Sunday, January 18, 2009

Irene Goodnight

Did you see Pete Seeger singing "This Land is Your Land" today at the Obama festivities? So amazing and touching. He has to be in his nineties. He was having a great time. He got hit hard by Communist accusations in the 50's, and must have been hitting himself on the side of the head today, wondering at what's come to be. And he ran off stage!

This clip is of him with his early (and hugely popular) folk group The Weavers. They sing the song entirely after the early intro. Must be from around 1951 or before. If you don't know anything about Pete Seeger, investigate.

My mother always talked about seeing Gene Autry sing "Irene Goodnight" at Madison Square Garden, on his white horse. I guess that was an ultimate hero experience for her. When I called her today she said she'd been in Washington but hadn't brought a map so she couldn't call me.

The song has humble beginnings, and the lyrics are creepy sad when you think about them. I've heard it so many times. It may just sound melancholy at first, then the creepy part kicks in.


stray said...

"Wasn't That a Time" is a fun documentary about the Weavers.

Namowal said...

I'd heard of the Weavers and "Goodnight Irene" but I'd never paid close attention to the lyrics. That is rather morbid. Funny how Seegar went from being blacklisted to being invited to preform at a presidential inauguration party.

Mean Jean said...

My family folk-lore has it that when I was 2 I had a seizure of some sort and spent the night in a hospital. I serenaded the Dr.s singing "Goodnight Irene". Flash forward. I meet Mr. Mean, he plays the guitar. He knows "Goodnight Irene". I propose.

We still sing it at parties and just sitting around. We call the 3rd verse the happy, uplifting verse with deep sarcasm in our voices.

Sally said...

Mean Jean, amazing story. Playing the clip again, I realized there's one stanza missing:

You caused me to weep,
You caused me to moan,
Caused me to leave my home,

But the very last words I heard you say,
were "Please sing me one more song."

Is this where Ken Kesey got the title of his book, "Sometimes a great Notion"?

Where can I see "Wasn't that a Time"?

Namowal said...

"when I was 2 I had a seizure of some sort and spent the night in a hospital. I serenaded the Dr.s singing "Goodnight Irene".
Hi Mean Jean
Something similar happened to me around that age, but I hear I just cried and complained about the food.

Mean Jean said...

Namowal, maybe I was singing to keep them from trying to force-feed me? Or maybe I thought if I sang well they'd feed me better? I've slept since then so I don't recall. I was 2 in 1951.

stray said...

Public TV used to play "Wasn't That a Time!" when fundraising. I saw it on Amazon (sellers asking $89!!)

Sally said...

Here's a link to the video on youtube from Sunday's event.

Mean Jean, I was 32 in 1951 too. Tennessee gals, the Weavers are the group that made "On Top of Old Smoky" a huge hit.