Aktualisierungen November, 2020 Kommentarverlauf ein-/ausschalten | Tastaturkürzel

  • blechtram 2:21 pm am November 22, 2020 Permalink | Antworten
    Tags: , , , ,   

    Lead Belly: How many versions of „Easy Rider“ (See See Rider, C.C. Rider) did Lead Belly record? 

    Answer: Probably about five.

    But aha! This is another update to my Complete Discography of Lead Belly recordings. This time, a contradiction was spotted by Bernard Sigaud.

    My list used to have a take of „Easy Rider (See See Rider“ for the session of May 1944 (appearing on DOCD-5310 and SFW40045) and another take, „Easy Rider“, for June 1946 (appearing on DOCD-5311 and SFW40201). Bernard noticed that these two takes seem to be the exact same take.

    And he’s right!

    When I went throught the available documentation, there seems to be an uncertainty or a mistake for the May 1944-session (and its following documentation) that goes something like this:

    The take certainly stems from some mid-1940s session Lead Belly made for Moses Asch – this much was always known, but the details of those sessions seemed to be unclear for a long time. The title „Easy Rider (See See Rider)-1“ does show up in the discography by Wolfe/Lornell (1992) for the session in May 1944, but this session does have the Wolfe/Lornell disclaimer „[It is uncertain if these selections were recorded at the same session]“. Wolfe/Lornell give the 1950-Folkways LP 4 (or 2034 or FP34) as the first appearance of this track. They note the title „Easy Rider-2“ for June 1946, with an non-label „Disc 5501“ as first source.

    These two takes mentioned separately by Wolfe/Lornell are the same take in question.

    The liner notes of the first big CD-reissue of Folkways FP34, which is SFW40045, follow Wolfe/Lornell and also note the „Easy Rider“ take as from May 1944.

    Liner notes Bourgeois Blues – Lead Belly Legacy Vol. 2, Smithsonian Folkways 40045

    The Document Records CD DOCD-5310 also reproduces this and puts the take at May 1944. Now, as Wolfe/Lornell noted, there was always doubt about the tracks of this May 1944-session: „[It is uncertain if these selections were recorded at the same session]“. As it turns out, the discography by Fancourt/McGrath (2006) does list a number of songs from FP34, but „Easy Rider“ is not to be found there. But the title „Easy rider (See see rider)-1“ does show up for June 1946, with „Disc 5501?, Fw FP 34“ as source. The later Folkways Collection SFW40201 notes „Easy Rider“ as from June 1946 with Folkways 2034 (FP34) as the first appearance.

    Liner notes Lead Belly – The Smithsonian Folkways Collection, Smithsonian Folkways 40201

    So in both instances, this would be the take that Wolfe/Lornell had placed for May 1944. The Document Records DOCD-5311 simply works with this information and uses the take as from June 1946.
    The mistake seems to be simple: Folkways mistakenly placed the take in 1944 for its first issue in 1950 and there was contradictory information in Wolfe/Lornell with an „Easy Rider“-take for May 1944 and for June 1946. As this turned out to be the same take, it was obviously concluded at some point (I don’t know anything about the specifics) that there was no „Easy Rider“-take for May 1944 after all.
    The placement of the take on DOCD-5310 is therefore misplaced and outdated – at least that’s what the documents say now. It would be interesting to have a look at the documentation to find out when the knowledge arose that this mid-1940s Asch-recording of „Easy Rider“ wasn’t from 1944 but from 1946. But I have no idea.

    Short take away:

    1. There is (as of now) no „Easy Rider“-take from May 1944.
    2. DOCD-5310 and SFW40045 mistakenly list an „Easy Rider“ -take from May 1944.
    3. DOCD-5311 contains the same take, listed for June 1946.
    4. SFW40201 contains the same take, listed for June 1946.

    I deleted the „Easy Rider“-entry in my list for May 1944 and put a note for the version of June 1946.

    Thanks, Bernard!

     
  • blechtram 5:55 pm am November 4, 2020 Permalink | Antworten
    Tags: Kastrationspflicht,   

    Vignetten, Vol. 35 

     
  • blechtram 1:57 pm am October 23, 2020 Permalink | Antworten
    Tags: Grind, Grindelwald,   

    Küchengespräche: Kopf, Grind, Grindelwald 

    Dieses Küchengespräch drehte sich darum, woher der schweizerische (eigentlich: insgesamt süddeutschsprachige) Ausdruck «Grind» (für: Kopf) stammt, und ob er etwas mit der Ortschaft Grindelwald (Berner Oberland) zu tun habe.

    Sofort wurde von lokalbetroffener Seite anekdotisch eingeworfen, dass Grindelwald so heisse, weil dort grosse «Grinde» – runde Felsen – herumlägen, woran sich wiederum die Frage knüpfte, ob diese Felsen ihren Namen von runden «Grinden», Köpfen, hätten. Also gleich drei Fragen:

    1. Woher stammt das Wort «Grind» für Kopf?
    2. Gibt es eine Wortbedeutung «Grind» für Felsen?
    3. Was hat das bzw. hat das was mit Grindelwald zu tun.

