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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Examples of The Rhyme/Song "She's My One Black, Two Black"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents examples of the children's rhyme/song "She's My One Black, Two Black".

A sound file of the 1928 Blues song "Chocolate To The Bone" by Barbecue Bob is presented in this post because I believe that song is the primary source for the "She's One Black, Two Black" rhyme/song

Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/12/barbecue-bob-chocolate-to-bone-sound.html for the lyrics to "Chocolate To The Bone" as well as my comments about that Blues song.

Comments about that song are also included in this post.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, historical, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

FEATURED SOUND FILE
Barbecue Bob - Chocolate to the Bone



PreWarMusic, Uploaded on Nov 23, 2008

A song recorded by Barbecue Bob, the most successful musician who played in the Atlanta Blues style who's recording career was cut short by his premature death in 1931.

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EXAMPLES OF "SHE'S ONE BLACK TWO BLACK"
Editorial Comment:
The only mentions of "She's My One Black Two Black" that I have been able to find to date are those given below from two different Mudcat Cafe discussion threads (Mudcat is an online discussion forum for Folk & Blues music.)

These examples are presented in chronological order with the example that has the oldest posting date given first.

Example #1
"My father used to sing a variant of My Girl's a Corker.We think he learned it while at Georgia Military Academy (now Georgia Military College) in Milledgeville, Georgia in the 1940s.He may have learned it at Fort Benning, Georgia. He said they used it as a marching song. He has been gone now 8 years, and we occasionally think of that tune, but can't remember the rest of the words in his version. Anybody out there know?

I walk upon the track
She drives a Cadillac
I work both day and night
To keep her satisfied

......

Refrain

She's my one black, two black sure enough true black
Chocolate to the bone."
-Guest, http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=57013 Origins: My Girl's a Corker, August 22, 2006
-snip-
This example includes made up verses that fit the pattern of the American song "My Girl's A Corker" with the "She's One Black Two Black" song/rhyme.

Here's a response to that post by Joe_F, another commenter on on that same discussion thread on that same date:
"Guest: That refrain is stolen from another song, which I could have sworn I had the text of, but now I can't find it. Anyway, it begins "She's got eyes like Jezebel, teeth like pearls". And "sure enough true black" used to be "honest-to-God shoe-black".

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Example #2
"My mom and I have been trying to remember the words to this song for months now. My uncle (her brother) taught it to me (us) when I was really young.
My mom thinks a section of the goes..."she's my one black, two black, honest to goodness shoe-black, chocolate to the bone...(then some more lyrics which we can't remember)then into "she wear's my bvd's, I stand outside and freeze, hey boys, that's where my money goes".
Has anyone ever heard of that version?
-Guest, deutschman3, http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=57013 Origins: My Girl's a Corker, July 1, 2009
-snip-
This example includes another variant form of the American song "My Girl's A Corker."

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Example #3
To deutschman3
My mother used to sing this version:
She's my one black, two black, honest to goodness shoeblack, chocolate to the bone
If you see my gal walking down the street, you better leave her alone
She's got hair like a jezebel, teeth like pearls
Oh my lawd, she's a gift to the world...
etc.
that's all I remember but funny that just last week my sister was asking me if i remembered the words. if you think of any more please post.
-Guest, pnedwards, http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=57013 Origins: My Girl's a CorkerSeptember 11, 2009
-snip-
In one last comment to date about "She's My One Black, Two Black" was made on that same Mudcat: My Girl's A Corker discussion thread, the commenter remembers that rhyme/song as "a kid's rhyme" that was heard without any "My Girl's A Corker" verses. [Q, July 16, 2009]

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Example #4
The song comes to me from somewhere in my past, I have no recollection but after the fe fi stuff I remember this.

She's my
one black
two black
shoe shine
shoe black
chocolate to the bone
if you see that gal
comin'
down the street
better leave that gal alone
she's got eyes like diamonds
teeth like pearls
guys don't cha mess
with that girl
she's my
one black
two black
shoe shine
shoe black
chocolate to the bone
-posted by Guest, rusty on http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=65298&messages=79 Origins: Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah, November 15, 2009 [Be aware that this Mudcat comment thread contains songs with lyrics that have the "n word" completely spelled out as do a number of other Mudcat folk music threads.]
-snip-
This comment implies that the "words" fe fi ["fo fum"?] were said before the rest of this rhyme. When I see or hear those words I think of the rhyme "fee fi fo fum/I smell the blood of an Englishmun".

