DESCRIPTION: Jamaican patois: Cudelia Brown, what makes your head so red? It's because you sit in the sunshine with nothing on your head. The singer meets Mister Ivan one night and he said he gave Neita "de drop, Jamaica flop an' de moonshine drop (hah! hah!)"
EARLIEST DATE: 1951 (Murray)
KEYWORDS: nonballad colors
FOUND IN: West Indies(Jamaica)
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Murray, pp. 27-28, "Cudelia Brown" (1 text, 1 tune)
ADDITIONAL: Noel Dexter and Godfrey Taylor, _Mango Time - Folk Songs of Jamaica_ (Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 2007), pp. 24-25, "Cudelia Brown" (1 text, 1 tune)
Jim Morse, _Folk Songs of the Caribbean_ (New York: Bantam Books, 1958), pp. 92-94, "Cudelia Brown" (1 text, 1 tune)
Edric Connor with the Caribbeans and Earl Inkman, "Cudelia Brown" (on WIEConnor01)
Louise Bennett, "Cudelia Brown" (on WILBennett01)
NOTES [321 words]: Dexter and Taylor think the song is trying "to explain the colour of Cudelia's red hair."
I have no idea what is going on in the verse about Mr. Ivan.
The "what makes your head so red" line is familiar from "The Boll Weevil," with the retort being "it's a wonder I ain't dead" (Lomax-ABFS (1953), p. 113; Sandburg, p. 9; Scarborough-NegroFS (1963), p. 78).
The closest I've found to "Cudelia Brown" is another fragment from Scarborough-NegroFS (1963), p. 193: "Peckerwood, peckerwood,/ What makes your head so red?/ You peck out in the sun so long,/ It's a wonder you ain't dead." Lomax thought his red-headed boll weevil reference might originally have been to a woodpecker.
In Jamaica a red-headed bird reference could have been made to John Crow -- the turkey vulture -- a common character in Jamaican Song and Story. Jekyll has a Jamaican Annancy story that explains why John Crow has no feathers on his head (Walter Jekyll, Jamaican Song and Story (New York: Dover Publications, 1966 (reprint of 1907 edition)), #43 pp. 132-135). Also, see "Hol' Yuh Han'."
The name "Cudelia" could be based on Louis Jordan's 1945 hit "Caldonia (what makes your big head so hard?)." Louis Jordan's songs were popular in Jamaica (See Bruno Blum "English adaptation" by Martin Davies, liner notes on "Jamaica and U.S.A. Roots of Ska Rhythm and Blues Shuffle 1942-1962," Fremaux and Associes CD FA 5396, 2013, p. 19; David Katz, Solid Foundation -- An Oral History of Reggae (London: Jawbone Press, 2012 [second edition]), p. 16) [Louis Jordan and and his Tympany Five, "Caldonia" (1945, on Decca 78 rpm 8670A)]. This is certainly a reach -- the tunes of the two songs are not similar -- but we have examples of U.S. songs making it into the Jamaican tradition (see "Nobody's Business" and "Hello Ma Baby"). - BS
I will confess that I thought "Cudelia" was a dialect form of "Cordelia," but that doesn't explain why the name was chosen. - RBW
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