Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Jingle All The Way

 Jingle Bells began its life in the repertoire of a minstrel band.  There's little in either words or music to give that away now. The verses- which no-one sings any more- are a bit of fluff about horny young men picking up girls and going for joy rides- and the one-horse sleigh is a cock-rocket de jour- the 1850s equivalent of the T Birds and little Deuce Coupes the Beach Boys used to sing about.  There's nothing about the song- even in its original state- that's particularly redolent of burnt cork. It's not written in Uncle Remus speak, there's no suggestion that the gadding around  is happening down on the ole plantation- and the fact I suppose is that most American popular music of the period- whatever its content- started off in the repertoire of minstrel bands because they were the pop culture of the day. 

Time has smoothed away all offence. The minstrel band is forgotten. The priapic swagger has been excised and we're left with a jolly little song about happy people driving about in a snowy landscape. 

The songs origins have been excavated by Kyna Hamill - a theatre historian at the University of Boston. She went looking for its origins and the pay dirt she hit turned out to be dirtier than expected.  I get my information from The Daily Mail- which loves this kind of stuff and uses it as excuse to give voice to angry white men shouting that the nasty liberal woman has robbed them of their childhood innocence. I won't link. I don't want to do anything to perpetuate the drama.  But the story in itself is really quite interesting if you can face picking your way past all the spilt sputum. It has a lot to say about America then and America now and the feverish relationship between the two. 

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