As a matter of clarification, I don't believe that "She's My One Black, Two Black" rhyme/song has anything whatsoever to do with the song "Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah" unless "She's My One Black, Two Black" has the same tune as that the song medley "I've Been Working On The Railroad" (which is the name that is given to the two or more songs that include the "someone in the kitchen with Dinah" verse). That guest who posted the example above on that particular Mudcat discussion thread may have added to that thread by mistake. It's also possible that-for whatever reasons/- the words to that song medly being discussed reminded him (or her) of that "She's One Black Two Black" rhyme/song.
-snip-
UPDATE June 2, 2017- It appears that I was mistaken when I wrote that I didn't believe that the song "She's My One Black, Two Black" had anything whatsoever to do with the song "Someone's In The Kitchen With Dinah". I should have written that some renditions of "I've Been Working On The Railroad" combined portions of "One Black, Two Blacks" and "Someone's In The Kitchen With Dinah".

Read this excerpt that I just found in this article: https://newfangleddad.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-dark-history-of-ive-been-working-on.html "The dark history of "I've Been Working On The Railroad" February 20, 2014 by Newfangled Dad
..."In case you're super curious, there is also a missing verse [to “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad”] popular in FL and GA where the "fee fi fiddley-i-o" section substitutes for this:

She’s a one black, two black
Honest goodness shoe black
Chocolate to the bone
And if you see my gal
Walking down the street
You’d better leave my gal alone!
She’s got eyes like a jezebel
And teeth like a pearl
Goodness God gracious,
She’s a gift to the world."
-end of Update-

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTS ABOUT THE LYRICS OF "SHE'S MY ONE BLACK, TWO BLACK"
As is the case with the source song "Chocolate To The Bone", the essence of "She's My One Black, Two Black" is a song whose lyrics in which the singer is proud of having Black skin or being Black (or at least, in the case of "She's My One Black, Two Black", is proud of knowing someone who has dark skin color.)

The phrase "shoe shine shoe black" means the color black that is as dark as [still commercially sold) black [color] shoe shine polish.

Another way of saying "chocolate to the bone" is "brown [or "black"] through and through". Technically, the opposite of "chocolate to the bone" is a person who is of mixed Black/non-Black racial or ethnic heritage. However, in the United States- because any person with any degree of African racial ancestry is considered to be Black regardless how she or he looks- a person of mixed Black racial heritage could use and probably has used "chocolate to the bone" as a synonym for being part of the Black race.

Yet, it should be noted that still today in the United States, frequently Black children get "on a set" (get angry) if someone including another Black person who may or may not be their same skin color calls them "blackie". And the term "brownskin" is no longer used in Black songs or other cultural offerings. Indeed, people generally don't mention their race or another person's race in general conversation, which absolutely doesn't mean that that person's race isn't noted or guessed at if it doesn't appear to be clearly determined.
**
I wonder if the earliest words for "She's My One Black, Two Black" were these:

"She's my one and only Black [girl]."

The remaining words "Two Black, shoe shine shoe black" were probably created to serve as as a counting & rhyming sequence for jumping rope.*

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POSSIBLE PERFORMANCE ACTIVITY FOR "SHE'S MY ONE BLACK, TWO BLACK"
I imagine that one girl or several girls jumped in the center of the rope while those turning the rope and other girls waiting their turn to jump recited the lyrics to this rhyme. One the words "One Black" the girl/s jumping would jump with one foot. On the words "two Black" the girl/s would jump with two feet. And on the words "sure enough true Black shoe shine shoe Black" the girls would show off some fancy jump movement.

This is only a guess. For the record (no pun intended), I should indicate that I've never heard about this rhyme before reading about it on Mudcat Cafe.

I suggest "jump rope" as the performance activity for this playground rhyme/song as, until about the end of the 1960s, groups jumping single and/or double Dutch rope were a very popular pastimes among African American girls under 13 years old. But after the 1950s and almost entirely by the end of the 1970s, the performance activity for jump rope rhymes [that were still sung] had changed to hand clap rhymes. Of course, new handclap rhymes (and, for a time in the 1980s and the early 1990s anyway) new foot stomping cheers- were created.

