USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘song’
Musical

Trot Trot to Boston

Folklore Piece

‘This is a song my mom would always sing to me and my siblings when we were little. She’d place us on her lap and move them up and down while she sang “Trot Trot to Boston / Trot Trot to Lynn / Look out little [T.R.] / You might fall in!” and then pretend to drop us between her legs. The second first was “Trot Trot to Boston / Trot Trot to Town / Look out little [T.R]/  you might fall down!” Then repeat the dropping motion. Finally, “Trot Trot to Boston / Trot Trot to Dover / Look out little [T.R]/  you might fall Over!”

 

Background information

“Yeah, I learned it from my Mom. I mean, I don’t really remember learning it, and I certainly don’t really remember her performing it, but I’ve seen her do it with some of my younger cousins, and I have too. Uh, I don’t know, I just, I like the piece because it’s catchy, and it makes me nostalgic about Boston and my Mom and stuff, you know? You’ve probably heard it too, right?” ( I have)

Context

He certainly did not bounce me on his lap, however he did say that he “would definitely do this with his kids when he’s older, no matter where he lives. I just like the way I hold on to something from my home town, you know? Being 3,000 miles away, like, you lose a lot of that. I think I wanna move back eventually, but who knows?”

Analysis

My mom also performed this song for me when I was younger. I, too, perform it with my younger cousins and babies from the Boston area. I’ve always found it so interesting, because growing up in a town north of Boston where most people move to from all over the country, we don’t have too many unique traditions or pieces of folklore that bring us together as a town. But this song, even though it’s about Boston, is shared amongst almost all of us in the metropolitan Boston area. I tried to find the origin of this story, and was unable to locate a direct source. However, the book Trot Trot to Boston, published in 1987 is referenced as saying that it is a Mother Goose poem. Additionally, there are a number of variations of the poem I found. An online forum found here has at least 8 variations of the song.

The informant said that it reminds him of his mother, too. It’s funny how songs that are performed to us when we are children – often before we can even remember – make us so nostalgic. Certainly we can’t remember the circumstances under which these songs were performed. However, we know that our mothers took care of us at a time that they sang this song, and it’s so embedded within us, associated with childcare and motherly love, that it’s hard not to look at it so fondly.

 

Musical

El Carbonero

The informant, EM, grew up in the San Miguel neighborhood of San Salvador, El Savador. Growing up, he had a great interest in music and learned to play many instruments, as well as singing in a choir. Here he fondly remembers a folk song that is a great source of pride in his country that he learned growing up:

 

The song is called “El Carbonero”. This is considered by Salvadorans as almost a second national anthem. It translates to “The Coal Merchant”, and it tells the story of this guy who comes down from the mountains to sell coal.

This song is pretty much performed everywhere for different events, like Independence Day, or any cultural event where kids from schools- starting in elementary school all the way up to high school- whenever they want to perform something that represents who you are as a Salvadoran. Basically everyone would know the lyrics and know how to dance the song. In that sense it’s pretty popular and people know it. If a famous singer comes to perform in El Salvador- let’s say…Shakira! – or someone like that, then they would include “El Carbonero” as part of their set and the audience will go crazy. Artist try all kinds of different versions. It’s pretty much done by every foreign performer who comes.

From an ideological point of view, the lyrics of the song- it’s letting you know that, this is what we do, and we work hard. You know, being a coal merchant is kind of a messy, dirty job. All the people who dedicate themselves to it- even their faces are black, and their hands…everything is black from the coal. It also tells you something about the country and its origins. There’s an analogy in the song- the coal is something that el Carbonero is bringing to you that will light up your house and keep you warm. Coal has a positive connotation here since its good for you family and good for your home, and you identify with the hard working people.

The song begins with the verse

“soy carbonero que vengo
de las cumbres si señor
con mi carboncito negro
que vierte lumbre de amor.”

Which translates to

“I am a coal merchant who comes

fromthe high places, yes sir,

with my black coal

that turns to lights of love.”

