Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sloop John B - Song #31

From trains (last posts) to boats. Here are four pop versions, all of them good, demonstrating the Sloop John B's enduring allure:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Can't you hear the captain shouting?

Maybe you can't hear the captain shouting, but here you can hear three very different versions of "I've Been Working on the Railroad."

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I've Been Working on the Railroad - Song #30

IBWOTR is one of those songs that everyone, even if they have never gone to summer camp or been a member of a youth group, etc. seems to know at least in part. Maybe they learned it in elementary school or heard it in old cartoons. But it's a song everyone seems to sing exactly the same, unlike many songs I've blogged about.

Train songs have a rich tradition and we sang a number of them at Camp Ajawah - at least the boys did.

I've been working on the railroad
All the livelong day
I've been working on the railroad
Just to pass the time away

Can't you hear the whistle blowing
Rise up so early in the morn
Can't you hear the captain shouting
Dinah, blow your horn

Dinah, won't you blow
Dinah, won't you blow
Dinah, won't you blow your horn
Dinah, won't you blow
Dinah, won't you blow
Dinah, won't you blow your horn

Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah
Someone's in the kitchen I know
Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah
Strumming on the old banjo, and singing

Fie, fi, fiddly i o
Fie, fi, fiddly i o
Fie, fi, fiddly i o
Strumming on the old banjo

I have two questions: who is Dinah? And is this song indeed from the 1800s? Did rail workers sing it? Is it of African American origins? Or was it a commercial composition?

Yes, that's more than two questions, but the last three are variations on the second questions. I just want to find the origins.

Dinah - there is speculation that it's "diner" with a southern accent. Dinah blowing her horn = dining car calling workers to lunch. Or maybe Dinah was the cook. Or "dinner." Maybe blowing her horn was a variation of Gabriel blowing his horn (from The Eyes of Texas are Upon You, which has the same melody as the first part of IBWOTR).

Gargoyle at writes:

"Dinah - short for dynamite.

Kitchen - the engineer's cab of a steam locomotive

Banjo - short handled shovel"

Origins - First appeared in print in 1894 at Princeton, but otherwise the roots are somewhat murky, which is not unusual for folk music. It is likely two or three songs combined - a variation of "I've Been Working on the Levee" and "Dinah."

Strumming on the old banjo may mean stirring food in the frying pan.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Doodle Doo Doo - Song #29

Another girls camp song I had not remembered until recently, Doodle Doo Doo is one that seemed not to be a folk song, as it had more of a 1920s love song air, at least to me. The way we sung it, there were hand motions... something like clapping both hands twice on one's thighs, followed by two hand claps, a couple of finger snaps interspersed with claps, and then some twirling of the hands around each other. Not the most masculine thing to do - nor is the song in the vein of murder, train crashes, and marching to war - so maybe that's why it never crossed over to boys camp. But it's a nice enough melody.

At Camp Ajawah, it was pronounced "Doodle-ee Doo," but a little research turned up the correct title, as indeed my hunch that it's not a traditional song was right.

From 1924 (we only sang the chorus):

Writers: Art Kassel & Mel Stitzel

I've just heard a melody
That is always haunting me
Funny little strain
Running thru my brain
It's as sweet as can be
It has such a pleading way
Tho' it's with me night an day
When I hear someone playing
I walk right up an say

Please play for me
That sweet melody
Called doo-dle doo-doo
doo-dle doo-doo
I like the rest
But what I like best
Is doo-dle doo-doo doo-dle doo-doo
Simplest thing
There's nothing much to it
Don't have to sing it
Just doo-dle doo-doo it
I love it so
Wherever I go
I doo-dle doo
doo-dle doo doo doo

I've heard all the melodies
From the blues to rhapsodies
They all come and go
But there's one I know
That'll linger and tease
I've found all the blues a pest
Rhapsodies to me a jest
So if you want to please me
Just take this one request