Babies on Our Block
DESCRIPTION: "If you long for information or in need of merriment, Come over with me socially to Murphy's tenement." The singer catalogs all the myriad Irish babies living in the area, who join in singing "Little Sally Waters"
AUTHOR: Words: Edward Harrigan / Music: David Braham
EARLIEST DATE: 1879 (sheet music published by Wm. A. Pond & Co, New York)
KEYWORDS: baby family
FOUND IN: US(MW)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Dean, pp. 91-92, "Babies on Our Block" (1 text)
Spaeth-ReadWeep, pp. 115-116, "The Babies on Our Block" (1 text)
Soreheads on Our Block (James A. Garfield campaign song from 1880; Kenneth D. Ackerman, _Dark Horse: The Surprise Election and Political Murder of President James A. Garfield_, Carroll & Graf, 2003 (I use the 2004 paperback edition), p. 194 n. 3)
NOTES: According to Spaeth, pp. 186-187, the late 1870s saw a series of musical skits called the Mulligan series. "January 13, 1879, was the historic date of the opening of the full-sized Mulligan Guard Ball, which ran right on to the end of that season.... [T]he Mulligan Guard Ball maybe considered the real revelation of what was thereafter known as the Harrigan and Hart style...."
"Harrigan himself represented the brains and energy of the troup, writing dialogue and the song lyrics, casting and directing every production, acting and singing the leading roles and often also serving as manager. Braham composed all the music and conducted the orchestra in the pit. Tony Hart continued to be the foil to Harrigan's characterizations and was particularly good as a female impersonator...."
"The Mulligan Guard Ball contained, in addition to its parent song, such musical hits as The Skidmore Fancy Ball (a satirical treatment of a colored company), We're all Young Fellows Bran New, Singing at the Hallway Door, and The Babies on Our Block. The latter was the definitive forerunner of The Sidewalks of New York, giving a detailed picture of life in the humbler sections of the metropolis,with actual quotations from old Irish song scattered throughout the music."
According to Finson, p. 293, Braham (1838-1905) was the father-in-law of Harrigan (1844-1911). Harrigan was born in New York's Lower East Side, but despite his Irish family, he originally performed in blackface. He hooked up with Hart in 1871 during a performance in Chicago.
Braham was English; he and his brothers came to the U. S. in 1856, where they joined various minstrel companies as fiddlers.
FInson adds that Harrigan's ethnic song were often "based... on the neighborhood centered in the Sixth Ward (around Five Points at the junction of Baxter, Worth, and Park streets)." Supposedly this area was about half Irish, with substantial populations of Germans, Poles, and Italians but almost no "native-born white Americans."
Quite a few Harrigan/Hart/Braham songs eventually established at least a faint hold in the tradition. Among those in the Index are "Longshoreman's Strike (The Poor Man's Family)," "Get Up, Jack! John, Sit Down!" (those two being probably the best-known of all), "Are You There, Moriarity?," "The Regular Army-O," "Never Take the Horseshoe from the Door," "Little Old Dudeen," "My Dad's Dinner Pail," and possibly "The Tramp's Story." Ironically, this list does not include "The Mulligan Guard," which according to Hischak, p. 234, established the Braham/Harrigan production team in 1873, and as a result was included in all their later productions; it seems to have left no memory at all in tradition. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.2
- Finson: Jon W. Finson, The Voices That Are Gone: Themes in Nineteenth-Century American Popular Song, Oxford University Press, 1994
- Hischak: Thomas S. Hischak, The American Musical Theatre Song Encyclopedia (with a Foreword by Gerald Bordman), Greenwood Press, 1995
- Spaeth: Sigmund Spaeth, A History of Popular Music in America, Random House, 1948
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