellin’
You must come to my master, dear,
If your name be be Barb’ra Allen.

So slowly, slowly she came up,
And slowly she came nigh him,
And all she said when there she came:
“Young man, I think you’re dying!”

He turned his face unto the wall
And death was drawing nigh him.
Adieu, adieu, my dear friends all,
Be kind to Bar’bra Allen

As she was walking o’er the fields,
She heard the death bell knellin’,
And ev’ry stroke did seem to say,
Unworthy Barb’ra Allen.

When he was dead and laid in grave,
Her heart was struck with sorrow.
“Oh mother, mother, make my bed
For I shall die tomorrow.”

And on her deathbed she lay,
She begged to be buried by him,
And sore repented of the day
That she did e’er deny him.

“Farewell,” she said, “ye virgins all,
And shun the fault I fell in,
Henceforth take warning by the fall
Of cruel Barb’ra Allen.”

Pretty Polly


h1 Thursday, June 1st, 2006

On our way up to Oriental North Carolina for a concert, we stopped for “Carolina Bar-B-Que” at a place called “Prissy Polly’s” just south of Winston Salem. The name reminded me of a song we recorded in the Byrds on the “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” album called “Pretty Polly.” I’d known the song since my days at the Old Town School of Folk Music and had always loved the modal tuning on the banjo and guitar in spite of the morbid lyrics. This is a good example of a song used for spreading the news of the day, way back before radio, television or the Internet. The content of the news today is however strikingly similar.
Lyrics: [G modal tuning]

There used to be a gambler who courted all around
There used to be a gambler who courted all around
He courted Pretty Polly such beauty had never been found

Pretty Polly, Pretty Polly come go along with me
Pretty Polly, Pretty Polly come go along with me
Before we get married some pleasures to see

She jumped up behind him and away they did go
She jumped up behind him and away they did go
Down into the valley that was far below

They went a little further and what did they spy?
They went a little further and what did they spy?
But a new dug grave with a spade lying by

Oh Willy dear Willy, I’m afraid of your way
Oh Willy dear Willy, I’m afraid of your way
I’m afraid you might lead my poor body astray

Pretty Polly, Pretty Polly you’ve guessed it just right
Pretty Polly, Pretty Polly you’ve guessed it just right
I dug on your grave the better part of last night

He stabbed her in the heart til her heart’s blood did flow
He stabbed her in the heart til her heart’s blood did flow
Down into the grave Pretty Polly did go

Now a debt to the Devil that Willy must pay
Now a debt to the Devil that Willy must pay
For killing Pretty Polly and running away

Erie Canal


h1 Monday, August 1st, 2005

Erie.gif

This is a comic story about a tragic boat ride down the Erie Canal. I decided to sing this in the style of the late 50s – early 60s college folk groups. I can see the audience sitting an a large hall, the men wearing three button jackets and skinny ties and the ladies in pretty dresses.

The Erie Canal opened in 1825. The Ohio and Erie Canal, joining Cleveland and Portsmouth, was completed in 1845. For 25 years these canals were busy trade routes, piloted by burly, aggressive boatmen on long narrow craft. These keelboats were sharp at both ends, built on a keel and ribs.

Gradually the railroads replaced the keelboat as a form of commercial transportation and the canal traffic was greatly reduced.

Lyrics:
E-RI-E CANAL

[A] We were forty miles from Albany
Forget it I [E] never [A] shall.
[A] What a terrible [E] storm we [A] had one [D] night
[A] On the E-ri-e [E] – [A] Canal.

chorus:
O the E-ri-e was a-rising
And the gin was a-getting low.
And I scarcely think we’ll get a drink
Till we get to Buff-a-lo-o-o
Till we get to Buffalo.

We were loaded down with barley
We were chock-full up on rye.
The captain he looked down at me
With his gol-durned wicked eye.

Two days out from Syracuse
The vessel struck a shoal;
We like to all be foundered
On a chunk o’ Lackawanna coal.

We hollered to the captain
On the towpath, treadin’ dirt
He jumped on board and stopped the leak
With his old red flannel shirt.

The cook she was a grand old gal
Stood six foot in her socks.
Had a foot just like an elephant
And her breath would open locks.

The wind begins to whistle
The waves begin to roll
We had to reef our royals
On that ragin’ canal.

The cook came to our rescue
She had a ragged dress;
We h’isted her upon the pole
As a signal of distress.

When we got to Syracuse
Off-mule, he was dead;
The nigh mule got blind staggers
We cracked him on the head.

The cook is in the Police Gazette
The captain went to jail;
And I’m the only son-of-a-sea-cook
That’s left to tell the tale.