 

My thoughts: Folk songs can often be seen as sources of nationalistic pride, as seen in the documentary Whose Song Is This? The song, El Carbonero, reflects that Salvadorans are proud of the working class- the country has a long history of economic hardship and poverty, so the working class is celebrated as opposed to the wealthy. The song also takes pride in the rich natural resources of the country, celebrating the coal that is brought down from the mountains. Even though these things may not seem glamorous to outsiders, they are symbolic of the endurance of the country’s people through a turbulent history. The informant also mentions how folk songs evolve over time and may be interpreted by established artists and transformed to different genres for popular consumption.

general
Musical

“Three Prominent Bastards Are We” Song from 1930s

The informant has the lyrics to a popular folk song of the 1930s that his father would sing to him. The lyrics were written on an old piece of paper for years (which has survived due to lamination). The following are lyrics to a poem that expresses public cynicism towards  bankers and politicians after the 1929 Great Crash of the United States economy and the subsequent Great Depression. The poem was never formally published and copyrighted, but the lyrics spread by word of mouth and performances. It has never been confirmed, but popular assumption is that the song was written by Ogden Nash and is called “Three Prominent Bastards Are We!” (although the informants’ lyrics were labeled “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker”.


 

Where did you find this song?

TS: My father took me out…. when I was young…and we heard this song. I asked him what it was about, and he told me, then wrote down the words.

How long have you had that piece of paper with the lyrics on it?

TS: Oh, that’s not the original one. The original one was very worn, so my mother rewrote it on another paper. I wish I had the original one though. Would’ve meant a lot.


 

Verse: I’m an autocratic figure in these democratic states,

A dandy demonstration of hereditary traits.

As the children of the baker bake delicious breads,

As the sons of Casanova fill the most exclusive beds,

As the Barrymores and Roosevelts and others I could name

Inherited the talents that perpetuate their fame,

My position in the structure of society I owe

To the qualities my parents bequeathed me long ago.

My father was a gentleman and musical to boot.

He used to play piano in a house of ill repute.

The Madam was a lady and a credit to her cult,

She enjoyed my father’s playing and I was the result.

So my Daddy and my Mummy are the ones I have to thank

That I’m Chairman of the Board of the National Silly Bank.

 

Chorus: oh, our parents forgot to get married.

Our parents forgot to get wed.

Did a wedding bell chime, it was always time

When our parents were somewhere in bed.

Then all thanks to our kind loving parents.

We are kings in the land of the free.

Your banker, your broker, your Washington joker,

Three prominent bastards are we, tra la,

Three prominent bastards are we!

 

Verse: In a cozy little farmhouse in a cozy little dell,

A dear old-fashioned farmer and his daughter used to dwell.

She was pretty, she was charming, she was tender, she was mild,

And her sympathy was such that she was frequently with child.

The year her hospitality attained a record high

She became the happy mother of an infant which was I.

Whenever she was gloomy, I could always make her grin,

By childishly inquiring who my daddy could’ve been.

The hired man was favored by the girls in Mummy’s set,

And a traveling man from Scranton was an even money bet.

But such were Mother’s motives and such was her allure,

That even Roger Babson wasn’t sure.

Well, I took my mother’s morals and I took my daddy’s crust,

And I grew to be the founder of the New York Blanker’s Trust.

 

Chorus: oh, our parents forgot to get married.

Our parents forgot to get wed.

Did a wedding bell chime, it was always time

When our parents were somewhere in bed.

Then all thanks to our kind loving parents.

We are kings in the land of the free.

Your banker, your broker, your Washington joker,

Three prominent bastards are we, tra la,

Three prominent bastards are we!

 

Verse: In a torrid penal chain gang on a dusty southern road

My late lamented daddy has his permanent abode.

Now some were there for stealing, but my daddy’s only fault

Was an overwhelming tendency for criminal assault.

His philosophy and quite free from moral taint;

Seduction is for sissies, but a he-man wants his rape.

Daddy’s total list of victims was embarrassingly rich,

And one of them was Mother, but he couldn’t tell me which.

Well, I didn’t go to college but I got me a degree.

I reckon I’m the model of a perfect S.O.B.,

I’m a debit to my country but a credit to my Dad,

The most expensive senator the country ever had.

I remember Daddy’s warning—that that raping is a crime,

Unless you rape the voters, a million at a time.

 

Chorus: oh, our parents forgot to get married.

Our parents forgot to get wed.

Did a wedding bell chime, it was always time

When our parents were somewhere in bed.

Then all thanks to our kind loving parents.

We are kings in the land of the free.

Your banker, your broker, your Washington joker,

Three prominent bastards are we, tra la,

Three prominent bastards are we!

 

Verse: I’m an ordinary figure in these democratic states,

A pathetic demonstration of hereditary traits.