Also, in an attempt to revive the art of Double Dutch jump rope, that performance activity was organized by adults into a competitive sport, a sport that didn't include the recitation of rhymes. One unforseen consequence of this is that in the United States few children play non-competitive jumping Double Dutch or single jump rope.

Click http://cocojams.com/content/foot-stomping-cheers-0" for information about & examples of about the playground cheers & performance activity that I've termed "foot stomping cheers".

Click http://www.nationaldoubledutchleague.com/History.htm for information about the history of the Double Dutch sport.

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A POSSIBLE ADDITIONAL SOURCE FOR A LINE IN VERSIONS OF THIS RHYME/SONG
I wonder if this verse from "Barbecue Blues", another Barbecue Bob song, influenced the "she's got eyes like diamonds/teeth like pearls" line in that "She's My One Black Two Black" rhyme:

"I know I ain't good looking : teeth don't shine like pearls
So glad : good looks don't take you through this world"

The entire lyrics for that song are found at http://www.maxilyrics.com/barbecue-bob-barbecue-blues-lyrics-26a4.html

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ADDENDUM
I should clarify that I don't mean to imply that children who recited "She's My One Black, Two Black" knew what those words meant.* Nor do I mean to imply that all of the people or most of the people those who recited or sung this rhyme/song were Black. That said, given the words to this song and given the Blues song which I believe is its primary source, it's my strongly held opinion that "She's My One Black, Two Black" is of African American origin.

*Notice that I've used the past tense. I don't get the sense that this rhyme is still recited.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENT AND THANKS
Thanks to the legacy of Bluesmen Barbecue Bob. Thanks also to the uploader of this sound file. Also, my thanks to those commenters from Mudcat Cafe who I quoted in this post.

Finally, thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

28 comments:

  1. With regard to the use of color references in children's songs, I think it's interesting that the Caribbean singing game "Brown Girl In The Ring" uses the color word "brown" and not "black".

    I think that's because in the past and still in the present in Caribbean and in the United States, people of some African descent considered to be more acceptable to be called "brown" than to be called "black".

    ReplyDelete
  2. "We sang this song when we were children (I am 73 now). Our rendition went: "Oh she's my one black, two black, honest to gawd shoe black, chocolate to the bone; and if you see that gal of mine you sho' bettah leave her alone; cause she's got eyes like a diamonds, teeth like a pearls, great gawd amighty shes a wonderful girl, cause she is one black, two black, honest to gawd shoeblack, chocolate to the bone.....you bettah leave her aloooooone."
    We jazzed up, and sang it faster and faster as we repeated the verses, except "you bettah leave her aloooooone." That phrase was drawn out and harmonized.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks anonymous for sharing your memory of this song.

      For the folkloric record, it would be great if you would share some demographical information such as how you learned this song, where [in what state] you learned this song, your race & gender and your recollection of whether this song was sung mostly by Black people and mostly by girls. Also, did you do any handclaps or jumpe rope while you sang this song?

      Thanks again!

      Delete
  3. Hello! I know this song!!! My mother sang it to me and told me only "It's the REAL ending to the railroad song." She first explained our heritage.
    We are caucasian north Floridans, but in our history, we never owned or condoned slavery and worked plantation fields after we came here from England. My great-grandmother picked cotton to help provide for our family. Anywho, this is the version.

    "She's a one black,two black,
    honest to God shoe black
    chocolate to the bone.
    If you see my girl walkin' down the street
    you better leave my girl alone.
    She's got eyes like a jezebel
    teeth like a pearl
    Good Gosh almighty
    she's a gift to this world.
    She's a one black two black
    honest to God shoe black
    Chocolate to the bone
    You better leave her alooooooooooone.

    I used to play hand clapping games with my sister to this song. The hand clapping was to the beat on "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should"..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anna!

      Thanks for that version of "She's a one black,two black". Also, thanks for including demographical information and informaton about its tune & performance activity.

      I'm curious, what was the year (decade) you learned this song from your mother, and how did she learn it?

      Delete
  4. I also learned a watermelon (watermelyon) song and many of the lyrics seem cleaned up... and only performed my white artists with no history of the origination.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello, again.

      What song was this- title at least, because as per the policy of this blog, I will delete any comment with pejorative words.

      Delete
    2. I'm re-reading this (March 21, 2016) and I hope that I didn't scare off Anna's reply. I'm sincerely curious about the "watermelon song" that she mentioned.

