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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sally Brown & Sally Sue Brown - Sea Shanty, Ska, & Blues

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post is Part I of a two part series that showcases videos of & lyrics for songs about "Sally Brown" from the Sea Shanty, Ska, and Blues genres.

Part I focuses on "Sally Brown" sea shanties. "Sally Brown" shanties are also given as "Shallow Brown" ("Shiloh" and "Challo").

Part II focuses on "Sally Brown" Ska and Blues songs. Click
http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/04/sally-brown-sally-sue-brown-sea-shanty_18.html
for Part II of this series.

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PART I: SALLY BROWN [Sea Shanty]

Overview Of Shanties
From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_shanty:
"A shanty (also spelled "chantey," "chanty") is a type of work song that was once commonly sung to accompany labor on board large merchant sailing vessels.

Of uncertain etymological origin, the word shanty emerged in the mid-19th century in reference to an appreciably distinct genre of work song, developed especially in American-style merchant vessels that had come to prominence in decades prior to the American Civil War.[1] Shanty songs functioned to economize labor in what had then become larger vessels having smaller crews and operating on stricter schedules.[2] The practice of singing shanties eventually became ubiquitous internationally and throughout the era of wind-driven packet and clipper ships...

Shanties had antecedents in the working chants of British and other national maritime traditions. They were notably influenced by songs of African-Americans, such as those sung whilst manually loading vessels with cotton in ports of the southern United States. Shanty repertoire borrowed from the contemporary popular music enjoyed by sailors, including minstrel music, popular marches, and land-based folk songs, which were adapted to suit musical forms matching the various labor tasks required to operate a sailing ship. Such tasks, which usually required a coordinated group effort in either a pulling or pushing action, included weighing anchor and setting sail."
-snip-
Click http://cocojams.com/content/sea-shanties-chanteys-neglected-area-black-history for more information about & examples of Sea Shanties from African American & Caribbean traditions.

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OVERVIEW OF "SALLY BROWN" SHANTIES
"Sally Brown" is a Jamaican sea shanty about a mixed race (mulatto; Creole) woman. Like all shanties, there are multiple versions of the "Sally Brown" shanties. In addition to the song titled "Sally Brown", there are many other shanties that mention "Sally" and "Sally Brown".

The surname (last name) "Brown" may have referred to Sally's mixed race ancestry. Note that the word "shallow" (challow) in the song "Shallow Brown" means a person of mixed race. Read more comments about this in Example #4 below.

LYRICS
The "Sally Brown" chanty is composed of two lined rhyming (or near rhyming) verses that are separated by a fixed line which is repeated at the end of the verse.

Here are three text examples of the "Sally Brown" shanty (posted with no particular order; with editorial comments)

SALLY BROWN (Shanty Version #1)
O, Sally Brown's a bright mulatto,
Way, hay, roll and go!
She drinks rum and chews tobacca,
Spend my money on Sally Brown!

Sally lives in ole Jamaica
Way, hay, roll and go!
Sellin rum and growin tobacca
Spend my money on Sally Brown

Sally lives on the ole plantation
She’s a daughter of the wild goose nation

[Add "Way, hay, roll and go" to the verses as found above]

Sally's teeth are white and pearly
Her eyes are dark and hair is curly*

Sweetest flower in the valley
Is my own, my pretty Sally

I brought her gowns and I brought her laces.
I took her out to all the places.

Well I call her my queen of faces.
I bought her coral beads and laces.

Oh Sally Brown what is the matter?
A pretty gal but I can’t get at her.

Seven long years I courted Sally.
But she always dilly dallied.

Sally Brown she would not marry.
I no longer care to tarry.

She would not have ah tarry sailor.
She would not have ah greasy whaler.

So Sally Brown I took the notion
To sail across the bleeding ocean

I shipped aboard ah Bedford whaler.
When I returned she was courtin a tailor.

So Sally Brown, I’m bound to leave her.
So heave a pall and pall and heave her [?]
-Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVUn_v3jIZA ; Uploaded by hultonclint on Jul 6, 2008 ; transcribed from video by Azizi Powell; Corrections and additions are appreciated.
-snip-
Editor:
"Bright mulatto" probably meant "light skinned mixed race [female].

*I had transposed this line as her eyes are dark and curly", but that doesn't make sense. I therefore changed that line to this version. Notice that a similar line is given in the transcription I found online for the example given below as #2.

"She’s a daughter of the wild goose nation" is a floating line found in a number of 19th century African American songs. "The wild goose nation" was a referent for the Indian nation.

"The word "bleeding" in the line "bleeding ocean" is a substitute for a curse word.

