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Old 03-29-2005, 01:48 PM   #1
MGC
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I was just wondering if anyone can tell me what this song is about? It's such a great song- I'd love to know the meaning behind it.
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Old 03-29-2005, 01:48 PM   #2
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I was just wondering if anyone can tell me what this song is about? It's such a great song- I'd love to know the meaning behind it.
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Old 03-29-2005, 03:33 PM   #3
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Well start off with defining a minstrel; not to be confused with menstral.
Heres some good info on the history of minstrels, http://chnm.gmu.edu/courses/jackson/.../minstrel.html http://www.jochenscheytt.de/minstrel...inpreface.html
After reading this it will give you an idea how gordy may have come up with a catchy song about a minstrel.
n
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Old 03-31-2005, 08:35 AM   #4
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OH, NO! And all this time....

quote:Originally posted by paddletothesea:
Well start off with defining a minstrel; not to be confused with menstral.
Heres some good info on the history of minstrels, http://chnm.gmu.edu/courses/jackson/.../minstrel.html http://www.jochenscheytt.de/minstrel...inpreface.html
After reading this it will give you an idea how gordy may have come up with a catchy song about a minstrel.
n


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Old 03-31-2005, 08:35 AM   #5
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OH, NO! And all this time....

quote:Originally posted by paddletothesea:
Well start off with defining a minstrel; not to be confused with menstral.
Heres some good info on the history of minstrels, http://chnm.gmu.edu/courses/jackson/.../minstrel.html http://www.jochenscheytt.de/minstrel...inpreface.html
After reading this it will give you an idea how gordy may have come up with a catchy song about a minstrel.
n


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Old 03-31-2005, 09:36 AM   #6
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The racist blackfaced "minstrel shows" of the 19th and early 20th centuries are not the only manifestations of minstrelsy. Despite the allusion in the song to "Steppin Fetchit" and the influence of Stephen Foster, who wrote many of his most famous songs for minstrel show, on Lightfoot, the minstrel tradition goes back at least to medieval European times, and possibly before. The minstrels were wandering entertainers who sang a variety of songs, from love ballads to national/historical and epic songs to religious music. I think that pretty much sums up Gord's body of work, don't you? For a beginning understanding of what the minstrels were, try this link: http://www.theatrehistory.com/mediev...strels.001.htm
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Old 03-31-2005, 06:47 PM   #7
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Well spoken Don Q.

I wouldn't think it a stretch at all to view today's buskers as minstrels - at least those who play and sing v. juggle, or mime.

Having been one who has busked on occasion (odd times out of need, most times out of fun) the "minstrel" heritage is a proud one - good proud, not bad.

Yes, the minstrel shows of Steven Foster's day, and thru to vaudeville, were in blackface. Racist yes, yet providing and preserving a rich hertitage.

Read auto-bios from George Burns, Milton Berle, Al Jolson, the Marx Bros, etc. and you'll find, though all used blackface, the bite of racisim wasn't part of it for them.

Thanks for the sites all. Good stuff.

Remember that one catch phrase on Laugh-In in the late 60s: "Here come da judge, here come da judge!" Straight outta vaudeville and minstral shows. Same-same the spirit of the "gag."

Mr. Interlocketer! Mr. Interlocketer!

Raise a cup of kindness to The Minstrels.

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Old 03-31-2005, 09:00 PM   #8
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Thanks, Rez. However, I wouldn't make too much of a "class distinction" between those who play and sing and those who juggle, mime, etc. In fact, the medieval minstrels in France were called "jongleurs", and in Spain "juglares"-- like "jugglers" (all from the Latin word "iocare"--to play (like our words "joke" and "jocularity"), because some of them did more than sing, and did what the whole range of buskers might do today--sing, dance, tell jokes, juggle or do sleight of hand. Again, it sounds so much like the vaudeville acts you alluded to. I HAVE read bios of all the people you mention (comedy of the 1st half of the 20th century is one of my interests), and many others as well (W.C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, the Ritz Brothers, etc.), and agree that most of them were not racists, at least in the definition of their days, and that they certainly used some of the format of the minstrel shows (although when they do "darkie" comedy like in the Marx Bros. "A Day at the Races" it's not so funny anymore--it's kind of a strange juxtaposition, considering Groucho's well-known liberal ideas, including the fact that his first sexual encounter was with a black chambermaid). At any rate, it's nice to be in contact with a knowledgeable and well-spoken individual such as you.

[ April 11, 2005, 10:02: Message edited by: Don Quixote ]
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Old 03-31-2005, 10:45 PM   #9
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Don Q: I hear ya. And thanks backacha.

I was thinking how the term Minstrel would probably bring music to most folks minds, especially when related it to Gord. But, yes, the artist/entertainer-of-any-stripe can busk and stand proud w/ all the minstrels.