As the children of the cop possess the flattest kind of feet,

As the daughter of the floosie has a waggle to her seat,

My position at the bottom of society I owe

To the qualities my parents bequeathed me long ago.

My father was a married man and, what is even more,

He was married to my mother—a fact which I deplore.

I was born in holy wedlock, consequently by and by.

I was rooked by bastard who had plunder in his eye.

I invested, I deposited, I voted every fall,

And I saved up every penny and the bastards took it all.

At last I’ve learned my lesson, and I’m on the proper track,

I’m a self-appointed bastard and I’M GOING TO GET IT BACK.

 

Chorus: oh, our parents forgot to get married.

Our parents forgot to get wed.

Did a wedding bell chime, it was always time

When our parents were somewhere in bed.

Then all thanks to our kind loving parents.

We are kings in the land of the free.

Your banker, your broker, your Washington joker,

Three prominent bastards are we, tra la,

Three prominent bastards are we!

 

 

A recorded version of the song can be heard here

Childhood
Musical

Rompe La Pinata Song

Lyrics:

Quien rompe la piñata yooooooooo
que la rompa felipe nooooooo
que la rompa isaito nooooooo
que la rompa julito noooooooooooooooo
que la rompa jaimito siiiiiii

mamita mamita yo quiero llorar
si no me dan un oalo pa romper la piñata
mamita mamita vendame los ojos
que yo quiero ser quien rompa la piñata

damela dale a la piñata
rompela rompe la piñata (4 veces)

Informant is a 39 year-old Ecuadorian male. He used to live in Ecuador, and has moved to the United States with his family.

Informant: In Ecuador, as far back as I can remember, they used to play this song for me and for the kids in the family now. They always play this song on the speakers at children’s birthday parties, when they break the pinata or when they do the cake.

Collector: Why do you think they play this song?

Informant: The song is very fun, and happy. It’s very encouraging to the kids, specifically it says to break the pinata. It’s specifically for the pinata, but it doesn’t have to be.

Collector: Where did you learn it from?

Informant: It wasn’t that I learned it, I just remember that it was always played. I would go to family functions, and for kids it was always playing.

Collector: What does this song mean to you?

Informant: I think a lot of it is not just tradition, but it also has a sense of nostalgia, or a rite of passage.

Collector: What ethnicity is the song for?

Informant: It’s mainly for people of Spanish descent, because the song lyrics are in Spanish.

I think that this song is like similar to the traditional “Happy Birthday” song in America. It’s upbeat nature and happy lyrics calls for celebration. The lyrics of the song reflect the activity it’s intended for: breaking the pinata. So, the song is also reflective of the traditions performed at Hispanic birthday parties.

Childhood
Holidays
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Tales /märchen

Krampus the Evil Elf

L is a 53-year-old homemaker living in Winnetka, IL. L grew up mainly in the northern suburbs of Illinois, but she also lived in Germany and England for a while when she was younger. L speaks English primarily but she is learning French. L attended both the University of Southern California and the University of Wisconsin Madison for her undergraduate college education. L considers herself to be American. She does not really identify with her Welsh ancestry.

L: Krampus is from centuries back in Germany.

Me: So who is Krampus?

L: Krampus was an evil elf who would watch children to make sure they were good and if they weren’t goo then they would punish them. It’s like the the line from Santa Claus is Coming to Town: “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.” Krampus is always watching.

Me: Did you ever tell your kids about Krampus?

L: No, we told them to look out the back window to see the deer and we told them that they were Santa’s reindeer, and that they better be good or Santa would know. They were so well behaved after that. We also used a garden gnome and told them it was an elf.

Me: Wow, that’s manipulative.

L: Well, folkore is a parent’s way to get their children to behave.

Me: Yeah, I can see that.

L: But my friend Kathy told her children about Krampus to make them behave as children. The kids are still obsessed with Krampus. The have Krampus dolls, they have paraphanalia all over the place.

L does not believe in Krampus, nor did she tell her kids about him. She knows the story because she heard it when she lived in Germany for a few years as a child as well as from her friend who did tell the story of Krampus to her children. Instead of Krampus, a scary figure, L used real things like deer and gnomes to convince her kids that reindeer and elves were watching them to make sure they behaved. This worked well because the kids saw the “elves” and “reindeer” with their own eyes and therefore had less doubt that they were real.

Here is a link to the imdb page for the movie that came out last year based on this tale: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3850590/

Childhood
Musical

Indonesian Lullaby

This is a lullaby that the informant’s father used to sing to her and her sister.