The "?" is posted after the last line of that song because I'm not sure whether my transcription of that line is correct.

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SALLY BROWN (Shanty Version #2)
1. O, Sally Brown, of New York City,
Way, hay, roll and go!
O, Sally Brown you're very pretty
Spend my money on Sally Brown!

2. O, Sally Brown's a bright mulatto,
Way, hay, roll and go!
She drinks rum and chews tobacco,
Spend my money on Sally Brown!

3. O, Sally Brown's a Creole lady,
Way, hay, roll and go!
She's the mother of a yellow baby,
Spend my money on Sally Brown!

4. Seven long years I courted Sally,
Way, hay, roll and go!
Sweetest girl in all the valley,
Spend my money on Sally Brown!

5. Seven long years she wouldn't marry,
Way, hay, roll and go!
And I no longer cared to tarry,
Spend my money on Sally Brown!

6. So I courted Sal, her only daughter,
Way, hay, roll and go!
For her I sail upon the water,
Spend my money on Sally Brown!

7. Sally's teeth are white and pearly,
Way, hay, roll and go!
Her eyes are blue, her hair is curly,
Spend my money on Sally Brown!

8. Now my troubles are all over,
Way, hay, roll and go!
Sally's married to a dirty soldier,
Spend my money on Sally Brown!
- Source: http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/sea-shanty/Sally_Brown.htm

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SALLY BROWN (Shanty Version #3)
Sally Brown she's a nice young lady,
Way, hay, we roll an' go.
We roll all night
And we roll all day
Spend my money on Sally Brown.

Shipped on board off a Liverpool liner
Way, hay, we roll an' go.
We roll all night
And we roll all day
Spend my money on Sally Brown.

Mother doesnt like a tarry sailor
Way, hay, we roll an' go.
We roll all night
And we roll all day
Spend my money on Sally Brown.

She wants her to marry a one legged captain
Way, hay, we roll an' go.
We roll all night
And we roll all day
Spend my money on Sally Brown.

Sally Brown she’s a bright lady
Way, hay, we roll an' go.
She drinks stock rum
And she chews tobacco
Way, hay, we roll an' go.
We roll all night
And we roll all day
Spend my money on Sally Brown.

We roll all night
And we roll all day
Spend my money on Sally Brown
http://www.justsomelyrics.com/358471/Teddy-Thompson-Sally-Brown-Lyrics

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SHALLOW BROWN (Shanty Version #4)
Shallow Brown
O, I'm going to leave you
Shallow, O Shallow Brown
O, I'm going to leave you
Shallow, O Shallow Brown

Ship on board a whaler
O, Shallow Brown (2X)

Bound away for St George's

Love you well, Juliana

Massa going to sell me

Sell me to the Yankee

Sell me for the dollar

Great big Spanish dollar

The spelling could be anything from Challo, Shallow & Shiloh. Hugill points to this as West Indian in origin, saying Challo is West Indian for half caste & that this song passed through the cotton ports of the south as a cotton screwing chant. I'd add on to that, (aside form this version possibly being of the older versions) that some of the cotton plantations ran their own ships & supplied them with their own slave crews when the land work was slow. These ships traded in all North Alantic & Caribbean ports & that the hope of some was to jump ship in Haiti or England or go whaling or sailoring elsewhere, rather than be slave hands to be resold as needed.
-posted by Barry Finn; http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=7955#48336; 06 Dec 98 - 08:53 PM

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UPDATE: 9/30/2014
Here's a quote from Mark Cohen [07 Oct 02 - 03:02 AM] that was posted in the mudcat thread whose link is given above:
[written in response to the question a guest blogger asked "was Shallow Brown: a real person?"

"In Stan Hugill's Shanties from the Seven Seas, he says:

"[Shallow Brown] started life as a pumping song. It is I feel of West Indian origin, some singers giving the refrain of 'Challo Brown' -- 'Challo' being a West Indian word of Carib extraction meaning a 'half-caste', and heard as far afield as the ports of Chile."

Hugill lists four versions of Shallow Brown, not counting other songs featuring that name. He goes on to say,

"At some time or other this Negro song pased through the shanty mart and was used by the cotton hoosiers of Mobile as a cotton-screwing chant. Sometimes the wording would be that of Sally Brown, and 'Oh, Sally Brown' would be substituted for 'Oh, Shallow Brown' in the refrains."

He also mentions a fragment called Shiloh Brown, which is "a version of what appears at first glance to be Shallow Brown but which in actual fact is a variant of Tom's Gone to Hilo."

There may be more information in the "related threads" link at the top of the page, but I was too lazy to check them.

