My attention than turned to the song itself, which is described as a minstrel song that actually was entitled “Oh! Susanna” by Stephen Foster. Like many famous songs, it has little known versus. And, like some, there is a reason the verses have been buried. Check out the second and fourth verse. Those verses obviously make this a song that perhaps should be retired over time. This is how it goes:
I come from Alabama with my Banjo on my knee—
I’m goin’ to Louisiana my true love for to see.
It rained all night the day I left, the weather it was dry;
The sun so hot I froze to death—Susanna, don’t you cry.
Oh! Susanna, do not cry for me;
I come from Alabama, with my Banjo on my knee.
2. (This verse is rarely sung today.)
I jumped aboard the telegraph and traveled down the river,
Electric fluid magnified, and killed five hundred Nigger.
The bullgine bust, the horse ran off, I really thought I’d die;
I shut my eyes to hold my breath—Susanna, don’t you cry.
I had a dream the other night, when everything was still;
I thought I saw Susanna dear, a comin’ down the hill.
The buckwheat cake was in her mouth, a tear was in her eye,
I says, “I’ve coming from the South”-Susanna, don’t you cry.
An unauthorized fourth verse was added:
I soon will be in New Orleans, and then I’ll look all around,
And when I find Susanna, I’ll fall upon the ground.
But if I do not find her, this darkie’ll surely die,
And when I’m dead and buried—Susanna, don’t you cry.
Neil Young & Crazy Horse recorded the song three years ago and included it on the album “Americana.”
(Homepage photo: Shawn York)