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  1. #1
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    Why Was This Song Included in the Early Supremes' Acts?

    "Rock a Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody"

    I've often wondered why this song--which was also recorded in the studio by the ladies---was included in their act in the early days. Coming to my mind immediately is their Red Skelton Show performance and the popular Copa performance that was released as an album in 1965.

    The lyrics, in my opinion, contain phrases which I would have thought would be uncomfortable for them to sing even with the slight changing of some of the original words...
    "Just hang my cradle, mammy mine, ---they sing 'mommy'---
    right on that masoned, dixen line....
    Sing on black joe ---they sing 'sing it slow'---, just as though,
    you have me on your knees."

    I know this was a popular song by Al Jolsen back around the turn of the 20th century.

    Was this a way of 'reaching out' and pampering to the white southern audience at the time?

    I will say, they performed this in excellent style. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DDvIQfCI4k

  2. #2
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    A lot of black artists sang this song including Aretha Franklin [[and if I’m correct, her version was her first top 40 hit peaking at #37)

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by jobucats View Post
    "Rock a Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody"
    I know this was a popular song by Al Jolsen back around the turn of the 20th century.

    Was this a way of 'reaching out' and pampering to the white southern audience at the time?
    Good Points! The Supremes' version of "Rock A Bye Your Baby..." was probably included in their live set at The Copa due to it's popularity at the time [thanks to versions by Judy Garland, Aretha Franklin and others]. However, that doing that song [even if you change some of the lyrics] just wouldn't fly today.


  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Motown Eddie View Post
    Good Points! The Supremes' version of "Rock A Bye Your Baby..." was probably included in their live set at The Copa due to it's popularity at the time [thanks to versions by Judy Garland, Aretha Franklin and others]. However, that doing that song [even if you change some of the lyrics] just wouldn't fly today.

    You closed your comment with an excellent point in that doing this song "just wouldn't fly today." It shows again, how we have evolved as a society and as a culture. Thanks for pointing that out.

  5. #5
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    Songs like this were likely in the act to show the Supremes were a traditional mainstream "show biz" act in the vein of Al Jolson, Judy Garland, and Bing Crosby. Same with "Make Someone Happy" [[associated with Jimmy Durante) and "You're Nobody Til Somebody Loves You".

    One of the reasons why I like the Rodgers and Hart album is that their songs had a sheen, style and sophistication whereas some of the songs above could be construed as "corny".

  6. #6
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    the Copa 65 set list could almost be considered pandering to this "white" supper club crowd. but you have to remember that motown wasn't in a position to dictate the types of songs. of course they could make up their set list but the general practice at this time was to include these songs [[or similar) and that's what the audiences responded to. if you were a new act looking to break into this market, the idea wasn't to do something wildly different but rather show how to fit in with the status quo.

    Rock a bye was selected, i'm guessing, because of the vaudevillian nature of the tune and the accompanying hat and cane routine. I'd guess that Berry, Maurice, Cholly and the others literally made a list of every necessary genre or type of song and checked things off:

    broadway splashy number - check
    broadway ballad - check
    comedy routine - check
    emotional ballad - check
    this type - check
    that type - check
    another type - check

    i just watched part of the Motown 40 tv special again and Shelley states that there was nothing accidental about the copa performance and that every detail was planned out like a military maneuver.

    by getting the girls to the copa and by having them be a success there, so many additional doors would open for them and the other acts and this would mean a huge lift in company profits. if people wanted to hear some sort of racist song, fine. both the Sups and Four Tops included Mame in their acts but edits some of the verses. and it's not like DMF drew a big white circle around the mouths and held slices of watermelon while singing Rockaby. they did the number for over a year and made it a successful element of their live shows

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by jobucats View Post
    "Rock a Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody"

    I've often wondered why this song--which was also recorded in the studio by the ladies---was included in their act in the early days. Coming to my mind immediately is their Red Skelton Show performance and the popular Copa performance that was released as an album in 1965.

    The lyrics, in my opinion, contain phrases which I would have thought would be uncomfortable for them to sing even with the slight changing of some of the original words...
    "Just hang my cradle, mammy mine, ---they sing 'mommy'---
    right on that masoned, dixen line....
    Sing on black joe ---they sing 'sing it slow'---, just as though,
    you have me on your knees."

    I know this was a popular song by Al Jolsen back around the turn of the 20th century.

    Was this a way of 'reaching out' and pampering to the white southern audience at the time?

    I will say, they performed this in excellent style. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DDvIQfCI4k
    I donít see what is uncomfortable About a song in which a mother is singing softly and low to her baby on her knee? Once the two racist words are subbed, thereís nothing i can read into the lyric to suggest anything offensive. If there is something Iím missing, please let me know!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheMotownManiac View Post
    I don’t see what is uncomfortable About a song in which a mother is singing softly and low to her baby on her knee? Once the two racist words are subbed, there’s nothing i can read into the lyric to suggest anything offensive. If there is something I’m missing, please let me know!
    The term “Dixie” is associated with the old South, aka the Confederate states which leaves a bad taste in some people’s mouths. Being that this was the mid 60s and during the Civil Rights movement, I, in hindsight, am surprised that this tune, though energetic and well performed by the ladies, would have been included in their set list except to ‘make nice’ with the predominantly white audiences who attended these performances where hit singles and standards were performed.
    My inquiry is not an indictment; and I am enjoying and learning from the responses.
    Last edited by jobucats; 07-21-2021 at 09:51 AM.

  9. #9
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    I recently watched "Like Hep" tv special - in some of the skits Diana is speaking the dialog and using mannerisms that today is jarring and would be considered in bad taste..

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by nomis View Post
    I recently watched "Like Hep" tv special - in some of the skits Diana is speaking the dialog and using mannerisms that today is jarring and would be considered in bad taste..
    I have to keep pinching myself and saying, "We're not back in the 1960s anymore" based on what was acceptable in that particular time frame as opposed to where we are today. Thanks

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by jobucats View Post
    The term ďDixieĒ is associated with the old South, aka the Confederate states which leaves a bad taste in some peopleís mouths. Being that this was the mid 60s and during the Civil Rights movement, I, in hindsight, am surprised that this tune, though energetic and well performed by the ladies, would have been included in their set list except to Ďmake niceí with the predominantly white audiences who attended these performances where hit singles and standards were performed.
    My inquiry is not an indictment; and I am enjoying and learning from the responses.
    Thanks. There are so many words like that which can be interpreted in a manner that suggests slavery or the preference to it. I think of Dixieland jazz as a teen I used to work in a restaurant that played it nonstop. I never associate it with that part of history. I see where it can be associated but I hope we donít lose the ability to mention these types of words - itís like CRT to me. I recall when Obama was re-elected that there was a big conservative swing expected. I thought it was nuts - that this was proof things were progressing. How could I ever be so wrong, I donít know. When the song Mame was referenced as racist, I couldnít conceive of how that could be concluded as such. Now I see how, but I disagree. Certainly that intent isnít there, and, Iím afraid stretching those references and the like to indicate slavery is going too far and will one day come back to bite us. I donít think the problem is lyrics written 60 years ago, itís today in the state houses of many states - and thatís where the fight should be. I really think itís a mistake to turn a blind eye to our past culture - warts and all, to understand why weíre no farther along today. Iím literally afraid to read the news these days. Congressional members denying Jan 6 like those denying the Holocaust. Itís like the twilight zone.

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