Thirty years ago, we met a grandparent couple who wanted to start a little “meet and sing” group with children in the summer. Just for a lark! I was the oldest in the group of eight, and the others within 10-16 years I age. I hear brains working… Well, do the math😉
The couple loved singing and playing the piano. And that’s about it. All were looking for a good time and after ten days, we put on a little show for all of our parents in their living room. Aunty served drinks and snacks. A simple, neighbourly affair.
That’s the Uncle we first heard this song from, “Poor Ole’ Joe.” Today when I looked up the song, I see that originally it was called, “Old Black Joe.”
All the same, “Gone are the days when my heart was (really!) young and gay … I’m coming… hear their gentle voices calling, Poor ole’ Joe!” I love the song, and without knowing the history of what was going on around the time I was born, I could feel the song from oceans away, and it made me sad for a reason unknown. “Why do I weep…? … Sigh?” Still relevant questions today, in the twenty first century!
Between Stephen Foster and now, I wonder if things went through a symbolic change or a permanent change. Last fall, as I drove past some cotton fields, it reminded me of this song. We stopped to take pictures and relate to the history of the people who tilled the land or went a cotton pickin’ couple generations ago. Really! What a back-breaking job it must have been.
The fields looked pretty, like snow scattered in forgotten piles, hanging on to grass or dry skeletons of bushes near the ridges or the roadside; red sands meeting gorgeous blue skies, and some of the cotton, speckled the skies too.
Various groups that have sung this song are listed below and Jerry Lewis surprises us in the end here!
Old Black Joe (with lyrics) by Stephen Foster – YouTube
Trapp Family (the movie): “Old Black Joe” – YouTube
PAUL ROBESON-OLD BLACK JOE.wmv – YouTube
Towards the end, it sounds like he said
“poor old Joe”. Did you hear that? Maybe my ears want to hear my familiar version.
Jerry Lee Lewis Old Black Joe – YouTube
Oh-O! I hear feet tapping😄🎤
👋My part done, I’m gone!