    Das lässt sich etymologisch alles einigermassen klar benennen:

    1. Der «Grind» bezeichnete laut DWDS ursprünglich eine Art räudigen Ausschlag, der wohl oft am Kopf auftrat, mit Haarausfall einherging und deshalb auch als «Kopfgrind» bezeichnet wurde. Dies übertrug sich dann in abwertenden Kontexten auf den Kopf als «Grind», «mit Ausnahme von einigen Gebieten, wo das W[ort] nicht eben als anstössig gilt» (so das Schweizerische Idiotikon). Der krustige, schorfige, eben «grindige» Ausschlag hat seinen Namen wegen seiner krustigen Beschaffenheit dann wiederum von älteren Wortformen grint, grind, grand, grund etc., die alle ungefähr Kies, Sand oder zermahlene Steine bedeuten (vgl. englisch to grind).
    2. Diese Ursprungsbedeutung wiederum führt ziemlich direkt zu der Bedeutung von Grind als Felsen bzw. «Felskopf, -kuppe, -vorsprung, isolierter, kleiner Felsen» etc., wie zumindest das Schweizerische Idiotikon als Bedeutung 2 (Kopf) unter Punkt c verzeichnet. Ob da ein faktischer Zusammenhang zu dem Kies von oben besteht, dazu äussert sich z.B. das DWDS nicht. Das Idiotikon führt wunderbar aus:

    «Viell[eicht] beruht auch die im Text an 2c angeschlossene Bed[eutung] ‘kahle Stelle’ auf der nämlichen Anschauung, möglicherweise auch diejenige des mit vereinzelten Grasbüscheln (wie der grindbehaftete Kopf mit einzelnen Haarbüscheln) besetzten Felsabhanges».

    Schweizerisches Idiotikon: Grind

    Immerhin ist die Anekdote von Grindelwalds Namensherkunft von den Felsköpfen her annähernd etymologisch begründbar. Wahrscheinlich ist sie aber falsch.

    3. Grindelwald hat seinen Namen eher nicht von «Grind» genannten Felsen, wahrscheinlicher ist laut den einschlägigen Quellen eine Verbindung zum in Flurnamen hier und da anzutreffenden «Grindel» oder «Grendel», das einen Schlagbaum, Holzriegel oder Holzzaun bezeichnet, der etwas absperrt (s.u. Friedli 1908). Im Althochdeutschen schon als grintil, grintel, grindel usw. vorhanden, und in der Form «Grindel» scheint das laut Duden sogar noch ein (landschaftlich) heute in dieser Bedeutung gebrauchtes Wort zu sein. Who knew! Die Version, dass sich Grindelwald von Felsköpfen herleitet, wird, wie ich erfahren durfte, von einigen Einheimischen hartnäckig hochgehalten (mit Ausschmückungen, dass z.B. die Grindelwalder den Talboden hinaufzogen, um oberhalb von bestimmten «Grinden» aka Felsköpfen zu wohnen, falls diese herunterrollen sollten usw.), aber neben den Fachquellen präferiert sogar die kommerziell-lokalpatriotische Webseite Wir Grindelwalder die verbuchte grintil-Version Und ausführlich dargestellt ist diese in einer frühen Quelle, nämlich: Friedli, Emanuel: Bärndütsch als Spiegel bernischen Volkstums. Zweiter Band: Grindelwald. Bern: Francke 1908, 192f.

    Friedli 1908, 193.

    Quellen:

    Digitales Wörterbuch der Deutschen Sprache: Grind: https://www.dwds.de/wb/Grind

    Digitales Wörterbuch der Deutschen Sprache: Grindel: https://www.dwds.de/wb/Grindel

    Duden: Grindel: https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/Grindel

    Friedli, Emanuel: Bärndütsch als Spiegel bernischen Volkstums. Zweiter Band: Grindelwald. Bern: Francke 1908, 192f.

    Schweizerisches Idiotikon: Grind: https://digital.idiotikon.ch/idtkn/id2.htm#!page/20759/mode/1up

    wir grindelwader: https://www.wir-grindelwalder.ch/index.php?id=90

     
  • blechtram 12:31 pm am May 14, 2020 Permalink | Antworten
    Tags: Elio Pellin, Hermann Burger, Pluralis sanitatis,   

    Toller Ausdruck der Woche: Pluralis sanitatis 

    Fundort: Burger, Hermann: Die künstliche Mutter.
    Frankfurt/M.: Fischer 1982. S. 166.

    Pluralis sanitatis, also die Verwendung der ersten Person Plural in Sätzen wie „Wie geht es uns denn heute?“ oder „Hatten wir Stuhlgang?“ – toll, habe ich zuerst bei Hermann Burger gesehen und ihm automatisch auch sofort die Urheberschaft zugeschrieben, da es zu seinen anderen poeto-grammatischen Spielereien passt, etwa den konjunktivischen Substantiven („Töd“ als möglicherweise eintretender Tod in Schilten und derlei).

    Ich wurde belehrt: Das scheint ein bekanntes linguistisches Konzept zu sein, ganz analog dem bekannteren Pluralis majestatis. Der Duden beschreibt ihn auch als „Krankenschwesternplural„, erwähnt dazu noch den Pluralis modestiae, wenn jemand „wir“ statt „ich“ sagt, um die eigene Person etwas zurückzunehmen – ungefähr, wenn eine Politikerin eine Stichwahl gewinnt und dann „Wir waren von Anfang an zuversichtlich und haben das jetzt geschafft“ sagt.

    Der Pluralis modestiae wird oft mit dem Pluralis auctoris ungefähr gleichgesetzt. Das ist die im Deutschen langsam aussterbende Angewohnheit, „wir“ in (vor allem) akademischen Texten zu verwenden („In diesem Kapitel werden wir zeigen“, „Damit wären wir am Schluss unserer Ausführungen“), die sich im Französischen meiner Erfahrung nach aber noch beinahe selbstverständlicher Verwendung erfreut…

    Daran angelehnt gibt es noch einen Pluralis societatis, wie mir der dritte Teil des Buches Sprachgeschichte (Hg. Werner Besch, Anne Betten, Oskar Reichmann, Stefan Sonderegger) mitteilt. Das ist, wenn eine Rednerin oder Autorin bei ihren Ausführungen das Publikum mit einbezieht. Das Buch benennt darüber hinaus auch den Pluralis reverentiae, 2. Person Plural („Eure Majestät“).

