Monday, September 4, 2017

Two Versions Of "Green Sally Up", A Related Rhyme, & Moby's Tune "Flowers" (information, examples, & commentary)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post provides an article excerpt about the 19th century African American originated children's rhyme "Green Sally Up" and showcases a 1950s and a 1970s example of that rhyme.

This post also includes an example of a 1939 African American children's rhyme which includes two lines that remind me of "Green Sally Up" and showcases the 1999 electronica'house record "Flowers" by Moby which includes loops of the above mentioned 1950s rendition of "Green Sally Up".

The Addendum of this post presents performance instructions and lyrics for a circle game that I created in 1990s that was inspired by the 1950s version of "Green Sally Up". The rhyme/song for that circle game has a similar tune and a similar textual structure as the 1950s version of "Green Sally Up".

The content of the this post is presented for folkloric, historical, cultural, recreational, and entertainment purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to the unknown composers of "Green Sally Up" and thanks also to all those who are featured in these embedded sound files, and the online publishers of those sound files. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post.

From Morning Open Thread - Old slave children's song: "Bring Sally Up." By Otteray Scribe
..."Today, we have a mashup of a centuries old children's song. Not just any children’s song, but one by and for slave children in the old South. The meaning is obscure to most people. The original lyrics varied, because songs by and for children are not static. This is an approximation of the original:

Sometimes it was “Bring Sally Up” and sometimes “Green Sally.” It went on to the next line, “Last one squat gotta tear the ground." That was accompanied by dance like antics, where “Sally" referred to the little girls. They jumped and then squatted in rhythm to the song. Tearing the ground meant the last one to squat had to scrabble in the dirt with their hands.

The line, "Last one squat gotta tear the ground", is similar to the more modern phrase, "Last one to do it is a rotten egg," sort of teasing. The implication being that the last one to squat had to help the adults in the field, although it was a playground tease and not a serious threat.

The song goes on, "Old miss Lucy's dead and gone, left me here to weep alone." That verse meant the slave owner (or his wife), is dead. In the original song that verse is followed with the call, "If you hate it fold your arms, if you love it clap your hands." Obviously the kids who clapped along to the rhythmic beat of the song were glad that Old Miss Lucy has died, and the ones who didn't were showing a measure of respect for her....

The iconoclastic singer, Moby, who is white, manages to capture the rhythm and feel of the old slave song. …which he has titled, Flower. “

Example #1:
(Mattie Garder, Mary Gardner, Jesse Lee Pratcher; 1958 rendition from Cosmo, Mississippi in Sounds of the South [4 CDs]), edited by Alan Lomax, released 1993

Green Sally up
Green Sally down
Last one squat gotta tear the ground
Old miss Lucy's dead and gone
Left me here to weep alone
If you hate it, fold your arms,
if you love it, clap your hands.

Example #2:
(From Step It Down: Games, Plays, Songs, and Stories from the Afro-American Heritage by Bessie Jones and Bess Lomax Hawes, published, 1972)

Green Sally up, Green Sally down
Green Sally bake her possum brown.

Asked my mama for fifteen cents
to see the elephant jump the fence.
He jumped so high, he touched the sky
He never got back till the fourth of July.

You see that house upon that hill,
That's where me and my baby live.

Oh the rabbit in the hash come a-stepping in the dash,
With his long-tailed coat and his beaver on.
From "Bessie Jones" by Peter Stone and Ellen Harold
...."Significantly, Bess Lomax Hawes, in her introduction to Step It Down, written jointly with [Bessie] Jones, emphasized Jones’s essential role, not as a carrier and documenter of folklore, but as a teacher; for such she felt herself to be. She was deeply aware of the socializing and educative function of the songs, plays, and movement games she remembered from her childhood:

