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Masterpiece: Oh! Susanna

[contextly_sidebar id=”adu1H6Rrw7Z7BiyEJRwh7Cd3O8YOdLF3″]The first idea for this post was to cover a genre that had yet to be posted at the site. One of those is the barbershop quartet, and I found a version of “Oh Susanna” by the group Masterpiece. These guys are great.

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:[citation needed][19]

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)

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Reading Music

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Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.


What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.


The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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