Bathtime Song

Text: “When I was little my grandma used to sing this song when we would get out of the bathtub ‘Jump down turn around, pick a bale of cotton, now jump down turn around, pick a bale of hay’ and she would do it while she would wrap us in a towel… it’s one of my core memories with her.’”

Context: The tune that C sings to is simple and easy to remember. C first heard the song from her grandmother, who spent the majority of her life in San Francisco, but recently passed away in San Diego, California at the age of 87

Analysis: Although C doesn’t recognize the song outside of the context of her grandmother, the following website: walks through the history of the song. The original lyrics are much longer and include a chorus that rotates from person to person, beginning with ‘me and my buddy pick a bale of cotton,’ to ‘me and my papa pick a bale of cotton.’ Originally recorded as an African American work song the earliest records of the song is from 1933. The song continued to be passed down with several different versions throughout the 1930s, and eventually recordings in 1945 by Lead Belly:( and in 1956 by Harry Belafonte are also available. The 1956 version is more similar to the tune which C sings to, and potentially how C’s grandmother first heard the song. Although it uses the words “spin around” rather than C’s “turn around” in its lyrics. C’s grandmother likely sung her the song because the lyric “spin around” relates to twirling her grandchildren in the towel after their baths. It’s interesting how a song’s context and meaning for each person can change over time.