The children, they don’t even know how to play those things now, see. But it’s just good fun games, keeps you out of devilment, keeps you from fighting. I never had fights with children when I was little — didn’t have time to fight, we had to play. When we wasn’t eating or sleeping or working — and so that was it. But now they got time to talk about the grown things. —Step It Down: Games, Plays, Songs, and Stories from the Afro-American Heritage (1972; reprint, Athens, University of Georgia Press, 1987), p. 172
The games, mostly from the British Isles, had been widespread among Southern black and white populations as a way to circumvent religious prohibitions against physical movement and dancing. As adapted by African-Americans they served as an important vehicle to transmit traditional African-derived dance movement and rhythmic styles that promoted group cohesion, nurtured individual virtuosity, and, as Bessie realized, helped make the players physically and mentally stronger. The songs, games, and stories of the past were a “spiritual survival kit,” in Bessie’s case, connecting her with the beloved figures of the past. To keep their memory alive she sought out young people to teach them to."
This 1972 published version of "Green Sally Up" is from a book about the play traditions of African Americans from the Georgia Sea Islands. This version of "Green Sally Up" includes lines from the African American originated rhymes "Miss Mary Mack" and "I Love Coffee, I Love Tea". I think the lines "[Green Sally] bake her possum brown" and "the rabbit in the hash" are from other traditional African American folk songs/rhymes, although I've not yet found any other examples of rhymes or songs that include that phrase or that verse.

In the context of this rhyme, Green Sally" means a young, inexperienced girl. "Greenhorn" is a similar use of the word "green".

The "bake her possum brown" phrase refer to the old custom among poor Black (and probably also poor non-Black) people in the Southern region of the United States of hunting opossum and rabbits, and cooking them to supplement their meager diets.
Read the Addendum below for a singing game called "Green Color Up" that I created in 1990. That game was inspired by the 1950s version of "Green Sally Up".

SHOWCASE YOUTUBE SOUND FILE: Mattie Garder, Mary Gardner, Jesse Lee Pratcher - Green Sally, Up

IvchoBrasil, Published on Sep 13, 2009

A black children's singing game performed by a group of women in Como, Miss. [1950s] Moby sampled this song for his song Flower.
Here are several comments from this sound file's discussion thread. These comments are numbered for referencing purposes only.

1. LionArmor9, 2011
..."Ask someone in the South and they'll tell you... They don't like the song because it's considered slave music but it is Last one squat gotta tear the ground... What sense would it make to say lift and squat gotta tear the ground."

2. Ali Mo, 2012
"Because this is an old slave song/hang jive song that was passed down orally there are a lot of versions/variations, although the lyrics for this one are pretty clear. Another version includes "Green Sally up, Green Sally down, Green Sally baked her possum brown. She asked her mama for fifty cents, to see the elephant jump the fence, They jumped so high, they reached the sky, and didn't come back till the Fourth of July." Similar to Miss Mary Mack oddly enough... don't know what that is about"

3. redplague888, 2011
"Ohhh, so this is where Moby sampled this from.
Classic! I like these folk songs from back in the day."

4. furioushazaa, 2016
"Does Moby's song say "bring" or "green"... I've seen conflicting websites.."

5. HNTR KLLR, 2016
"it's a sample of this so it says GREEN"

From "Ring Around the Rosie: Metafolklore, Rhyme and Reason", July 24, 2014 by Stephen Winick
..."On May 16, 1939, in Wiergate, Texas, John and Ruby Lomax collected an interesting version for the Library of Congress, from a group of African American schoolgirls. You can hear it in the player below. The words were as follows:

Ring around a Rosey
Pocketful o’ posies
Light bread, sweet bread, squat!
Guess who she told me, tralalalala
Mr. Red was her lover, tralalalala
If you love him, hug him!
If you hate him, stomp!
Ring Round A Rosey

Ring Round Rosey
AFC 1939/001: AFS 02656b01
Burkeville, Texas, 1939-05-16.
The "If you love him/hug him! / If you hate him, stomp!" lines in this rhyme remind me of some of the lines in the 1950s version of Green Sally Up" that is given above.

"Richard Melville Hall (born September 11, 1965),[1] better known by his stage name Moby, is an American DJ, record producer, singer, songwriter, musician, photographer and animal rights activist...

In 1999, Moby released the album Play. The album had moderate sales after its release, but eventually went on to sell over ten million records worldwide a year later.[4] Every song on the album was licensed internationally to various films, advertisements, and TV shows, as well as independent films and non-profit groups.[28] Moby performed three times on Top of the Pops with singles from the album. Play mixes songs from Alan Lomax's 1993 Atlantic recording Sounds of the South: A Musical Journey From the Georgia Sea Islands to the Mississippi Delta. For the song "Natural Blues", Moby mixes "Trouble So Hard" performed by Vera Hall from the Alan Lomax Sounds of the South compilation.

