Carry Me Back to Old Virginny
DESCRIPTION: "Carry me back to old Virginny, There's where the cotton and corn and tatoes grow." The former slave yearns to return to the old master and the old plantation, there to "wither and decay."
AUTHOR: James A. Bland
EARLIEST DATE: 1878 (sheet music published by John F. Perry of Boston)
KEYWORDS: Black(s) slave exile
FOUND IN: US(SE)
REFERENCES (8 citations):
RJackson-19CPop, pp. 43-46, "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" (1 text, 1 tune)
Krythe 11, pp. 158-176, "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fuld-WFM, pp. 164-165, "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny"
Cohen-AFS1, p. 199, "Carry Me Back to Old VIrginny" (1 text)
Emerson, pp. 40-41, "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" (1 text)
Fireside, p. 84, "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" (1 text, 1 tune)
Messerli, pp. 180-183, "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: William E. Studwell and Bruce R. Schueneman, _State Songs of the Unites States: An Annotated Anthology_, The Haworth Press, 1997, p. 69, "(Carry Me Back to Old Virginia)" (1 text, cleaned up; tune on pp.197-199)
ST RJ19043 (Full)
Lucy Gates & the Columbia Stellar Quartet, "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" (Columbia A6015, 1917)
Zack [Hurt] and Glenn [?], "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" (OKeh 45212, 1928)
Harry McClaskey, "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" (Gennett 4532, 1919)
Lester McFarland & Robert Gardner, "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" (Brunswick 475, 1930)
cf. "Way Down in Old Virginia" (theme)
O, Carry Me Home ("O, carry me back to my Childhood's home") (WolfAmericanSongSheets p. 111)
NOTES [330 words]: James A. Bland (1854-1911), one of the leading songwriters of the 1870s, was a university-educated Black (born in New York) who spent many years in England. That he stooped to produce such a piece of nostalgia for slavery says something about the commercial climate of the time (the piece was probably written in 1875 and was published in 1878).
Bland also wrote "[Oh, dem] Golden Slippers" and "In the Evening by the Moonlight."
Until very recently this was the state song of Virginia -- though the official title was changed to "Carry Me Back to Old Virginia." Apparently the people of the state could handle the idea of people yearning for slavery, but couldn't accept a slight mispronunciation. It lost its status as state song in 1997 (William E. Studwell and Bruce R. Schueneman, State Songs of the Unites States: An Annotated Anthology, The Haworth Press, 1997, 69).
Although I have never seen any suggestion that Bland did not write this piece, I find it interesting that there are broadsides, "Dear Liberty or Maryland Will Be Free" ("by Miss R. L., a Daughter of Dixie") and "General Lee," said to be to the tune of "Carry me back to Old VIrginny." The song looks as if it would have been published by Confederates, which would hint at a date long before Bland wrote this song. See also WolfAmericanSongSheets, #274, p. 19, "Carry Me Back to Ole Virginny" ("De floating scow ob ole Virginny," said to have sung by "all the Minstrel Bands"). When I saw that, I speculated, "Perhaps there was an older 'Carry me back' song that Bland referenced?"
It turns out that there is; according to Jon W. Finson, The Voices That Are Gone: Themes in Nineteenth-Century American Popular Song, Oxford University Press, 1994, p. 201, the song 'took its inspiration from 'Carry Me Back to Old Virigina,' as arranged and sung by E. P. Christy (1847)." The idea of that song is rather different, though; in the Christy song, according to Finson, "Virginny" is his fisherman's boat! - RBW
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