"Run, Nigger, Run" At first I thought this song was disgustingly racist, then I read more...

I was chasing down Turkey in the Straw on Youtube and came across this tune

Run, Nigger, Run!"

Here are the lyrics

Then I found this link

To my surprise, I enjoyed that song quite a bit. It had some similarities with Lonnie Donegan’s version of Rock Island Line. Thanks for posting it.

It’s been re-released under the title “Relocate to a safer jurisdiction, African-American, Relocate to a safer jurisdiction.”

With “Don’t Tase Me, bro” on the flip side.

Yes, a song written by black people about how they’d better fucking run if they’re gonna snag a few armfuls of corn. You know, lest they get hung from a tree. Charming. Thanks so much.

I thought the provenance was interesting. The US was a hugely racist society in many areas for much of its existence. We are still dealing with the ramifications of that to this day. Sorry history doesn’t pretty itself up for you.

Calm down brother, it’s history. Perhaps this will make you feel better:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCnFRpt31h4

I’ve never in my life done anything to indicate that I think history is pretty. It’s certainly an interesting song, and I’ll grant you one with an interesting origin, but I’m having a hard time seeing how an all white 1920’s band singing it can be anything other than disgustingly racist. Who were they selling their records to?

You’re ascribing what is an extremely complex and multifaceted social concept - racism - to what was, at the time of its recording, just a light hearted folk ditty. The same group recorded more than 100 other folk songs for Columbia Records; they probably went through a book of American folk tunes and just rattled them off. It was their job.

People just didn’t think about the racial implications of things very much back then. Yes, the history behind the song is racist - it involves slavery - but there was no evil intention on the part of the guys who performed and recorded it.

If they didn’t think about racism it was only because they were so secure in being above it, in being a part of the privileged class, that it didn’t even worry them. To take a look at the song later on and say “Well, the singers didn’t mean nothin’ by it” is just ridiculous. Who did this white band sell their records to? What did they help perpetuate?

It was also the name of a blaxploitation film in the 1970s. I’ll always remember that when I was in third grade a kid brought the newspaper ad for it to Show-and-Tell and our teacher said “Okay… well, that’ll be enough show and tell for today”. (Luckily it was an all white class.)

An imdb reveals it was also released by the title The Black Connection. (The French Connection had been released 3 years before and was still big due to re-release [a lot more common then] and airing on TV.)

Why?

What should we do about this song? Destroy all the copies of it?

It’s totally impossible that these white guys released a song so that more people would hear it. It must’ve been racism.

Okay, then Mark Twain is a racist for using the word nigger in Huckleberry Finn. He’s a white guy, and his audience was mostly white people. He can’t have had any other purpose.

Some folks say a nigger won’t steal
I caught three in my corn field
One has a bushel
And one has a peck
One had a rope and it was hung around his neck

Catchy.

Yeah, I think there was pretty clearly a racist intent in this performance. I doubt the lyric pointed out by Vinyl Turnip was in the original version sung by slaves. Remember too that the 1920s were the heyday of the Ku Klux Klan as a national force, so doubtless the Skillet Lickers found a receptive record-buying audience for this sort of thing.

They also recorded Nigger in the Woodpile. I’ve been trying to decipher the lyrics of that one, but can’t make them out, and can’t find the lyrics online.

It maybe wasn’t performed with the intent of being particularly racist. That doesn’t change the fact that it is extremely racist.

It’s frustrating because I like old string band music in general, and the Skillet Lickers in particular, but it is peppered with stuff like this.

And Johnny Cash has songs about murdering people. Does that mean we should never listen to Johnny Cash? One of his classic albums has an upbeat ditty about snorting cocaine and shooting a “bad bitch”. Is drug-fueled murder, cheerfully sung about and audibly cheered by the Folsom Prison audience, really any less objectionable than the word “nigger”? Keep in mind, that album contains actual cheering and banter from actual prison inmates, some of whom doubtlessly were actual cold-blooded murderers. Or rapists. Maybe even child molesters. The presence of the inmates is a continuous theme of the album. But I don’t know anyone who’s really very bothered by it.

It actually was rereleased as “Run, Boy, Run.” A mild improvement, I guess…

Poor Johnny Cash, forever doomed to be the counterexample in every debate about the pernicious nature of rap (and apparently, racist folk) music.