On "De Camptown Races"
song through it's lyrics is known alternately as "Gwine to Run All Night,"
or "De Camptown Races" is by Stephen Foster (1826–1864), published in 1850.
According to sources, that publisher put out another edition in 1852 titled
"The Celebrated Ethiopian Song/Camptown Races," and the song was performed
in minstrel shows of that era.
lyrics echo a dialect, as do poems by American poets whose work I have set
as song, such as
James Weldon Johnson
though today it becomes fashionable to say such forms of dialect are racist,
though other poets and songwriters have written in many other dialects of
English without generating similar complaints. [
lyrics in one version begin:
Camptown ladies sing this song, doo-dah, doo-dah!
De Camptown racetrack five miles long, oh, doo-dah-day!
I come down there with my hat caved in, doo-dah, doo-dah!
I go back home with a pocket full of tin, oh, doo-dah-day!
Goin' to run all night, goin' to run all day!
I'll bet my money on the bobtail nag, somebody bet on the bay.
Though there is a Camptown in Pennsylvania, the term "camp town" was also
used to identify temporary areas, this one being where an informal race
might be held. The original "gwine" for "goin' " echoes the dialects of
Gullah and Geechee, often associated with the sea islands and low Country of
South Carolina as well as Georgia. The well-known tune is treated to some
pages, circa 3' 15" - an MP3 demo is here:
The score is available as a free PDF download, though any major
commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior
arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this piano
] The notion of critiquing
lyrics and poetry from another era through the lenses of a
modern era has become fashionable, though perhaps misguided. For
more on the notion of racism as has been charged in regard to
this and other song lyrics, conisder the rhyme, addenda and
footnotes in a discussion-in-art of
Everything's about my colored skin
(or sadly, Why racism works).
For more on the notion of dialect in song lyrics, consider
Brer Rabbit, you's de cutes' of 'em all
for its dialect and a footnote on the notion of dialect in song.
There is an anecdote about the French-born conductor, Pierre
Monteux, was traveling in the American south. Stopping in a
town, he went to a local restaurant. The black waiter told them,
"I'm sorry, but this is a restaurant for colored people only."
Monteux looked at him incredulously and then said (in his thick
French accent) "But I am colored! I am pink!" Since my teenage
years I had a notebook I'd made with Monteux' picture as its
cover, this little anecdote remaining in my thoughts. As with
well-used musical scores and favorite books, it tattered and is
now lost though found in memory.