DESCRIPTION: "Biting spider going around biting everybody But he didn't bite me." Biting spider left darling Liza in Birmingham. The singer saw her leave the mountain and she didn't stop
EARLIEST DATE: 1950s (Frye); 1960 (LomaxCD1708)
KEYWORDS: work floatingverses nonballad shanty worksong
FOUND IN: US(SE)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Frye, p. 185, ("Bitin' spider") (1 text)
GarrityBlake, p. 106, ("The bitin' spider going 'round bitin' everybody") (1 text)
Bright Light Quartet, "Bitin' Spider" (on LomaxCD1708)
Willie Williams and Group, "Biting Spider" (on VaWork)
NOTES: VaWork "Biting Spider" includes the "Hiking Jerry" verse, at least, from "Mule on the Mountain." These recordings on VaWork are by two different groups.
The LomaxCD1708 song is part of the "Menhaden Chanteys" track.
"Biting Spider" is a menhaden chanty. See the notes to "Help Me to Raise Them" for information about menhaden chanteys. The verse structure is illustrated and discussed in the notes to "Goin' Home."
GarrityBlake p. 106: "Older black crewmen of the menhaden industry equated the purse seine fishing net with a spider because it would spread over the water's surface like a giant black web.... Fishermen explained that this chantey was not about one of the many insects found on a menhaden fish boat. Rather, 'bitin' spider' was 'that big black net that's killed many a man.' Some crewmen suggested that 'bitin' spider' represented the captain, but others told me it referred to the net and the perils associated with it, which ranged from falling into the 'web' during fishing operations and drowning, to falling prey to an empty net and being unable to bring home any money."
Of the menhaden sources only VaWork has verses besides "Biting spider... biting everybody," and VaWork is missing that one. VaWork has two other verses noted in the description that refer to the spider and floating verses from "Mule on the Mountain," including verses Hurston assigns to that song: "I don't want no cold peas cornbread neither molasses... It hurts my pride" (Hurston has "Give me beans") and "I don't want no coal-black woman for my regular ... Too low down" (Zora Neale Hurston, Mules and Men (New York: Harper Perennial,1990 (paperback edition of J.B. Lippincott, 1935 original)), pp. 269-270, "Mule On de Mount"). - BS
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