So, I guess the songs are referring to a generic character rather than a historical person. But I'm sure that if you created a biography of Shallow Brown and started passing it around shanty sings, it would soon become the received truth!

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FEATURED VIDEOS
Video #1: Sally Brown (Roll 'n' Go) (A) [161-164]v(128-132)



Uploaded by hultonclint on Jul 6, 2008

With scenes from Kingston Harbour, from Kingston and Port Royal.

This capstan chantey is presumed to come from Jamaica. Sally Brown must have become a folkloric character beyond chanteys there, since Cuban-born Jamaican singer Laurel Aitken sang a different song about "Sally Brown" in a ska style.

Interesting how many modern versions of this have sort of neutralized it, removing racial or ethnic markers. Too bad this also removes the Jamaica setting and some of the depth of meaning of what is going on here in this chantey. Funny also how "Spend my money ON Sally Brown" often becomes "Spend my money ALONG WITH Sally Brown," again removing an possible unsavoriness...

Hugill writes that there are many bawdy verses to this, but he of course does not give them!

Doerflinger dates the age of this chantey to at least the 1830s, citing a reference by author Marryat in 1839 to having heard it sung in a Western Ocean packet ship at the windlass.

One can hear this chantey used in the 1946 film adaptation of Dickens' "Great Expectations."

Also found in:
LA Smith 1888, Sharp 1914 (note possible rendering of minor 3rds for blue notes), Doerflinger 1951

Please check out the whole chanteys project playlist, at
http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=58B55DD66F22060C
-snip-
Italics added by me to highlight this portion of that summary. I fully concur with hultonclint's comments about the color blind revisions in contemporary versions of this song.

Click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVKGnJ1thlI "Sally Brown - Planxty" for a video of a group singing "Sally Brown, she's a nice lady" and "spend my money along with Sally Brown"

The Laurel Aitken song "Sally Brown" is featured in Part II of this series.

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Video #2: Paul Clayton "Sally Brown" From LP. "Sailing And Whaling Songs Of The 19th Century" 1954



Uploaded by szantanas on Nov 8, 2009

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RELATED LINK
http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=7955 "Shalo Brown"

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My thanks to the unknown composers of these songs and to the folklorists who collected their lyrics. Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to the performers, and video uploaders of this song.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

11 comments:

  1. Thanks for this interesting post!I'm an American chantey singer researching the song in interest of recording a new credible version. Very entertaining and helpful read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome, David C. Kendall.

      I appreciate your comment.

      I'm interested in hearing your recording of a Sally Brown chantey when it's done.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for your reply Azizi. I cannot resist vasking you a few questions. After all I've read here, I'm inclined to use the name 'Shallow Brown' in my new version, but would it be wrong to call Shallow Brown a Creole lady?
      'Creole Lady' is what first heard, and a previous version I recorded stated that 'she had a farm in Louisiana'...Is that possible that she could run a farm or own one, or would a creole person most likely just be employed on one? I've worked over twenty years in the pursuit of adapting sea chanteys for California audiences. I think folk music has a long history of being tinkered with, and I feel fine doing it, but I want to present stories that are logical and as historically accurate as possible. Thanks for any input you might offer. Dave in Paris

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    3. Hello, Dave.

      I think that part of the difficulty with phrases like Creole lady, is that the word "creole" had & still has multiple meanings. Among the referents for people in the definitions found in Oxford Dictionary definitions for "Creole" are
      "A person of mixed European and black descent, especially in the Caribbean.

      1.1A descendant of Spanish or other European settlers in the Caribbean or Central or South America.

      1.2A white descendant of French settlers in Louisiana and other parts of the southern US."
      -snip-
      Here's a quote from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creoles_of_color
      " The Creoles of color are a historic ethnic group of Creole people in Louisiana and southern Mississippi and Alabama, especially in the city of New Orleans."...
      -snip-

      As that page and other information online indicates, while some Creole of Colors owned land and cultivated that land with enslaved people, by the mid 19th century, that population was merged into the free Black category.

      "Creoles of Color in the Bayou Country " is a book that is available online through Google books that may be of interest to you. (Page 42 starts a passage about several Creole women of color who were freed by their White owners/lovers in the early 19th century and were left extensive acerage or later purchased that acerage.

      However, shanties (such as "Sally Brown") were documented in the mid 19th century and "Sally Brown" in particular is said to originate in Jamaica, although it traveled to and was adapted in the USA.

      All this to say, Dave, that I believe that you would be on stronger historical ground if you considered Sally Brown as a Creole (mixed race (Black/White) woman from Jamaica rather than from a Creole eof Color from the USA.
      Givee

      Delete
  2. Thanks to Dave from Paris for prompting me to re-read this post.