I understand what you mean by racism "in the definition of their days." Like the song Groucho, and others, would sing "That's Why Darkies Were Born." Not so clever these days - even though it's often included in the basically bootleg-fakebooks saloon musicians have relied on for years (this one included.)

And those Vaudeville days (and those auto-bios of all the folks you mentioned - giants of their time, one way or another.) Good reading, too. And, lest we forget, that other similar tradition Burlesque and the baggy-pants comics - and those tassles.

A mite far-afield from Gord's song, where we began, but that history Gord knows well. Well read, too, hence your choice of names here.

I'm headin' out to my "2001 Honda Accord CD player" to listen again. I couldn't afford an iPod.

kick-ball-chain-kick-ball-chain . . .

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Old 04-01-2005, 07:51 AM   #10
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Thanks again, Rez. You're right--pretty far afield in some ways, but also relevant, historically, to GL.
BTW, I come by my handle honestly. I first read DQ when I was 16; it's led me through my studies and into my career--I have a Ph.D. in Spanish Lit. The work is celebrating its 400th anniversary this year, and I recommend it to everyone, although not everyone will like it. I've been to La Mancha, and have seen many of the places mentioned in the book: the windmills at Campo de Criptana, the Cave of Montesinos, El Toboso, etc. It's a place that looks just like DQ--dried up, bare-bones, run-down--but like the novel, there's magic there.
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Old 04-02-2005, 02:41 AM   #11
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Dr. Don Q - sounds good. I too have read the work. Perhaps it's time to read it once more. I've never been to Spain (to quote Hoyt Axton)but admit to a sweet spot for each of the productions of Man of La Mancha I've seen.

Gord knows that work well, too. Don't know if he's ever been to Spain (but he kinda like the music - oops, Hoyt again) How I'd love to walk those magic lands.

Here's an opinion (mine, I guess) of the meaning behind Minstrel of the Dawn. Perhaps a better word would be the thought behind the song.

NewGLFan, if you're still out there, here goes:

It's always felt to me, even at first hearing so long ago, that Gord was simply singing of himself; the role he plays in the scheme of things - and relishes - and invites us to believe along. Perhaps its his picture of being conjoined with the minstrel saga

And we do fall victim to his Minstrelsy. And it is wondermagic.

If you ask me, I will tag along.

The Rez

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It was a Beautiful Rainbow
A Beautiful Time in my Life
A Thing to Share
A Time to Care
To Be Alive

[This message has been edited by The Rez (edited April 02, 2005).]
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Old 04-02-2005, 09:43 PM   #12
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I agree with your analysis, Rez. Just a couple more notes:
If I recall correctly, "Minstrel of the Dawn" was the first cut on the LP (omigod, what's that?) on the vinyl (omigod, what's that?) album (omigod, what's that?). I think that you are right in that he wanted to establish a mood and a link, and to speak of himself and his work in the context of the minstrel tradition; hence the allusions to Steppin Fetchit, and "he's like an old-time troubador".
I think the love of music and the connection between the player and the audience are an important theme. When he writes "Just sit him down upon that chair/Go fetch some wine and set it there", he harks back to a time before rock stars and outrageous salaries and having the spectacle be the message instead of the music (and how much worse has it gotten over the past 35 years?). I'm sure he had no idea about this, but in the 13th century, a Spanish author named Gonzalo de Berceo, in a work about the miracles of the Virgin Mary, which was recited or sung to travelers and pilgrams, wrote about being happy to narrate the stories for, as in "Minstrel", "un vaso de bon vino" ("a glass of good wine"). In other words, he was happy to tell his stories, and to have his recompense be minimal, just something to make him feel happy and appreciated, because the message of the work was the most important thing. I think that he's trying to establish this same connection, in a different way, in "If it Should Please You"--here I am, this is what I am and what I do, hope you like it, let's make a human connection that only music can bring about. Does anyone know if he ever started a concert out with "Minstrel of the Dawn?" It would have been a natural.

I think that there are a couple of other personal notes, like the desire to please and to reveal part of himself and to make others happy, while also keeping some things personal and hidden, like a lingering sadness/depression: "Look into his shining face/Of loneliness you'll always find a trace/Just like me and you/He's trying to get into things more happy than blue."
There's more to say about this great song, but I've already been more pedantic and long-winded than I should have been (hazards of the professorial profession). I think that at some point we should analyze every GL song line by line, or at least in more detail than "it's my favorite because it reminds me of my old girlfriend and it makes me sad". There is much more to be extracted from this man and his songs.
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Old 04-02-2005, 10:17 PM   #13
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Dr. Q: Again, well spoken, as is your way.

I would enjoy such line-by-line analysis, too. However, in my first response to that much answered question: "What's Your Favorite GL Song,"

I responded, "Shadows."

With serenditpity too wonderful to pronounce, I was able to join Gord, the band, and the friend who brought me, in his hotel room after-concert at Universal City, in LA.


I asked him what was behind Shadows. He replied, "If I told you, it wouldn't belong to you anymore."