Translation

“Miel, go to sleep. Miel, go to sleep. If you don’t go to sleep, you’re going to get bit by ants.” The alternate ending means, “you’ll get bit by a fly.”

Informant’s Thoughts

The informant described this as a dark lullaby, and even mentioned that her sister used to hate the song and that it would keep her up. The informant herself said she never had a problem going to sleep, despite the lullaby being dark. Her father most likely learned it from his parents, since it is meant to be a song that parents sing to their children to scare them into sleeping. The informant doesn’t know of any name for the lullaby, but her father would call it “Informant bobo”, meaning “Informant sleep.”

Background & Analysis

The informant’s parents are from Indonesia, however the informant herself was born in the U.S., but is fluent in both Indonesian and English. The informant and I live in the same residence hall, and for this folklore collection, we got pizzas together and just sat down and ate them in my room while talking and sharing stories. I think it is an interesting, if somewhat backwards logic, that parents sing this song to coerce their children into going to sleep, since in American culture, lullabies are generally supposed to be sweet and gentle songs that “lull” a child to sleep. Perhaps the lyrics are supposed to be a sort of joke and meant to be ignored, however it would be difficult not to take the words seriously when living a country (Indonesia) that is home to a host of exotic insect species.

Childhood
Musical

One Child of God

This is an Indonesian church song that the informant’s mom used to sing when she was younger. Her mom grew up Christian and went to a Catholic, all girls school.

Translation

“‘One child of God goes to church, and then he brings a friend, and they go to church.’ And then it starts over, it’s like, ‘Two children of God, one of them brings a friend, and they go to church.’ All of them go to church together and it’s like this growing…”

Background & Analysis

The informant’s parents are from Indonesia, however the informant herself was born in the U.S., but is fluent in both Indonesian and English. The informant and I live in the same residence hall, and for this folklore collection, we got pizzas together and just sat down and ate them in my room while talking and sharing stories.

The name of this church song is “Satu Anak Tuhan” which mean “One Child of God.” When I asked the informant if this song is sung more in youth groups, she said she had absolutely no idea, but that it was just one of those little songs that you learn when you’re younger. This reminds me a a children’s song that most latin or hispanic people know, and that I myself learned from my dad who speaks Spanish, called “Un Elefante se Balanceaba.” The song begins with one elephant balancing on a spider web, and when he sees that it holds him, he calls over another elephant, and then they are both balancing on a spider web. This song can continue indefinitely. Just as with “One Child of God,” it is mostly children who learn and sing this song, and both were probably created to pass the time on long car rides, or to teach numbers and counting.

Customs
Game
Humor
Musical

“The Bagel Song” at Camp

The informant is a 20-year old college sophomore at University of Michigan majoring in industrial and systems engineering. She went to sleep-away camp for several years and was excited to share some of her fond memories of it with me. One such memory is “the Bagel Song.”

 

“Bagels, doo doo doo

Bagels, doo doo doo

 

Bagels on Mars, Bagels on Venus

I got bagels in my…..

NOSE!

 

Bagels, doo doo doo

Bagels, doo doo doo

 

Bagels on the pier, bagels on the dock

I got bagels on my….

NOSE!

 

Bagels, doo doo doo

Bagels, doo doo doo

(The next person makes up a stanza similar to the first two, with provocative lyrics that make the listener think of something dirty, but that ends in NOSE

 

Interviewer: “Where did you learn the Bagel Song?”

Informant: “I remember my counselor one year teaching it to me and a few other campers. We thought it was totally hilarious. When I was a counselor a few years ago, I taught it to my campers too.”

Interviewer: “Where would you guys sing the song?”

Informant: “Oh gosh, all the time. Um, we would sing it when camp songs were song. Like at bonfires and before mealtimes when everyone was together waiting to eat. We would tease the cute male counselors with it too…”

Interviewer: “Did your counselor who taught you the song say where she learned it?”

Informant: “No. We never asked. But I do have a friend who went to an all-boys camp in Wisconsin who told me they had a variation of the song they would sing.

Interviewer: “Do you remember how the variation went?”

Informant: “Hmm. I think it was the same general principle. I think what was different was that the boys said “Bacon” instead of “bagel”? I’m not entirely sure though; it was a long time ago that I talked to my friend about it!”

