Massa's in the Cold Cold Ground

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MASSA'S IN THE COLD COLD GROUND. AKA - "Massa's in de Cold Ground." American, Air and "Sand Jig" (4/4 time). G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AA'BB'. Kerr sets the tune as a 'sand jig', a type of syncopated, duple time, solo dance for the mid-to-late 19th century stage. The name is taken from the practice of sanding the floor to facilitate the dancer's steps. It employs the tune of the dialect song by the same title, written in 1852 by Stephen C. Foster (1826-1864). It begins:

Stephen Foster

Round de meadows am a ringing
De darkeys' mournful song,
While de mockingbird am singing,
Happy as de day am long.
Where de ivy am a creeping
O'er de grassy mound,
Dare old massa am a sleeping,
Sleeping in de cold, cold ground.

Wikipedia [1] records:

Ken Emerson (writing in his book "Doo-dah!: Stephen Foster and the rise of American popular culture," 1998) thinks the title may have been suggested by the Thomas Moore ballad "When Cold in the Ground", but the scenario, he points out, is the "flip-side" of "Uncle Ned" and "Oh! Boys, Carry Me 'Long". In "Massa", slaves are crying for a deceased slave owner - rather than the slave owner and his wife crying for a deceased slave. Emerson decides "Massa" has "a staying power that cannot be denied" (in spite of its racial naiveté and racial delusion), and attributes this power to Foster's "personal involvement" in the song. Massa is Foster's father William Barclay Foster who died not a wealthy but poor man. Emerson writes "{Stephen's] lyrics are both patricidal and anticipatory, a compound of guilt and grief." The song was the first of only four songs Foster published in 1852. Emerson speculates that the songwriter was simply played out, or he was living well enough on the royalties of his past successes to take some time off. Another "Cold" was added to the title following the American Civil War.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Kerr (Merry Melodies), vol. 2; No. 405, p. 45.

Recorded sources: Victor 17305 (78 RPM), Marguerite Dunlap (vocal) (1912).

See also listing at:
Hear Dunlap's 1912 recording at the LOC National Jukebox site [2]




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