    Ich bin neulich wieder auf diesen Plural gestossen, in Elio Pellins verspieltem Kurzroman Der Himmel als Abgrund über euch. Pellin fügt den genannten noch eine weitere Mehrzahl hinzu, den Pluralis praegnationis (13. Kapitel):

    Link zur Blog-Version des Romans

    Das ist eine Neuschöpfung, soweit ich sehe, und es geht ungefähr darum, ob die hier sprechende Salomé von Erlach, da sie schwanger ist, mit grösserer Berechtigung einen der anderen hier disktuierten Plurale verwendet.

    Wie dem auch sei: Pluralis sanitatis, wunderbar, nicht von Burger erfunden und auch nicht der einzige kuriose Plural.

     
  • blechtram 11:38 am am April 23, 2020 Permalink | Antworten
    Tags: , , , , , Krautrock, , Must for Fans,   

    Can: Tago Mago [40th Anniversary Edition Bonus CD] 

    Rating: 7.1/10
    Rated as
    : Archival / Live
    Album Status
    : Must for Fans
    Released: 2011
    Recorded: 1972
    Specific Genre: Krautrock
    Main Genre: Experimental Rock, Rock
    Undertones
    : Ambient, Free Improvisation, Psychedelic Rock
    Label: Spoon 40SPOON6/7

    [Disc 1: 1.1 Paperhouse 1.2 Mushroom 1.3 Oh Yeah 1.4 Halleluhwah 1.5 Aumgn 1.6 Peking O 1.7 Bring Me Coffee or Tea]
    Disc 2: 2.1 Mushroom 2.2 Spoon 2.3 Halleluhwah

    Love me! You gotta love me!

    Tago Mago is – at least in recurring intervals – my favourite album. But let’s talk about the live bonus material from the 40th-anniversary edition. The bonus CD with the live material contains three tracks from a live performance in 1972. Unsurprisingly, the sound quality isn’t quite up to snuff – aside from being murky, especially Karoli’s guitar suffers from being buried in the mix, sounding as if he played from down the hallway. Well, we do with what we can get. I’ll go into the details, but what you get it is what you want and expect: Anxious, extremely rhythm-driven nightmares, amazing examples of free form tension-and-release, some chaotic nonsense, irresistible grooves: bleak, hypnotic, riveting. Well, it’s Can. What did you expect?

    Two main points: The rather murky sound quality doesn’t really damage the enterprise, because it fits the claustrophobic, future-noir sound. But besides a riveting second track and an at least interesting mini-version of „Halleluhwah“, there is nothing to learn about Can here that can’t be experienced as good or better on other available live material. Secondly: The reason to get this is the 30-minute second track „Spoon“ which features everything you want in a Can jam: disorientation, paranoia, exploration and a beautiful, ethereal ending in an ambient-style hinting at 1973’s Future Days. Only half of this jam is available on The Lost Tapes (as is the less interesting opener „Mushroom“, a rare jam where they lose focus and decide to run the thing into the ground). The third track is a brief nine-minute „Halleluhwah“, in an interesting version where everything happens slightly too fast, it plays like a one-act-version of the epic original and fades out before the climax – I can only assume due to some technical error or scrambled tapes.

    PS. The cover art hasn’t been changed. The photograph you see on the cover is a detachable carton sleeve to protect the gatefold vinyl replica inside, featuring the famous original head and is very nicely done all in all. Complete with several interesting liner notes by fawning fellow musicians but little historical information, it is a beautifully made reissue, less informative than it could be.

     
  • blechtram 8:51 pm am April 18, 2020 Permalink | Antworten
    Tags: , , , , , Genre Contender, Jimmy Johnson,   

    Jimmy Johnson: Tobacco Road 

    Rating: 8.1/10
    Rated as
    : Album
    Album Status
    : Genre Contender
    Released: 1978
    Recorded: 1977
    Specific Genre: Chicago Blues, Soul Blues
    Main Genre: Electric Blues, Blues
    Label: MCM Blues Records

    1 Long About Midnight 2 Strange Things Happening 3 Look on Yonder Wall 4 I’m Crazy About My Baby 5 Tobacco Road 6 Breaking Up Somebody’s Home 7 Sweet Little Angel 8 Three Times Chicago

    Can’t control the vibration, after all I didn’t make it myself

    Most discographies will allude to 1979’s Johnson’s Whack as Jimmy Johnson’s first album, or might be referring to qualifications like his ‚domestic‘ debut and whatnot, but this little gem from 1978 (recorded 1977) is Johnson’s actual debut (and was issued in France – and he did record half an LP in 1975, on the same French label). At fifty years of age, Johnson suffered the fate of many great bluesmen of the postwar generation: important as a studio session for decades, important to the sound of the soulful Chicago blues of bigger names, and too late into the game now to make a big splash for himself.

    On Tobacco Road, Johnson sports the melismatic, exhilarated singing style of B.B. King and a not unsimilar guitar technique than another King (Albert) – somewhere between an articulate sting and a bending, organic wail. But he is distinct from both as Johnson goes sneakily funky where BB King goes smooth, he goes raw where King goes schmaltzy and he kicks into a dryly cool, rugged groove where King faceplants in overexcited horn sections. While this somehow got a „live“ tag, there clearly is no audience present (at some points, you can hear what amounts to background studio chatter), so this is probably closer to a studio session which greatly benefits the slightly ramshackle, laid-back couch-groove of the whole set. In terms of cool Chicago soul blues, this is not unlike what Earl Hooker did in the mid-1960s, but with a jazz-informed drummer and a really steady rhythm guitarist supplying a comforting background for Johnson to take off from. Watch out for some funky little drum fills and some great breakdowns which showcase Johnson’s vocals – especially on the hurt, grief-stricken yet somehow defiantly energetic showstopper „Feel Like Breakin’ Up Somebody’s Home“.