 

Thoughts:

I see the Bagel song as a humorous song dealing with taboos of sex and sexuality. The song is especially funny because it makes the listener the one with the “dirty mind”, not the singer, as it is the listener who thinks the singer is going to make an obscene reference.

Oring talks about Children’s folklore (I would consider “The Bagel Song” fitting into this category) a good deal in Folk Groups and Folklore Genres. Ideas of childhood have been purified for a long time in American society, and the oppressiveness of the controlled environment in which children reside in can partially explain their dealing with the sexuality taboo, along with other taboos.

Game
Humor

Sausage Song!

My informants are group of hungry members of the USC Track and Field Team. As a very tight knit group they often spend time in the morning eating breakfast together before class. In this particular instance while waiting for their food to be ready, this group broke out into the ‘Sausage Song”.

 

Members of the group had heard of the song through different outlets, some by listening to other groups perform it and others encountered recorded videos of groups performing the song on the internet, however the members of the group knew to begin participating after hearing the distinct beat and opening line of the song which begins like this…

 

One person begins beating on a nearby surface to create a beat. That same individual begins the rap/song by saying “Eggs, bacon, grits…”

 

The rest of the members in the group reply after grits by saying “…Sausage!”

 

Following the group declaration of sausage, the members each go around making their own rhymes to the beat, all ending in the word sausage, until most or all members have said a rhyme. For example, in the case of the track and field members, one of the girls in the group’s line was “I be at the parties twerkin’ on that sausage!”

 

Typically the rhymes that are made are crude or sexual in nature, as the word sausage is utilized as a euphemism for male genitals. The use of the word sausage as a euphemism is part of what contributes to the humor of the song. In this particular instance it served as a means to pass time, and was performed at a moment that had relation to the context of the scenario, the members performed the “Sausage Song” while waiting for breakfast. The performing of the song also serves a purpose in letting participants identify who has the best rhyming skills out of the group, because generally each person tries to outdo and increase the humor of the rhyme of the person who had gone before them. The game easily demonstrates the variability and widespread nature of folklore. Though the introduction to the “Sausage Song” remains the same, people adapt the performance to their particular liking and in relation to their environment and personal experiences. Though it is a relatively crude game and song that should probably not be performed in public, it serves a purpose of bringing together groups of people and providing entertainment value to those who perform it and to the listeners.Sausage Song

general
Musical

The Chocolate Ice Cream Cone Song

My (hold note) mommy said if I’d be good she’d send me to the store,

she said she’d bake a chocolate cake if I would sweep the floor,

she said if I would make the bed and help her mind the phone,

she would send me out to get a chocolate ice cream cone.

 

And so I did

the things she said,

I even helped her make the bed.

Then I went out,

just me alone,

to get a chocolate ice cream cone.

 

Now (hold note) on my way a-comin’ home I stumbled on a stone,

and need I tell you that I dropped

my chocolate ice cream cone.

A little doggie came along and took a great big lick (slurping sound),

and then I hit that mean ole doggie with a little stick.

And he bit me

where I sat down

and he chased me all over town.

And now I’m lost,

can’t find my home,

it’s all because of a chocolate, chocolate, chocolate ice cream cone.

 

The informant was my father, a 49-year-old engineer who currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, but who grew up in the area surrounding Austin, Texas. The song is one that his mother used to sing to him and his siblings when they were little. The song was primarily sung right before bed, as well as occasionally on long road trips. The informant says his mother would sing it to the children almost every night, sometimes “perfunctorily,” sometimes smiling and adding “extra ‘chocolate, chocolate, chocolate’s’ on the end.” The informant sees it as a mix of a “bizarre lost kid fairy tale” and a “moral lesson for young kids growing up,” the lesson being, “don’t go out on your own or, you know, you might get lost and never find your way home again.”

 

This song was collected while I was home for Spring Break and performed in my living room. It was interesting to me because my father also used to sing it to me and my sister when we were children because, “when you’re a parent, you’re looking for, you know, the things to pass down and it was one of my favorite songs as a child.” The tune of the song makes it seem fun and harmless, but there is a dark undertone about the lyrics that I recognized, even when I was growing up. Looking at it now, I think it is less of a moral lesson, and more of a lesson to children about the random, horrible things that can happen to you when you are not expecting them. None of the events that take place are really the narrator’s fault (other than being chased by a dog after he hits it with a stick), and yet the narrator still ends up lost and alone. It is a dark reflection on everyday life hiding within a song for children, as is often the case with old songs and stories created for children.

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