Closing out last year’s series of musings, I thought about taking a swing through the USA to see what the various states had to offer in the way of songs that would pique my rather benignly eccentric taste in music.
So, I started to think about some of the states of the “Old South” as a jumping off point .
Needless to say, there is a plethora of songs that have emerged from that part of the country. Some, of course, originated there; most, however, conceived by our friends in Tin Pan Alley. Go figure!
Anyway, doing a song search through the southern states brings up dozens if not hundreds of songs. These range from reminiscences of the sweet old days of yore . . .
. . . to remembrances of sweethearts (or liaisons) past, present, and future.
But, gentle readers, we do have a bit of a problem here. Sadly, much of the sheet music of those days incorporated a lot of inferences and illustrations that today can only be politely described as “politically incorrect.” Some are actually “politically cringeworthy.” Pretty, but . . .
Alas, such were the songs that many of the sheet music or record buying–and parlor piano or ukulele playing–folks in those days found entertaining.
Those were the days of racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural stereotypes readily accepted by too many and seen as hurtful by too few. In those days, folks laughed at them; in these days we learn from them—hopefully.
Many scholars of both history and music have written well researched and profusely illustrated articles and books on the subject. All you have to do is Google, or head to the library (whenever it may open again!) to study this at your leisure. Suffice it to say, we’re not going over to the unsunny side of the street in these little weekly musings. After all, it’s 2021, not 1921!
Moving on . . .
As a politically in-the-news state, particularly in the past few weeks, I thought we might start our little tour of the South with a peek at Georgia. Why not?
Probably the biggest category of early songs with “Georgia” in the title tell about folks who left the state—for whatever reason—and feel the urge to head back “home.” And then there are folks nostalgic about those pretty girls named “Georgia.” Perhaps a bit of both!
Songwriters also had a bit of a josh with the state. Here’s a song that’s kind of fun.
Click or tap on the next image or link for a listen to this early recording by the popular singing Boswell Sisters from 1932:
And another. Why not?
Click or tap on the next image or link for this peachy song about the Peach State, with tenor banjos if not ukuleles:
Now let’s take a look and listen to one of the greatest of all Georgia songs, the one appropriately titled: “Georgia On My Mind.”
This is a song written by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell (both from Indiana!) and first recorded in 1930.
Click or tap on the next image or link to hear the 1930 recording by Carmichael with Bix Beiderbecke on trumpet.
Here’s another take from the 1930s, this time from the distaff side. Click or tap on the next image or link to hear a rendition of our song by Billie Holiday.
Needless to say, this song has found a home in Georgia and the 1960 Ray Charles (born in Georgia!) version has been designated as the official state song.
For a fun mix of performers of our song, here is Ray Charles and Willie Nelson making rather free with Carmichael’s original melody. Click or tap on the next image or link for a vocal.
And, of course, we have to have a ukulele version of what has become a jazz standard. The song is in our yellow book but here is a fingerstyle version by Canadian ukulele great James Hill. Tap or click on the next image or link for this one:
Most of the recent recordings of “Georgia on My Mind” tend to leave out the intro verse. Here it is for those of you would like a bit more lyrical context, and, perhaps, to join Hoagy at his bronze piano.
“Melodies bring memories
That linger in my heart
Make me think of Georgia
Why did we ever part?
Some sweet day when blossoms fall
And all the world’s a song
I’ll go back to Georgia
‘Cause that’s where I belong.” Georgia, Georgia . . .
So, as we move along through the next couple of politically disconcerting weeks, it won’t hurt to keep Georgia on our minds!
Stay safe, stay sequestered, stay glued to the news, stay masked, . . .
. . . and STAY TUNED!
Even Georgia is not the way it was and, in the words of another song, “The Times They Are A’Changin.”