    As electric soul blues goes, this is a highly recommended set precisely because it moves in areas somewhat out of fashion at the time – it isn’t self-consciously trying to be overly theatrical and doesn’t fall into any of the flashy traps of the genre, it’s just some bloke, some beers, and some emotive, low-key blues.

     
  • blechtram 10:48 am am March 6, 2020 Permalink | Antworten
    Tags: 8.8/10, , , , Genre Classic, , John Coltrane, Spiritual Jazz   

    John Coltrane: Ascension 

    Rating: 8.8/10
    Rated as
    : Album
    Album Status: Genre Classic
    Released: 1966
    Recorded: 1965
    Specific Genre: Free Jazz, Spiritual Jazz
    Main Genre: Jazz, Avant-Garde Jazz
    Undertones
    : Experimental Big Band
    Label: Impulse!

    1 Ascension (Edition II)
    Bonus Tracks: 2 Ascension (Edition I)

    Like a seagull thrown around by the tides

    This is Coltrane’s „free jazz“-album which might alienate people who mainly go for his 1950s hard bop and ballads. Up to this point, Coltrane already had been flirting and entangled with avant-garde here and there, but this is the wedding announcement. If you listen to free jazz at all, I’d say this is the second record you should pick up (you can figure out the first for yourself). And, to exactly no one’s surprise, it’s great. The energy is amazing, makes you feel like a seagull thrown around by the tides, waves and winds, and I regularly find myself having gone through these 40 minutes without really noticing in the best way – this record sort of suspends my sense of time.

    While free jazz shouldn’t make you „tune out“ mentally, you really don’t have a lot of listening „work“ to do here: The sheer, frenzied soul displayed by the very unususal set-up just carries you right through the piece. The performance of the (large) collective is so good it makes your brain forget that this is, at least supposedly, „cerebral“ music. It is also a very different approach compared to Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz: While that album was more of a thoroughly collective effort, Ascension follows a pretty tight structure that has ensemble and soloists alternating every few minutes in a specific order (everyone involved gets one solo, except Garrison and Davis on the double-basses get a duet). That’s not better or worse than Coleman’s stress on collective dynamics of development, but it does give you slightly more to hold on to structurally when you’re starting out in the genre. As the record that announced Coltrane‘s complete take-off into the stratosphere, it’s pretty bold and astounding in terms of full realisation – no „transitional“ aspects here.

     
  • blechtram 9:45 am am March 5, 2020 Permalink | Antworten
    Tags: , , ,   

    Toller Ausdruck der Woche: Arrieregarde 

    Fundort: Bettine von Arnim: Die Günderode

    Der Ausdruck bezeichnet bei Bettine von Arnim natürlich noch im ursprünglichen Wortgebrauch eine militärische Nachhut, denn arrière-garde ist natürlich das Gegenstück zur avant-garde, der Vorhut. Dass die Avantgarde (jedenfalls das Wort) ihre militärischen Wurzeln irgendwann zugunsten einer „kulturprogressiven“ Kampfmetapher verloren hat, ist bekannt:

    Auf die Kunst übertragen wurde das Wort im Saint-Simonismus. Der früheste Beleg für den Künstler als Avantgarde an der Spitze einer sozialen Bewegung findet sich bei Olinde Rodrigues, einem Jünger Saint-Simons, in dem Dialog ‚L’Artiste, le Savant et l’Industriel‘ (1825). In der deutschen kunstkritischen und -wissenschaftlichen Diskussion gibt es das Wort seit der Jahrhundertwende.

    (Jäger, Georg: Avantgarde. In: Reallexikon der deutschen Literaturwissenschaft. Bd. 1. Hg. v. Klaus Weimar. Berlin 2007, 183–187, hier 184.)

    Dass die Arrieregarde (again: das Wort) eine ähnliche Karriere gemacht hat, liegt weniger auf der Hand und sie tat es auch erst im Nachtrab zu der Bedeutungsentwicklung der Avantgarde. Offenbar war eine Fortschrittsmetapher im Kulturdiskurs früh gewollt, während ein künstlerisches Nachhinken nie die gleiche begriffliche Dringlichkeit genoss. Naja.

    Besonders gut untersuchen lässt sich der Wortwandel im Digitalen Wörterbuch der Deutschen Sprache auf die Schnelle nicht, aber soviel lässt sich mal sagen: Im älteren Korpus findet sich „Arriere-Garde“ (man beachte für die Schlagwortsuche den Bindestrich) mit einigen Belegen, sämtlich aus dem 18. Jahrhundert, sämtlich in militärischer Grundbedeutung. Im jüngeren Korpus finden sich einige Belege für die Schreibweise „Arrieregarde“, sämtlich für das 20. Jahrhundert, sämtlich als Kulturmetaphern.

    Im Duden ist Avantgarde als Metapher in erster Wortbedeutung lexikalisiert, das heisst, die Metapher wird dort als die derzeit massgebliche Bedeutung ausgewiesen (als „Gruppe von Vorkämpfern einer geistigen Entwicklung„). Das ist für Arrieregarde nicht der Fall, notiert wird dies im Duden als „Nachhut, Militär veraltet„. Der kurze Scan des DWDS (keine zuverlässige Basis für eine Schlussfolgerung, aber eine gute Ausgangslage für eine Anschlussfrage) legt aber nahe, dass Arrieregarde, wenn auch nicht so populär wie Avantgarde, im Deutschen nicht mehr, oder zumindest nur zweitrangig, in seiner militärischen Bedeutung verwendet wird.

