I wanted to begin this week by answering some concerns raised in the comments section and elsewhere about some of the contents of my columns, whether it be alleged pinball sexism, or alleged lack of respect for traditional bluegrass lyrics. Fortunately, my answer for almost all concerns like this is the same. Not to be lazy or dismissive, but it’s a kind of two-word form letter: humor column.
I did want to expand on the bluegrass lyrics issue just a little because I received a thoughtfully written email about the subject. In the column in question, I suggested that bluegrass songs might achieve more mass acceptance if the names were changed to reflect more currently popular monikers, so for example, Darling Corey would become Darling Skyler. The reader who emailed me objected to the idea, feeling that bluegrass lyrics should be left alone, as they capture a historical place in time. In other words, if you want a song about Darling Skyler or Little Harper, write it yourself.
I actually couldn’t agree more. What the reader was unaware of was that he was writing to the original bluegrass lyrics reactionary. I’m the one always harping about people singing “to weep and to cry” in The Lonesome River, when Carter Stanley’s original lyrics were “to grieve and to cry.” I’ve been quite annoying about this, I’ll admit. I consider the alteration of lyrics like this to be disrespectful to the writer, or sometimes just lazy. Why, then, did I suggest changing the names in these classic songs? See my two-word answer above.
You know what else would be disrespectful to the writers of traditional bluegrass songs? Rewriting them as Dr. Seuss stories. Here’s an example or two, so you’ll know what not to do:
Pig in a Pen
The news just came in from out in the pen
That the pig is awake, it’s almost 8:10!
And standing outside of this pen is a man
A man who his friends like to call Farmer Stan
He owns this fine pig and he owns it with pride
He praises its snout, its ears and its hide
Our farmer named Stan has a barrel of corn
Which he’s now dipping into this fine chilly morn
For his pig is quite hungry, this much is clear
He’s pacing the pen from far end to near
This pig must be fed every day it turns out
Because pigs must keep growing, of this there’s no doubt
And that’s why this farmer named Stan is concerned
You see this pig owner has recently learned
That his steady employer Fritz Plumbing Supplies
Without even telling the hows and the whys
Has requested that Farmer Stan travel afar
To Luxembourg, Memphis, and South Zanzibar
That’s all fine with Stan, he likes the employment
But what of his pig and his corn-based enjoyment?
Who will look after this pig in a pen
While he’s off selling faucets in packets of ten?
“I need a girl,” he started to plan
“A girl who is little and pretty,” thought Stan
“One who loves pigs, who will be kind and true
And who won’t mind a small bit of muck on her shoe
I must find such a girl for my pig, and I will
If I have to go all the way down to Brazil”
Or, in the spirit of Seuss’ books for first readers:
Hot Corn Cold Corn
My corn is hot, see my hot corn
Your corn is cold, I see your cold corn
If we could just figure a way to combine
These hot and cold corns, then we might get moonshine
Here comes Aunt Sally, a friendly old lass
She’s always happy to fill up our glass
She’s tall and lanky, about 6 foot 2
I’ll bet my Aunt Sally is taller than you
There’s Uncle Bill, he’s Charlie’s great uncle
He comes from the faraway town of Strebunkle
He owns a still and he’s willing to lend it
But he’s on his way home, so he’ll leave us to tend it
Farewell Uncle Bill and thanks for the help
Come back in the morning and give us a yelp.