      Please share, Anna. Thanks!

      Delete
  5. As white as I am, these song as close to my heart. They are part of me any my culture. Deeply engrained and unapologetically.... me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Greetings, Anna.

      I can appreciate that some songs whicht may not be socially correct now are part of a person's fond memories of their childhood and/or their parents' and grandparents' childhood.

      The question is should socially insensitive & therefore problematic songs* & rhymes be passed on to children, generation after generation without those songs being "cleaned up", if possible.

      *I don't include "One Black Two Black" in the category of socially insensitive & therefore problematic songs.

      Delete
  6. Hi All,

    This is the version I remember singing as a little girl:

    She's a one black, a two black, a honey black a shoe black,
    a chocolate to the bone, a boney boney bone,
    If you see my sweety walkin' down the street, you better leave her a alone,
    'cause she's got eyes like a jelly bean, teeth like a pearl,
    good gosh O'mighty she's a gift to the world,
    she's a one black a two black a honey black, a shoe black, a chocolate to the bone....yeah!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Greetings, Anonymous.

      Thanks for sharing that version of "One Black Two Black".

      I hope that you are reading this response and will post some demographical information for the folkloric record. I think it's particularly important to document if this song was sung by Black people to reaffirm their sense of esteem, and/or if it was sung by non-Black people (who may have heard it from Black people or not). I also think its important to document the decade and location that people sung their versions of this song.

      Thanks again!

      Delete
  7. My name is Laura and my dad was just posting some original recordings of songs we learned from my great grandparents who were white, from England and came to America in the 1950's. One Black Two Black was one of our favorites, which I have taught to my kids. We sing it in 2 part harmony and it has a different part at the end. It goes:
    She's Got One Black Two Black
    Eyes like shoe black
    Chocolate to the bone.
    If you see that girl walkin down the street,
    you better leave that girl alone.
    She's got eyes like a jezebel, teeth like pearls
    Gosh oh gee she's out of this world.
    She's got one black two black eyes like shoe black
    chocolate to the bone
    Harmony, my baby harmony
    first thing you do is you get 4 boys
    next thing you do is you make a lot of noise
    Harmony, my baby harmony
    This is harmony, my baby harmony...yeah!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello, Laura. Thanks for your comment.

      It's interesting that the line says "She's Got One Black Two Black
      Eyes like shoe black". I think this was a way to make sense out of the song by those who didn't know that "black" and "chocolate to the bone" referred to Black people.

      I wonder whether the Harmony verse was composed by someone in honor of their baby whose name was Harmony(and who had four brothers).

      Thanks again!

      Delete
    2. The version passed down to me - grandmother to mother to daughter (me) to my daughter and now granddaughter is almost exactly like the one above (including the 4 boys and harmony lines). The only line really different is - gosh, oh jeez, she's a gift to the world. I don't really know where my grandmother learned it, but she was born in 1923 in Nevada and lived in California most of her life. She was a "scout" leader and sung it around the campfire (for many years) at Camp Fire Girls' camps. We've always known it was referencing a Black girl, but thought it was celebrating her beauty and spunk.

      Delete
    3. Greetings, Randy.

      Thanks for sharing that information. I like the interpretation that you gave to that rhyme. I wish I had known it when I was growing up, and when my children were growing up. But it occurs to me that I can start a new tradition and share it with my grand daughter, and reinforce its meaning as celebrating a Black girl's beauty and spunk.

      I love it!!

      Delete
  8. I was taught this song by my mother, born 1927, in the mid 50's. She learned it from her mother, born in the 1880's in Arkansaw. I was taught as the ending to "I've Been Working on the Railroad"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kim, thanks for sharing that demographical information.

      I'm curious about your mother's racial demographics as a way of suggesting whether this song/verse was known by White people and Black peopl in Arkansas.


      Delete
  9. I went to college in North Dakota and one of the fraternities sang this song. Their version was "she's my one black, two black, blacker than a shoe black, chocolate to the bone, if you see my baby walking down the street you better leave her alone. She's got eyes like a Jezebel, teeth like a pearl, man o man she's a whale of a girl, she's my one black, two black, blacker than a shoe black, chocolate to the bone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks anonymous for sharing that version.