    Das wirft eigentlich vor allem eine Frage auf: Ab wann und unter welchen Umständen werden im Duden metaphorische Bedeutungswandlungen lexikalisiert? Wer entscheidet das aufgrund welcher Daten? Ich frag mal nach.

     
  • blechtram 10:56 am am December 29, 2019 Permalink | Antworten
    Tags: Alkove, , ,   

    Kontige Objekte: Kunst in der Alkove 

    Irgendjemand hat fast den ganzen Sommer 2019 diese Alkove als Installationsplätzchen für Readymades benutzt. Ich habe nur einige wenige photographisch erwischt. Insgesamt tippe ich auf ein gutes Dutzend verschiedener Objekte, die ich da gesehen habe.

     
  • blechtram 12:51 pm am December 4, 2019 Permalink | Antworten
    Tags: Bob Ledbetter, , , , Goodnight, , , , , , , , Ry Cooder, The Weavers, Tom Waits   

    Lead Belly’s „Irene“ and its lyrical variants of the chorus: Kissing, getting, guessing and seeing. 

    Ramsey, Frederic Jr.: Liner notes for Leadbelly’s Early Recordings, Legacy Volume 3 (Folkways FA 2024, 1951).

    Let’s talk about Lead Belly and his song «Irene, Goodnight», alternatively called «Goodnight, Irene». I’ll just refer to it as «Irene» here.

    The question that interests us here is simple: What exactly does Lead Belly sing in the chorus’s last line? Is it: «I get you in my dreams»? «I guess you’re in my dreams»? «I kiss you in my dreams»?

    It is really hard to make out in some takes and online ressources don’t seem to have a great consensus. There are different recordings with different plausible outcomes, we’ll take a look at that and some prominent cover versions below.

    For those with little time, the «too long, didn’t read»-summary is this: Lead Belly mostly used «I get you in my dreams» for the early recordings (up until 1943), other times most likely an «I kiss(ed) you in my dreams». For later records (from 1944), he opted for something like «I guessed you in my dreams», which can be seen as a cleaned-up version of «I get» or «I kissed». Cover versions mostly use «I’ll see you in my dreams» (from the Weavers’s hit version) or, more in line with Lead Belly, «I get you in my dreams». For the fun details, read below.

    As for the song: This is nowadays a classic of folk americana, a weird waltz that doesn’t quite fit into Lead Belly’s repertoire of blues, field hollers or folk songs, but does fit very well into his habit of soaking up whatever good song he could find and modify to make it his own. There is a cute family story about its origins – he supposedly made it up on the spot as a lullaby for his little baby niece. But this story is debunked – first, by his own uncle, Bob Ledbetter, who is known to have it sung before Lead Belly (and who says he learned it from his brother Terrell – you can hear this statement and Bob’s 1940 version on Document Records DOCD-5579), and secondly by Wolfe/Lornell who trace the song back even further to a 19th century popular song – but there is no written record. Wolfe/Lornell note:

    There is evidence, nonetheless, that the chorus, at least, was circulating among other folksingers besides the Ledbetters. In November 1936 […], a Library of Congress field recording unit came upon Gilbert Fike in Little Rock, Arkansas. Fike was originally from Louisiana and sang a song called «The Girls Won’t Do to Trust,» [sic] which used a set of unusual misogynistic verses to set up a familiar chorus:

    The girls will chew tobacco, but she will raise a fuss
    The girls will dring good whiskey, boys, but they
    Won’t do to trust

    Irene, goodnight, Irene,
    Irene, goodnight, my life,
    I’ll kiss you in my dreams.

    While it is possible that Fike had heard Huddie sing a version of the song […], it is probable that both Fike and Leadbelly heard the song as it circualted among rural singers in Texas and Louisiana.

    (Wolfe/Lornell 1992, 53)

    Well, the story goes on (there’s even earlier textual evidence), but so far this is pretty standard fair as far as the creation and development of folk songs go (for this, see also Ek 2014, and for a short summary online, see Lornell 2003). Let’s turn to the lyrics. What does Lead Belly do in his dream? «Get» Irene? «Kiss» Irene? «Guess»? The problem is that – especially on the early field recordings – it is really hard to make out what Lead Belly sings – and even in later versions, he uses a dialectal phrasing that sounds a lot like «giss» (hard g), like a mixture of «get» and «kiss». I think this is where the «guess» version comes from, which, spoiler, will turn out to be the least plausible one in my view.

    Before we turn to the audio analysis, let’s get some clear textual evidence. As noted above, Wolfe/Lornell transcribe the songs origins as using the line «I kiss you in my dreams», and if you listen to Bob Ledbetter’s 1940-version, there is no doubt about it. This in itself stakes a strong claim for «kiss» instead of «get» or «guess» as an initial variant. Also, in the liner notes of the Folkways-LP Leadbelly’s Early Recordings, Legacy Volume 3 (Folkways FA 2024, 1951), Frederic Ramsey makes quite astute poetic observations about Lead Belly’s lyrical craft:

    There is one quality of Leadbelly’s song that is only partially touched on in the Lomax book, how ever, but if we piece together bits of the Lomax story and combine them with the text and mood of Leadbelly’s songs, it can be sensed. There is in certain of the songs a mood of sleeplessness; in others, of dream, and trance. […] Where no escape is provided through sleep or dream, it is through alcolhol as in Roberta. The sleeplessness complements the dream, for it is a waking dream. It is a state where real and unreal are mixed, seen and unseen come together.

