As a former music teacher, I can attest to two things:
Lyrics of many folk and ‘popular’ songs certainly are cleaned up for the elementary school students, and
The editors and publishers of the music basal series** rarely use popular music for several reasons (in answer to Sir Rhosis’s observation):
A) Royalties: most folk songs and ‘anonymous’ songs are in the public domain and do not require payments for publication and arrangements. Others, like “Goodnight, Irene”, are likely nearly the end of their royalty life.
B) Most popular music is available in sheet music or choral arrangements, and can be easily used for classroom use, saving space in the books for the ‘freebies’ (see above).
C) Many of the school districts where I worked had some sort of state-heritage requirements - in New York State, IIRC, the 4th grade and 7th grade history curriculum was the history of ‘New York State, from colonization to today’. Naturally, the classroom teachers would have me teach “Erie Canal” and other folk songs pertaining to the state history. This is not to mention all the ‘themed’ songs I taught when the kids studied the Rev War, the Civil War, the Irish Potato Famine, WWI & WWII. (Never touched the Viet Nam copnflict, but that’s another thread somewhere).
Back to the OP:
My experiences with lyric changes-
[li]Oh, Susannah - the line “the sun so hot I froze to death” becomes “the sun so hot I froze myself”. (There was an episode of Jeopardy! where a woman lost the Daily Double because she quoted the words of the way she learned it in school rather than what Stephen Foster originally wrote.)[/li]
[li]Titwillow from one of the Gilbert & Sullivan’s operettas was changed to “Oh, Willow” in one book series, and of course, no recording was available of the changed version, so when I played the regular version for the kids to listen to, the kids were highly amused. Not to mention confused, since the song is about a bird, not a tree.[/li]
[li]Mama Don’t 'Llow was rewritten by my elementary school principal since he didn’t like that it ‘seemed to undermine a parent’s authority’ - the line was “I don’t care what mama don’t 'llow/Gonna play my gee-tar anyhow”. I don’t remember what he changed the lyrics to, but it was really lame (no sense of musical meter), and had ‘proper grammar’. :rolleyes:[/li]
[li]Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes by Jimmy Buffet, played at Disney’s Blizzard Beach waterpark. They managed to edit the verses so well that it wasn’t until awhile later, I realized the line “Good times and riches and son-of-a-bitches/I’ve seen more than I can recall” was missing from the song.[/li]There are probably dozens more, but I likely looked at them, thought, “okay, reference to alcohol/drug/sex/death, not appropriate for this age group” and went on with the song.
**all those grade level-specific hardcover books used for general music class - usually had just the melody line and some pretty pictures.
Um, CalMeacham what was the ‘Great Uprising of 1878’? Definitely missed that one in the history books.