Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Son House - "Am I Right Or Wrong" (Lyrics & YouTube Examples),

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides showcases the song "Am I Right Or Wrong" by African American Bluesman Son House. Song lyrics and my comments about the meaning of the verses with skin color referents
are also included in this post. Information about Son House is also found in this post.

The content of this post is presented for cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Son House for his musical legacy. Thanks also to those who are quoted in this post and those who published the featured videos on YouTube.

"Eddie James "Son" House, Jr. (March 21, 1902[1] – October 19, 1988) was an American blues singer and guitarist, noted for his highly emotional style of singing and slide guitar playing.

After years of hostility to secular music, as a preacher, and for a few years also as a church pastor, he turned to blues performance at the age of 25. He quickly developed a unique style by applying the rhythmic drive, vocal power and emotional intensity of his preaching to the newly learned idiom. In a short career interrupted by a spell in Parchman Farm penitentiary, he developed to the point that Charley Patton, the foremost blues artist of the Mississippi Delta region, invited him to share engagements, and to accompany him to a 1930 recording session for Paramount Records.

Issued at the start of The Great Depression, the records did not sell and did not lead to national recognition. Locally, Son remained popular, and in the 1930s, together with Patton's associate, Willie Brown, he was the leading musician of Coahoma County. There he was a formative influence on Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters. In 1941 and 1942, House and the members of his band were recorded by Alan Lomax and John W. Work for Library of Congress and Fisk University. The following year, he left the Delta for Rochester, New York, and gave up music.

In 1964, a group of young record collectors discovered House, whom they knew of from his records issued by Paramount and by the Library of Congress. With their encouragement, he relearned his style and repertoire and enjoyed a career as an entertainer to young white audiences in the coffee houses, folk festivals and concert tours of the American folk music revival billed as a "folk blues" singer. He recorded several albums, and some informally taped concerts have also been issued as albums. Son House died in 1988.[3]

In addition to his early influence on Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, he became an inspiration to John Hammond, Alan Wilson (of Canned Heat), Bonnie Raitt, The White Stripes, Dallas Green and John Mooney."

(Son House)

Am i right or wrong
you need not think because I'm* black
i'm gonna beg you to take me back
now babe, was that right or wrong

I'm going in the spring
i got messed from shakin' that thing
now babe, was i right or wrong

yeah up the hickory down the pine
I bust my britches right behind
now babe, was i right or wrong

you need not think because you're brown
i'm gonna let you dog me round
now honey, was that right or wrong

don't you think that because you're yella
i'm gonna give you my last four dollars
now babe, was i right or wrong

look a here honey what you want me to do
done all i could to get along with you
now honey, was that right along

you need not think because I'm* black
ahm gonna beg you to take me back
now honey, was that right or wrong

N' I'm going in the spring
but i got messed from shakin that thing
now honey, was i right or wrong

posted by Gumbo;wap2 along with these comments:
"Am I Right or Wrong 1942
the progression is Eb Ab Db F#
apparently based on There are Others Who Don't Think That Way by Shepard Edmonds which i haven't heard."
Gumbo gives the "you need not think because you're black". I changed it to "I'm black" because that is what I clearly hear in the sound file that is showcased in this post.

"Black", "brown", and "yella" ("yellow") in that song refers to African American skin complexions from very dark skinned to light skinned.

The use of "I'm black" instead of "you're black" is important. In 1942 -and still for some people today-a dark skinned Black person was (is) considered to be less desirable than a Black person of any other complexion. Therefore, the singer is saying that in spite of that, he wasn't going to beg his lover to take him back.

Also, in the verse beginning with the line "you need not think because you're brown", the singer is saying that in spite of what was considered the desirability of having a black skinned person having a brown skinned lover, he isn't going to let that woman treat him badly (i.e. "dog him around"). And in the verse that begins with the line "don't you think that because you're yella", ins spite of the opinion in those days (and afterwards including today for some people) that a light skinned woman was (is) the most desirable Black woman, the singer is saying that he's not going to give that woman his last dollars.

A practice of discrimination by which those with lighter skin are treated more favorably than those with darker skin is referred to as "colorism".

Click for a February 2013 Ebony magazine article about colorism among African Americans.

SHOWCASE EXAMPLE: Son House-Am I Right Or Wrong

TravelerIntoTheBlue, Published on Aug 21, 2013

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  1. Two other skin color descriptors that African Americans used in the 1940s and prior to that time were "high yellow" [very light skinned] and "redbone" [a (Black person's) complexion which has a reddish tint.]

    "Yellow" and "high yellow" are no longer used. Instead, African Americans usually say "light skinned" and "real light skinned" (or "very light skinned").

    Comedian "Red Foxx", and activist Malcolm X are historical examples of African Americans who were described as being "redbones". Hip Hop artist & actor Common would probably be considered to be a contemporary example of an African American who is a "redbone." While that term could be considered negatively, I don't think that it usually was or is considered to be a negative descriptor.

    It appears to me that African Americans people commonly use skin color terms (at least among ourselves) to neutrally [neither positively or negatively) describe ourselves and other Black people. However, I'm not sure that I would advise most non-Black people to publicly use those terms to describe Black people.

  2. Replies
    1. You're welcome, Brennan Harris.

      I appreciate your comment, but the thanks really goes to Son House.