    Ramsey 1951.

    Ramsey then goes on to quote several other songs that reference this escape or wish fulfillment through (day dreams) and, on the occasion, transcribes the bit from «Irene» as:

    «Irene, good night, Irene good night,
    Good night Irene, good night Irene,
    I kiss you in my dreams …» (Irene, FP 4)

    Ramsey 1951.

    Since Ramsey mentions Folkways FP 4 as the source, it is clear that he refers to the versions «SC-261» or «SC-261-1» from 1943, both on FP 4 (cf. my bio-discography of Lead Belly for such session-details). Now, Ramsey isn’t just anybody – he met and recorded Lead Belly in his late sessions. But apart from this supposed authority on the subject matter, I find his lyrical assembly of quotes about dreamy wish fulfillment persuasive: This again makes a stronger claim that Lead Belly dream-wishes that he «gets» or «kisses» Irene, rather than the line not fitting in this logic: «I guess you’re in my dreams».

    But Wolfe/Lornell go on to say this:

    The first time he recorded the song on disc, in 1933, he sang only two verses and two choruses, including the slightly ominous refrain «I’ll get you in my dreams». A year later he recorded it with four verses and four refrains.

    Wolfe/Lornell 1992, 56.

    I agree with their assessment that it sounds most like «get» in the 1933-chorus (version 120-A-1) which is the only complete chorus from that year that includes the line. Very generally, it coud be heard as «kiss» with a mumbled «s» in the end. But «get» is what they decide on, so let’s take that as corroborating evidence.

    Now, if we turn to what is audible on Lead Belly’s own recordings, there is little doubt about one thing: On several occasions, he clearly sings «I get you in my dreams». If you compare my harmonisation below, you see that I think there is no doubt about him singing this line on the versions 124-A-2 (1934) – starting with the second chorus, as the first is unclear to me –, 124-B-1 (1934) and SC-261-1 (1943). As opposed to SC-261-1, version SC-261 (1943) gives you this weird «get/kiss»-mixture, so that must have been the one Ramsey refers to in his transcription above.

    If we now take a close listen to his other versions, we most of the time end up with a word that sound like «giss» or even «gass». At one point I though this might be a dialectal version of «catch» (as in «I catss you in my dreams»), and it also occured to me that it could simply be a dialectal «I gets you» – because Lead Belly pretty systematically uses this conjugation on all other verbs in the song, «I lives», «I loves», «I haves», but I don’t know enough about the nature of Lead Belly’s idiom to know if this is even remotely plausible from a linguistic perspective. American dialectologists, please let me know if «I gets» was a plausible form.

    Anyway, if you are primed by textual knowledge about the «kiss»-version, most of these can pretty reliably sound like «kiss». The version where I’m really struggling to hear a difference between «kiss you» and «guess you’re» is version 44-A (1935).

    Two last points on the «I guess you’re in my dreams»-variant: First, I must say I can hear «guess(ed)» on some occasions, but I have to force myself to hear «you’re in my dreams», it is usually a clear «you in my dreams» to me. Also, in later versions (from 1944 onwards), it becomes a more clearly pronounced «I guessed you’re in my dreams». The past tense makes even less poetic sense to me – it seems like a bowlderized versions of «kissed» to me.

    This is also why I don’t quote more of Lead Belly’s numerous later Irene-versions because even though he clearly gravitated to what sounds like «I guess you in my dreams», the problems fundamentally remain the same: Even with better and clearer recording (and Lead Belly having adapted his singing for white audiences), it is hard to know whether we’re dealing with a dialectal «kiss», «gets» or «guess» (compare especially version 413-3A, 1944). But more importantly: Folk lyrics change. At this point of Lead Belly’s career, we’re dealing with lyrical adaptation by Lead Belly for the audiences he played for. In the version FC 7533 (1945), I hear a clear «I guessed you in my dreams», but at that point he had also changed the lyrics of «take morphine and die» to «run away and fly». As in the Weavers’ version (see below), «getting» and «kissing» maybe wasn’t deemed suitable for mainstream (and children) audiences, so «guessing» might have become a valid option from 1944 onwards.

    Taken all of this together, I’d say we end up with the following for the versions up until 1943:

    1. There is clear textual evidence for «I kiss you in my dreams», clear auditive evidence for it in Bob Ledbetter’s version and plausible auditive evidence in Lead Belly’s versions
    2. There is clear auditive evidence for the variant «I get you in my dreams». Some of Lead Belly’s versions leave no doubt.
    3. There is clear «poetic» evidence for both these variants, that is to say: they simply make sense, even in a larger thematic context of Lead Belly’s lyrical motifs
    4. There is some auditive, little poetic and no textual evidence for «I guess(ed) you(’re) in my dreams»

    As corroborated evidence goes, I’d say Lead Belly sings a dialectal «I kiss» on some, and «I get» on other versions. Having said that, none of this disproves the «I guess you’re in my dreams»-version which remains plausible, why not? But it remains the least supported version by corroboration. As a last resort, I’d propose a dialectal «I gets», until an expert tells me that this form didn’t exist in the idioms spoken then.

    Cover versions

    The story could but doesn’t have to end here. How did prominent cover versions handle this textual unclarity? To spoil the harmonisation of lyrics I made below: There is a strong preference to use the completely different line «I’ll see you in my dreams» – this is easily explained as this stems from the cleaned-up version by the Weavers which was a 1950-hit that made the song as famous as it is nowadays in the first place. No kissing or «getting» in this mainstream folk context (cf. Ek 2014)! Even Mississippi John Hurt uses this line in his 1966-version – he announces it as «Lead Belly’s song» in the spoken intro, says that he «learned it off the record» and then continues to sing a song that structurally uses the lyrics from the Weavers’, not Lead Belly’s, version. So hilariously and wonderfully for folk authenticity and pop history, Mississippi John Hurt most likely learned this song from the Weavers’ hit record. Eric Clapton’s 2013 also shares this approach of using the song in the form it first entered the mass audience’s mind: as the Weavers-version.

