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Arts & Culture > Old Song Bits

Old Song Bits

While I wasn’t feeling great my memory decided to plague me with vague recollections, which I felt driven to explore. This will get tedious, I'm sure.... like listening to someone drone on about the latest dream they had.

Fragments of memory have been stirred up during the last few weeks, when I was bored out of my mind, woozy with antihistamines, and waiting for my sense of smell and taste to come back. (Yes, must have caught Covid, but since i’d had a vaccination 10 days earlier, I got off easy with no symptoms but sensory loss.) My springtime allergies were also bad, hence the antihistamines.

For example, out of nowhere I began to think of the song “Swanee River,” and seemed to remember it being about yearning for the “old plantation.” I finally looked up the lyrics online, and sure enough, it says that in there. In fact, it’s not the laid-back, contented song I thought it was, but a depressed lament from someone displaced by the Civil War — but I can’t tell if the singer is white or black. Anyway, it sounds possibly pro-Confederacy, romanticizing slave years, so I guess I’d better leave it alone.

Other songs from childhood came to mind too. Although I grew up in Ohio, many rhymes seemed to have southern origins. There was a circle game (like Ring Around the Rosy) with a brief song called “Mazoo From Alabama.” When singing it in 2nd grade, I thought it was about someone like the Wizard of Oz. When googling to find more of the lyrics, I discovered it had a twin version called “Miss Sue From Alabama.” This sort of slurring of lyrics seemed to occur in a whole lot of old songs.

One song that began, “Keemo Kimo Kaymo” had half a dozen similar versions, all very old, one or two with a few racist-derogatory lyrics, but most ended up being the Frog Went A-Courting song. I still can’t remember the version I knew except the first two lines:
Keemo, Kimo, Kaymo!
Lotty botty riggadam ….

But I recall that fragment as clearly as I do Petula Clark in the mid-60s, singing “Downtown.”

Other hand-clapping rhymes came to mind, so I wrote down as many as I could remember. It’s funny to think how easily we were entertained as kids — so many songs and rhymes. Connected with nothing else, some word combinations started popping up in my head, like: Suziana suziana. I have no idea what it is from. It’s not from the Polly-Wolly-Doodle-all-the-day song, but something spoken, and I had a notion it referred to penmanship — or linguistics… I don’t know. Oddly I do find this double word, suzianasuziana, being used online, so maybe it had significance. And in the singular, “Susiana” is another name for the ancient kingdom of Elam.

I can only guess at the deep song memories of some of you. It’s incredible what stays in your brain.

posted on May 25, 2021 9:00 AM ()


When I was a child, You are my sunshine was very popular and so was Down
in the valley. My tastes run to the old folk songs like Barbrey Allen and other old forgotten ballads.I am so glad they were preserved for us. I find that I remember a few of the words but not many. Several years ago we went to a Loretta Lynn concert and They had a few songs that were so unusual, it was like hearing it in a different language.
comment by elderjane on May 27, 2021 4:01 AM ()
I'm 68, but I don't have any memories like that. Yipes... 68 unreal. But as I always say, it beats the alternative.
comment by jjoohhnn on May 26, 2021 12:26 PM ()
WOW!!! You must be old!!! Never heard of those songs!!! (Okay, I am an old man and can use age as a reason for forgetting seeing and hearing Al Jolsen singing Swanee River!!) Who is or what is a Petula Clark?? What's a downtown???
You old folks have to teach us youngsters what you are talking about!!
comment by greatmartin on May 25, 2021 1:22 PM ()
Egad. I would try to forget about Al Jolsen singing it too if I'd seen it. I guess I had a good opinion of Petula Clark because my 2nd grade teacher, a young Catholic nun, sang it and played guitar for us -- she was like someone from a movie herself.
reply by drmaus on May 25, 2021 3:48 PM ()
Probably due to old age, random memories pop into my head all the time. It's as interesting as dreams in the sense of marveling at what topics come up, like trying to remember what colors our living room was painted in the 1950s. My memory is that one wall was dark blue (or green) and the other walls might have been dark red, so I tried to find old pictures to confirm, and couldn't find any. The picture of my sister & her date Eddie Sullivan (no relation) was after my mother painted the living room Antique White. Overall, I find myself wishing we'd taken more pictures of everything.
comment by traveltales on May 25, 2021 10:19 AM ()
Yes. The blue-possibly-green walls somehow seem very significant many years later, as if they'll clue us in to secrets. At least that's how it feels to me.
reply by drmaus on May 25, 2021 3:50 PM ()
I feel the same way PLUS wish I had put more information on the back of the pictures I took!!
reply by greatmartin on May 25, 2021 1:19 PM ()

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