      My assumption is that the fraternity members singing this song were White. Is that correct? And if so, what was the context in which that song was sung. Was it meant to be a put down of Black women?

      Delete
  10. I just found this thread while trying to find out the original lyrics. I'm no more sure now that I was when I started. I learned the song from my grandfather, the son of Irish immigrants from the Detroit area. It was always added to the end of I've Been Working on the Railroad with the version given by Anna on 12/14/13. Being Caucasian, I was always afraid to be called a racist for even knowing the lyrics, but it was so catchy. It was never sung with malice, but only ever by my grandfather, an Episcopal priest with a big bellowing voice. I'm glad to have stumbled upon this blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Greetings, Michael Gass. I'm glad you found this blog!

      Thanks for sharing your memories about this song and thanks for including demographical information. It's interesting that the song "She's My One Black" was added to the end of "I've Been Working On The Railroad". I'm not sure what the origin of that "...Railroad" song is, but I believe it's old.

      I don't think that "She's My One Black" is a racist song. On the contrary, the lyrics praise a woman who is "chocolate to the bone". Yet, I can understand your concern about how some people who are Black and/or some people who aren't Black could misunderstand the lyrics to this song and also misjudge people who sing this song in public.

      Best wishes!

      Delete
    2. The version I learned (mid-1950's, east Tennessee, white, Scots-Irish, German, AmerIndian) was the same as Anna's, except for the line, " If you see my gal, walkin down the street, boy, you better leave her alone!" I heard it sung by adults (I was a child) as a sort of drinking song. A medley, with "Railroad," "Dinah, Won'tcha Blow," "Someone's Inna Kitchen With Dinah", "Fee, Fi, Fiddly Eye Oh," and ending with "One Black, Two Black." I have often wondered if it were a show-tune, maybe from a musical, Broadway, Vaudeville, etc. Just a guess. They're all dead, now. No one left to ask.

      Delete
    3. Wim, you win the commenting prize for demographical information. Thanks!!
      The combination of songs that were sung with "One Black Two Black" sounds like that might have been "a musical, Broadway, Vaudeville,". We may never know- unless someone else remembers this and shares that information.

      Here's hoping...

      Thanks again!!

      Delete
    4. PS: I know "Wim you win" is really corny, but, hey I can't help being me :o)

      Delete
    5. I learned a very similar string of songs as Wim described from my parents when we sang songs on road trips in the late 1950s and early 60s. My father has died but my mom says he was the one who introduced it to us and she thinks he learned it in Lutheran high school or Lutheran college or possibly at camp. He was white, German heritage, born in 1931 and raised and went to both schools in the Chicago area.

      His version started with the Railroad song that included Dinah Wontcha Blow, Someones in the Kitchen with Dinah and Fee,Fi, Fiddly Eyoh. Then he would continue:

      Now you may think that there aint no more.
      Now you may think that there aint no more.
      Now you may think that htere aint no more.
      Well there aint!
      (LONG PAUSE)
      But there is!
      She's my one black, two black, eyes like a shoeblack
      Chocolate to the bone.
      Hair like a Jezebel, teeth like pearls,
      Mama Moses, she's some girl!
      She's my one black two black, eyes like a shoeblack,
      chocolate to the bone.
      (very slow) You better leave her alone!

      When he would sing it to me he would change "Dinah" to "Diane" (my name) and implied that the girl with the dark tan was Diane, too. Even though my eyes were actually blue it made me feel like he was telling all the boys not to mess with his beautiful and wild daughter!

      Delete
    6. Hi, Diane!

      Thanks for sharing your memories of your father and those songs.

      I appreciate your inclusion of demographics (years, race, and city, state) for the folkloric record.

      The "one black, two black" song may be more widely remembered than I thought.

      Delete
    7. Hi, Diane!

      Thanks for sharing your memories of your father and those songs.

      I appreciate your inclusion of demographics (years, race, and city, state) for the folkloric record.

      The "one black, two black" song may be more widely remembered than I thought. And that fact that a number of people from different locations were taught "One Black Two Black" as a medley, with "Railroad," "Dinah, Won'tcha Blow," "Someone's Inna Kitchen With Dinah", "Fee, Fi, Fiddly Eye Oh" suggests that it probably was (as commenter Wim guessed) "a show-tune, maybe from a musical, Broadway, Vaudeville, etc."

      Delete