    Then, more reconstructionist artists like Ry Cooder (1976) and Tom Waits (2006) both opt for lyrical structures the pretty much exactly resemble one of Lead Belly’s version. Ry Cooder clearly goes with «I’ll get you in my dreams» in the chorus, while Tom Waits, in typical fashion, sort of recreates Lead Belly’s «kiss/get» mixture as «giss». Waits gives no lyrics in the liner notes for this song.

    As an example of continued oral folk permutation, Dr. John’s version from 1992 just uses general musical and lyrical elements of the earlier version to come up with something very different. He turns the music into a big-bandish boogie and the song is not about yearning, scrounging, suicide and loss (with a dream as escape), but about desire, sex and partying, balling down the river while screaming «I wanna get you into my dream!» Of course, Dr. John pays his dues as a reconstructionist as well, at one point introducing a female choir which sings the exact lyrics of the Weavers’ chorus.

    Well, that was fun, wasn’t it. For what I’ve exactly heard, uncertainties included, compare below harmonisation of the different versions I mentioned. Sources are below.

     Lead Belly 120-A-1Lead Belly 120-A-6Lead Belly 120-A-7Lead Belly 124-A-2 (1934)Lead Belly 124-B-1 (1934)Lead Belly 44-A (1935)Lead Belly 44-B-1 (1935)Irene SC-261-1 (1943)Irene (SC-261) (1943)Bob Ledbetter (1940)Weavers (1950)Mississippi John Hurt (1966)Ry Cooder (1976)Dr. John (1992)Tom Waits (2006)Eric Clapton (2013)
    INTRO / CHORUSIrene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll get/kiss (?) you in my dreams
    ø Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll get/kiss (?) you in my dreams
     Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I kiss you in my dreams + Spoken Intro
     Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I get you in my dreams
    øIrene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Irene goodnight, goodnight Irene
    I kiss you in my dreams
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll see you in my dreams
    Spoken Intro + Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I will see you in my dream
    øøIrene goodnight, Irene, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I kiss you in my dreams
    ø
    VERSE 1One day, one day, one day
    Irene was a-walkin’ along
    Last word that I heard her say
    «I want you to sing one song»
    I asked your mother for you
    She told me that you was too young
    I wish dear Lord that I’d never seen your face
    I’m sorry  you ever was born
     Quit ramblin‘ and quit gamblin‘
    Quit staying out late at night
    Come home to your wife and your family
    Sit down by the fireside bright
     I asked your mother for you
    She told me you was too young
    I wish dear Lord that I’d never seen your face
    I’m sorry you ever was born
     Sometimes I lives in the country
    Sometimes I live in town
    Sometimes I have the great notion
    Jumpin‘ in, into the river and drown
    I asked your mother for you
    She told me that you was too young
    I wish dear Lord,that  I’d never seen your face
    I’m sorry you ever was born
    Last Saturday night I’ve got married
    Me and my wife settled down
    Me and my wife is parted now
    I’m goin‘ take a stroll uptown
    Last Saturday night I got married
    Me and my wife settled down
    Now me and my wife are parted
    I’m gonna take another stroll down town
    Sometimes I live in the country
    Sometimes I lives in town
    Sometime I take great notion
    Jump in the river and drown
    I asked your mother for you
    She told me that you was too young
    I wish dear Lord never have seen your face
    And I’m sorry that you ever been born
    Last night as I laid in my bed a-sleepin’
    Last night as I laid down across my bed
    Last night I had myself a nightmare
    I had a dream, I had a dream
    My little Irene was dead
    Last Saturday night I got married
    Me and my wife settled down
    Now me and my wife are parted
    I’m gonna take me a little stroll uptown
    Last Saturday night I got married
    Me and my wife settled down
    Now me and my wife are parted
    Gonna take another stroll down town
    CHORUS Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    (scrambled)
    (possible continuation of 120-A-6, scrambled)… in my dreamsIrene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll get you in my dreams
     Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I kiss you / guess you’re (?) in my dreams + Spoken Interlude
     Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I get you in my dreams
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I kiss (?) you in my dreams
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Irene goodnight, goodnight Irene
    I kiss you in my dreams
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll see you in my dreams
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I will see you in my dream
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll get you in my dreams
    I had to say now:
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I wanna get you, I wanna get you
    Wanna get you into my dream
    Irene goodnight, Irene, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I kiss you in my dreams
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll see you in my dreams
    VERSE 2  Stop ramblin‘ and stop gamblin‘
    Quit staying out late at night
    Come home to your wife and your family
    Sit down by the fireside bright
    Last Friday night, I got married
    Me and my wife settled down
    Now me and my wife have parted
    Gonna take me a stroll uptown
     Sometimes I lives in the country
    Sometimes I lives in town
    Sometimes I have the great notion
    Jumpin‘ into the river and drown
     Stop ramblin‘ and stop gamblin‘
    quit stayin‘ out late at night
    Go home to your wife and your family
    Sit down by the fireside bright
    Sometimes I lives in the country
    Sometimes I lives in town
    Sometimes I haves the great notion
    Jumpin‘ in, into the river and drown
    Quit ramblin‘, quit gamblin‘
    Quit staying out late at home(– at night!)
    Come home to your wife and  family
    Sit down by the fire[?]side bright
    Sometimes I live in the country
    Sometimes I live in town
    Sometimes I take a great notion
    To jump into the river and drown
    Stop ramblin‘, stop gamblin‘
    stop stayin‘ out late at night
    Go home to your wife and family
    And stay by the fireside bright
    Sometimes I live in the country
    Sometimes I lives in town
