So this site was born with two goals in mind:
Each one of these songs you probably already know, but you won't know you know until you hear it. Some of the ones, like Old Uncle Ned, you might not know, but were once a lot more famous than they are now. (In "Little House in the Big Woods", there's a scene where Pa takes down his fiddle and starts to play. . . "Old Uncle Ned".)
More tunes may follow as I get the time to enter them, someday.
So lyrics in songs like "Massa's In The Cold Ground" about how sad the slaves were that their owner had just died, or "Old Uncle Ned" about that nice old slave who'd worked so hard all his life and how sad we are that he's gone, become difficult to enjoy for anybody with sensibilities more refined than a cinderblock, indeed are positively objectionable, and at the very least have entirely different connotations today than they did in 1860. They can entirely obscure the great melody. I mean the sentiment was sweet (if maudlin), but the context and the assumptions are just unsupportable.
And then you have the songs that are otherwise benign, but he just has to drop in a reference to "darkies". "Old Folks At Home (Swanee River)" has it in the chorus, for crying out loud. What do you do with that?
Now I'm not any kind of a prude. I know Violent Femmes songs by heart ("Words memorize, words hypnotize, words make my mouth exercise, But words all fail the magic prize--There's nothing I can say when I'm in your thighs"), I've tapped my toes to Dead Kennedys tunes like "Too Drunk To Fuck" or "Let's Lynch the Landlord", and I think the old Walls of Genius tune "Everybody's Fucking" makes a great anthem. But the sentimental slavery thing just bugs the crap out of me; while the old Anglo-Saxon word "fuck" is one of my favorites, I recoil at the thought of saying "n-----r". This is my website, and I'm just not going to print any verses that offend me. If you want to start a "Celebration of Slavery in the 1850's" website, then you're more than welcome.
At some point I may add a "View Objectionable Lyrics" button, but it's not going to happen today.
So don't look for this to be some authoritative, scholarly source for Steven Foster, I'm only printing as much of the lyrics as I feel like typing at the time. The occasional "darky" reference I'm just going to leave in (although see this), I'm not going to bowdlerize him, and there is such a thing as being too sensitive.
Actually, I did very little, but re-used a lot of very handy things. Here is a list of references and inspirations:
I upload one version of each song in ABC format, and all the other formats in all the other keys are generated on-demand and cached. The cache is keyed to the original file, so if I make changes to it, the other versions are regenerated when they're requested.
Your comments are welcome: April 2004