In 2000, Moby contributed his song "Flower" to the intro of the Nicolas Cage remake of Gone in 60 Seconds.
My guess is that Moby named this tune "Flowers" to acknowledge the relationship between "Green Sally Up" and "Ring Around The Rosey" rhymes.

SHOWCASE SOUND FILE: Moby - Flower (Official Audio)

Moby, Published on Aug 1, 2014
Here are a few comments from this YouTube sound file's discussion thread:
slick willie, 2015
"The vocals for this song were recorded by Alan Lomax in Mississippi back during the 1950's. The vocals were sung by Maddie Gardner, Mary Gardner and Jesse Lee Pratcher and it was sung accapella (without musical instruments). Moby added the musical instruments much later for this movie (and did an excellent job, I might add) At any rate, my dad bought the album back in the 60's and I used to listen to this song as a kid growing up. I still have that album to this day. btw, the name of the song is "Green Sally Up" not "Bring Sally Up"."
Click for a a transcription of the lyrics for Moby's Flower. That transcription erroneously gives the title and lyrics as "Bring Sally Up" instead of "Green Sally Up" and "Lift and squat" instead of "Last one squat".

Eric King, 2016
"i dont get it? why is this a workout song? why is everyone saying this song makes it hard to exercise or something?"

Ricardo Chalo, 2016
"Rich Froning (Crossfit Athlete) made a challenge workout with this song, other athletes or coaches from other sports did it too. So people are relating this song to workouts."

James STEVENS, 2016
"+Eric King when he says down you go down, such as the bottom of a squat or pushup. You hold the down position until he says up, and you follow along."

ADDENDUM: GREEN COLOR UP (a contemporary circle game)
(created by Azizi Powell, 1990, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)

Performance Directions For "Green Color Up":
1. Players form a large circle.

2. A person is designated as the "Caller". The same person remains the caller throughout the entire rendition of this game.

3. The Caller calls out the color "Green". (If no one in the group has on an outfit with the color "green", the game start with another color).

4. Everyone who has the color "green" on quickly moves to the center of the circle. (People wearing an outfit that has that color can also remain where they are if they so choose.) **

5. Everyone claps their hands and stomp their feet to the beat while singing.

6. The people who have on the color that is called out raise both of their hands in the air and sway back and forth while singing this portion of the song.

6. The people who don't have that color on, strike a pose while folding their arms.

7. The Caller randomly calls out another color. The people in the center of the ring who don't have an outfit on that has that color in it quickly leave the center of the circle. At the same time, people who do have that color on quickly enter the center of the circle.

8. Follow the directions that have already been given, and continue this pattern until all of the colors (for outfits in that people are wearing) are called out.

** I made this rule because I noticed that some children were shy about moving to the center when they were there alone, or even when there were other people in the center.

Caller - Green!
Caller & Group - Green color up.
Green color down.
Green color all around the town.
If you have on green, just raise your hands.
If you do not, just fold your arms.

Caller- Yellow!
Caller - Green!
Caller & Group - Green color up.
Green color down.
Green color all around the town.
If you have on green, just raise your hands.
If you do not, just fold your arms.
-composed by Azizi Powell, 1999 (c)Azizi Powell, 1999

I created this game in 1990 after unsuccessfully trying to introduce "Green Sally Up" to the children in my Alafia Children's Ensemble game song groups. Unfortunately, I don't have any sound files or videos of this game.

I became aware of the 1950s "Green Sally Up" game after someone gifted me with the multi-CD Sounds Of The South album. Before teaching this game to the group of children and their accompanying adults (who attended these sessions and were always encouraged to join in the play), I explained its background and the meaning of the song's words. However, I gave up after several tries as I could see that the children didn't like the game and particularly had difficulty with the "last one squat gotta tear the ground" line. I think that might have been because "squatting down to the ground" is something that little children might be allowed to do in selected places outside when they have to pee and they aren't near any bathroom.

While playing "Green Color Up" some children would complain that another child or other children shouldn't go into the center of the circle because that child or children only had a little bit of a certain color in their shirt, pants, or hat. I redirected them, advising them to focus on themselves and not on other people. Also, some children wanted to count the color of their underwear. I told them that that doesn't count.

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