    Sometimes I have a great notion
    To jump into the river and drown
    Last Saturday night we got married
    Last Saturday night we sho’ got down
    Last Saturday night we went sailin’ down the river
    We swung that little boat
    And we almost drowned
    Sometimes I live in the country
    Sometimes I live in town
    Sometimes I take a great notion
    To jump in the river and drown
    Stop ramblin‘, stop your gamblin‘
    stop stayin‘ out late at night
    Come home to your wife and your family
    And sit by the fire so bright
    CHORUS  Irene goodnight, Irene (scrambled fade-out)Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll get you in my dreams
     Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I kiss you / guess you’re (?) in my dreams + Spoken Interlude
     Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I get you in my dreams (Fade out)
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I kiss (?) you in my dreams
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Irene goodnight, goodnight Irene
    I kiss you in my dreams
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll see you in my dreams
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I will see you in my dream
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll get you in my dreams (+ instrumental chorus)
    I had to say now:
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I wanna get you, I wanna get you
    Get you into my dreams
    Irene goodnight, Irene, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I kiss you in my dreams
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll see you in my dreams
    VERSE 3   I asked your mother for you
    She told me that you was too young
    I wish dear Lord that I’d never seen your face
     I’m sorry you ever was born
     You cause me to weep and you cause me to moan
    You cause me to leave my home
    The last words I heard her said
    „I want you to sing this song“
      Stop ramblin‘ and stop gamblin‘
    quit stayin‘ out late at night
    Go home to your wife and your family
    Sit down by the fireside bright
     Stop ramblin‘, stop your gamblin‘
    stop stayin‘ out late at night
    Go home to your wife and your family
    Stay there by your fireside bright
    øI loves Irene, God knows I do
    Loves her till the sea runs dry
    If Irene turns her back on me
    I’m gonna take morphine and die
    øI loves Irene, God knows I do
    Loves her till the sea runs dry
    If she ever loves another
    I’m gonna take morphine and die
    I loves Irene, God knows I do
    Loves her till the rivers run dry
    If Irene should ever turn her back on me
    Gonna take morphine and die
    CHORUS   Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll get you in my dreams
     Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I kiss you / guess you’re (?) in my dreams + Spoken Interlude
      Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I kiss (?) you in my dreams
     Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll see you in my dreams (Repeat + Fade-Out)
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I will see you in my dream
    ø(Female choir:) Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnigt Irene, goodnight Irene
    I will see you in my dream
    Irene goodnight, Irene, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I kiss you in my dreams
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll see you in my dreams
    VERSE 4   One day, one day, one day
    Irene was a-walkin‘ along
    Last words that I heard her say
    „I want you to sing this song“
     Last Friday night, I got married
    Me and my wife settled down
    Now me and my wife have parted
    Gonna take me a stroll uptown
      I loves Irene, God knows I do
    Love her ‚til the sea run dry
    If Irene turns her back on me
    I’m gonna take morphine and die
       Stop ramblin‘ and stop gamblin‘
    Quit stayin‘ out late at night
    Come home into your wife and your family
    Sit down by the fireside bright
    Sometime I wanna drink
    Sometime I wanna gamble
    Sometime I wanna stay out all night long
    Lord, but when I’m lovin’ my little Irene
    I wanna love the girl
    Love her on and on and on and on…
    Stop your ramblin‘, stop your gamblin‘
    Stop stayin‘ out late at night
    Go home to your wife and your family
    Sit down by the firelight
    ø
    CHORUS    ø (possible continuation of 124-A-2)Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I kiss you / guess you’re (?) in my dreams
          Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll get you in my dreams
    Yeah yeah
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I wanna get you, I wanna get you
    Get you into my dream
    (Everybody!) Irene goodnight, Irene, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I kiss you in my dreams (Repetition + Fade-Out)
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll see you in my dreams
    VERSE 5    …And she caused me to moan
    She caused me to leave my home
    Last words that I heared her say
    „I’m sorry you ever was known“
     ø         
    CHORUS    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll get you in my dreams
     (possible continuation / re-start of 44-A) Spoken Intro         
    VERSE 7    I love Irene, God knows I do
    Love her ‚til the sea runs dry
    If Irene turns her back on me
    I’m gonna take morphine and die
     I love Irene, God knows I do
    Love her ‚til the sea run dry
    If Irene turn her back on me
    I’m gonna take morphine and die
             
    CHORUS    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll get you in my dreams
     Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I get you in my dreams + Spoken Interlude
             
           ø         
           Spoken Interlude + Hummed Chorus Ending         

    Sources:

    • Ek, Kirstin: «A Precipice Between Deadly Perils»: American Folk Music and the Mass Media, 1933–1959. Dissertation University of Virginia 2014.
    • Lornell, Christopher «Kip»: «Goodnight, Irene»–Leadbelly (1933). Added to the National Registry: 2003. Essay by Christopher Lornell (guest post). Library of Congress. URL: http://www.loc.gov/static/programs/national-recording-preservation-board/documents/GoodnightIrene.pdf
    • Wolfe, Charles and Kip Lornell: The Life & Legend of Leadbelly. New York: Harper Collins 1992.
    • Ramsey, Frederic Jr.: Liner notes for Leadbelly’s Early Recordings, Legacy Volume 3 (Folkways FA 2024, 1951).
     
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