In the Deep South they say, "You been readin' my mail," when someone/somesong hits 'em head-on in the heart.

Gord seems to often "read my mail." I think, "Now, how did he know what I was goin thru?" So, it belonged to me.

Hopeful Romantic, I've often sung The Minstrel of the Dawn on stage - dreaming I was the Minstrel. For a season, I was.

The Rez

Afterthought: In Jerusalem, near the Western Wall, there was once a fellow dressed in robes, strumming a small hand-held harp, and singing Christian songs.

He wasn't busking; he took no money; for him, it was his ministry. Gentle, soft sung ministry.

In his fashion, he too was a Minstrel.




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Old 04-02-2005, 10:29 PM   #14
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When I first read this post I thought, "man, I've really misunderstood this song." It never once brought to mind the vaudeville type minstral you mentioned. I always thought he was talking about himself as a singer of songs and how he could touch or affect the listener with his songs. Minstrel to me, just means singer.
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Old 04-03-2005, 04:07 AM   #15
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Sentimental:

Sorry. We sorta took the long way back home, but we got there.

To me you have it just right.

I enjoy the side-tracks, but the simplicity is where truth lies.

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Old 04-08-2005, 10:17 AM   #16
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I always thought God was the Minstrel Of The Dawn.

Jeff
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Old 04-08-2005, 11:12 AM   #17
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If you meant to type Gord, I agree with you.
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Old 04-08-2005, 12:37 PM   #18
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I agree with the last statements (although the idea of "God" as a wandering minstrel has interesting theological possibilities--I kind of like this serendipitous metaphor!); as I said, Gord certainly seems to be talking about himself as the "minstrel of the dawn". We got a little side-tracked, because it appeared that some in the group were a little upset that GL might be using the black-faced minstrel show as his model. The Rez and I were just commenting that the practice of minstrelsy goes back well before those times, and that Gord was aligning himself with a much longer and far-reaching tradition than that one manifestation of "minstrelsy"--again, the reference to "old-time troubador".
Rez, I agree that sometimes personal and uncomplicated reactions are often the best; we take a song and "make it our own" according to our own circumstances. I also think that new insights, and other ideas that we can accept or reject (with respect and consideration) can also shape and enhance the meaning of many of the songs.
I see GL will be in Northampton, MA,--about 15 miles from where I live, in November. I'm scheduled to attend a conference in Baltimore then--I think I feel some flu coming on for that day...
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Old 04-08-2005, 02:00 PM   #19
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Don Q:

I, too, enjoyed very much our conversation on minstrel history. I learned things I'd not known, and recalled things I'd not thought of in yrs.

Also, the simplicity of viewing Gord as singing of his own role is beautiful - and so touchingly true.

Personal note:

As a long time road musician, watching the many wandering wonders dislayed at the dawning of a new day - usually before going to bed - God is, indeed, The Minstrel of the Dawn - no typo.

. . . for the Love greater than our lives,

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Old 04-08-2005, 06:18 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally posted by Don Quixote:
I agree with the last statements (although the idea of "God" as a wandering minstrel has interesting theological possibilities--I kind of like this serendipitous metaphor!);
HA! I have to agree. I was wondering what you would make of that. You didn't disappoint at all.
Interesting discussion fellas.
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Old 04-08-2005, 09:24 PM   #21
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while we're of the topic of Minstrel shows. how exactly did that folk group The New Christy Minstrels get their name? meaning the Christy part?

[ April 08, 2005, 21:29: Message edited by: miketouhy ]
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Old 04-08-2005, 09:24 PM   #22
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while we're of the topic of Minstrel shows. how exactly did that folk group The New Christy Minstrels get their name? meaning the Christy part?

[ April 08, 2005, 21:29: Message edited by: miketouhy ]
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Old 04-08-2005, 09:53 PM   #23
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Hey Mike you really should get out more and try Google from time to time
then you might have read:-
"Minstrelsy was very high in popularity in the 1840's when Edwin Christy, a nineteenth century minstrel who wrote Goodnight Ladies among other songs, formed the Christy Minstrels. Minstrelsy continued as a part of the American music scene until about the 1950's."
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there's a lot of it out there if you take the trouble to look!!
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Old 04-08-2005, 09:53 PM   #24
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Hey Mike you really should get out more and try Google from time to time
then you might have read:-
"Minstrelsy was very high in popularity in the 1840's when Edwin Christy, a nineteenth century minstrel who wrote Goodnight Ladies among other songs, formed the Christy Minstrels. Minstrelsy continued as a part of the American music scene until about the 1950's."
John Fowles
there's a lot of it out there if you take the trouble to look!!
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Old 04-08-2005, 10:53 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally posted by Don Quixote:
I see GL will be in Northampton, MA,--about 15 miles from where I live, in November. I'm scheduled to attend a conference in Baltimore then--I think I feel some flu coming on for that day...
I already know what days I'll have the flu for the next 10 months.
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