    I added two additional quotes to that posts- one about shanties and the other about the name "Shallow Brown".

    I also corrected a line from my transcription of song example #1.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well, thanks again, Azizi, for your insight into the song. I shall consider 'Shallow Brown' to be a Jamacain landowner or sharecropper, therefore I'll stick with 'she had a farm in lousiana' instead of 'she worked a farm in Louisiana' although I guess either would be fine. I like a good storyline, and many versions seem to stray from a coherent story. I particularly don't like the verse 'One night she was taken with a pain in her belly, so they sent for the doctor whose name was Kelly' ... it seems a weak attempt to rhyme something with 'Belly'.. who cares about the doctor's name?.. the prostitute and 'dirty soldier' references will be removed from my new arrangement. Of course I'll send along the results to you, a few months from now. Thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Dave.

      Check out that Mudcat thread whose link I gave above. While there are songs that refer to "Shallow Brown" as male, that name is usually a reference for a mixed race (Black/White) female. I don't think that Shallow (Sally0 Brown would be a landowner or owner of a farm in Jamaica, and as I mentioned, given the history that i've read, that is also unlikely in mid 19th century Louisiana.

      Dave, may I also suggest that you try to contact the shantey singer/researcher hultonclint whose video is given as example #1. Perhaps you might also want to post a comment to him on that mudcat thread where he posts (or at least used to actively post) under the name "Gib Sahib).

      Thanks again and I look forward to hearing more from you.

      Delete
  4. Hello, Azizi!

    I'm a music teacher and came across your wonderful blog recently while researching some of the songs and games we do in music class! I ended up on this page hunting down the meaning of "can't dance Josey" and "Susan Brown" in Chicken on a Fencepost.

    I am looking forward to explaining the history when we play the game with the song next week in music class, but I am wondering your thoughts on whether or not we should change the name of Susan Brown after we talk about it. I know that if, after explaining the meaning behind those words to my students, someone suggests that we change them to someone's specific name (from our class, or maybe a teacher's name), I would be fine with that. I just wondered what your thoughts are—

    Would you keep the song as it has been shared for all these years, but make sure to talk about the history and meaning of those words? Or, would you change the words after teaching it the way it has been shared for many years?

    Thanks for all the detailed information you've collected here over the years. This really is a great resource for history on so much of what I already teach.

    Take care,
    emily

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Greetings, Emily!

      I appreciate your comments and I'm glad that this song is being shared in your music class along with some information about its history.

      If I understand you correctly, you're asking if retaining the name "Brown" which (I believe) references the woman's brown skin color would be considered racially insensitive.

      I definitely don't agree with that conclusion. In the context of this song the singers aren't making fun of or otherwise negatively pointing out a person's skin color or racial/ethnic origin. Instead, they're noting the skin color for descriptive purposes.

      I'm not a proponent of "color blindness". I believe the goal is that people would have no valuation-either positive or negative- about their own and/or other people's skin color. However, skin color can be used to identify or describe a person if it is done appropriately (Yes, I know it's complicated to determine what is or isn't appropriate by different people and in different contexts).

      For instance, I identify myself as a Black woman. And I think that it is usually appropriate for non-Black people to publicly use that same identification term for me.

      Black people use a number of different terms to describe our "black" (actually usually "brown") skin tones- for instance, we say that a Black person is light skinned, or has "regular" brown skin, or is "dark skinned", or is a redbone*. But I believe that we don't usually we don't use these terms in integrated settings (among non-Black people) or in any formal public settings for that matter. In the same way, we (African Americans or other Black Americans) usually don't publicly refer to a person as being mixed racial (which is also known as "biracial"), although the term "mixed" might be more often used "in house" (among Black people only).

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    2. An example of skin color references being used in a singing game is "Brown Girl In A Ring".

      I've also found an old referent for that song with the title and words "Black Boy In A Ring".

      I believe that there's nothing wrong with (still) singing that song nowadays, even if the people playing this song aren't Brown (or Black) - and not just because it's (depending on context) okay to use racial referents as self identifiers or to identify or describe someone else.

      I think that "Brown Girl In The Ring" was sung to help Brown (meaning "Black") children develop self-esteem and positive group esteem. And even if that song is rarely sung nowadays for that purpose, it still can serve that purpose and it still can be used to introduce the cultural topic of how songs can help build self-esteem and group esteem in children who are treated badly because of their race/ethnicity.

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    3. I meant to add this link to a pancocojams post (in the asterisk) in my first reply to Emily)

      http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/08/what-redbone-yellowbone-and-browning.html What "Redbone", "Yellowbone", and "Browning" Mean

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