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About The Conservative (Nebraska City, Neb.) 1898-1902 | View Entire Issue (April 20, 1899)
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Cbe Conservative. ii
THE "COON SONG" FAD.
[ "Written for THK CONSEUVATIVK. ]
The American people are possessed of
a very strong tendency to the adoption
of "hobbies. " Something appeals fav
orably to them , and they grasp it eagerly
and cherish it with all the fondness of a
mother for her first-born , only ceasing
to talk by day and dream by night of
the all-consuming subject when some
ingenious person exhibits before them a
more entrancing object for their whole
Sometimes these peculiar conditions
are extensive , sweeping over almost the
whole civilized world , and again they
may exist in certain restricted localities ,
or include a particular class of people.
The former case is well represented by
the mad chase after the aesthetic inaug-
, dVated by Oscar "Wilde some' years ago ,
which threatened to engulf the universe
in its onward rush. The sunflower sud
denly found itself become "too utterly
utter , " and received with nods of ap
proval the worship of the devotees of
the aesthetic. Examples of' 'provincial' '
or "class" fads are many. The youth
who decorated his vest and the lapels of
his coat with innumerable buttons pro
claiming the merits of bicycles or break
fast bacon has probably recovered his
sanity by this time , and will be willing
to act as a living example as a warning
to future generations.
But the height of human folly is
reached , and the cnpstone placed oh the
i tower of depravity , by the present craze
of our people over the so-called "coon-
song. " Never before has any particu
lar kind of music taken such a hold on
so many people , and one has but to no
tice the long catalogues of new produc
tions in the "nigger" line which are be
ing issued daily to realize how great is
the demand. A letter just received
from a prominent music dealer contains
the startling information that during
the present craze over four hundred of
these songs have already been published.
A copy of sheet music has but to bear
on a gaily-tinted cover a representation
of what is to bo
supposed a fm-de-siecle
"yaller gal , " to insure its ready sale , re
gardless of air or words.
In these money-making productions
the authors have succeeded in gathering
into small space more of the modern
slang than can be found in any other
class of literature. Indeed , I believe
that for a perfect understanding of these
songs one would do well to provide him
self with the "Up-to-date Slang Diction
ary" which I saw advertised in one of
the newspapers. The real meaning of
the lines ,
" I thought at fust she was giving mo a jolly ,
Never thinlun that she'd ever tiihn me down , "
is hidden from the eyes of any but the
initiated , end , when some "wahm. nig-
gah".proclaims that she "don't like no
cheap man , " and persists in saying the
same thing day after day for "forty-two
weeks , " one is inclined to cease hoping
for any improvement in the grammatical
construction of the tale of her troubles.
The old negro melodies which sing of
the darkies of the South are many of
them beautiful , and will live always.
Everyone knows "Suwanee Ribber"
and "Nellie Gray" as sure as ho knows
"America , " and loves them in the same
way. Even the old plantation melodies ,
'Ca'be dat Possum. " and "Comin for to
Carry mo Homo" have endeared them
selves to the American people , and will
ever be listened to with pleasure.
The Southern darky was and is a
character worthy of our study. He re
gains many of his primitive customs ,
and has developed long ago a way of liv
ing in keeping with his environment.
Some of the best of our modern story-
writers have chosen the Southern negro
as the subject of their work , and have
achieved lasting honor.
But the "colored man" who lives in
our Northern cities is indeed a
queer creature. Devoid of all the men
tal characteristics of his race , he has no
attributes peculiar to himself. He is
only able to mimic his lighter-hued
fellow citizens , cnrryiug to the utmost
extremes the most objectionable traits
of the white man , and refusing to accept
those which are worthy of his adoption.
He is a part of no race , being the result
of many races. If the "coon song" is
designed to portray the character of this
racial "what is it , " then it has indeed
gone wide of the mark.
Hand in hand with this new kind of
character song goes the now famous
"rag time" method of instrumental pro
duction. When one hears such familiar
airs as''Annie Laurie" or "Star Span
gled Banner" played in "rag time" by
one who knows his business , he is apt to
ask the title of the selection , overlooking
the true air in its lavish embellishment
of variations of the kind peculiar to this
"new process , " but it is all there , you
may be sure , and admirers of "ragtime"
declare that this interpretation adds
much to the original beauty of the
The writer had the pleasure a short
time ago of attending the theatre and
witnessing the performance of one of
the most popular actresses. Her efforts
mot with the hearty applause of the
large audience. At the close of the first
act the ushers were kept busy carrying
to the stage the floral compliments of
her many admirers. But before the cur
tain fell on the second act an incident
occurred which materially lessened the
dazzling brilliancy of the star's welcome.
An ebony-hned gentleman , his complex
ion the result of a skillful application of
some cosmetic known only to "the pro
fession , " attired in swallow-tailed coat ,
lofty collar and tan shoes , approached
the footlights and bowed profoundly
then seated himself at a piano tastily
placed under a bower of trailing vines
and blossoming ramblers , and played a
series of the most elaborate "rag time"
selections one ever listened to. He was
billed as the "Rag Time King , " and
surely such homage was done to him as
monarch or potentate never received.
The audience wont fairly wild , their
mrnultuous cheering mingled with the
stamping and cat-calling of the canaille
in the gallery fairly shaking the scenery
on the stage. Seven times was this
wonderful performer compelled to re
turn to the piano ; seven times did the
audience demand recognition from their
idol. From this time on interest in the
performance was at a low ebb , and
when the doors were opened and the
crowd pressed outward into the street no
words were heard but those of the loud
est praise for the "Rag Time King. "
The eminent and accomplished actress
liad become a mere incident in the even
ing's entertainment ; a small setting in
r.lie crown of which the "Rag Time
King" was the central gem.
The most popular musicians among
the young people , those who are most
often invited to perform at social gath
erings , are those who can play such se
lections as "Georgia Oampmeoting" and
"Mississippi Rag" with the greatest violence
lence and rapidity.
If this malady continues to increase in
miiliguity , wo will doubtless soon ac
company our dead to the tomb to the
time of a "cake-walk" march , and sing
over their lifeless bodies anthems with
If these musical monstrosities ore the
result of a craving of the ignorant for
melody which their untutored minds can
understand and appreciate , why should
we not , instead of ministering to their
crude desires , strive to lift them up to the
level of refinement and cultivation
where they will take pleasure in the
sublime compositions of the masters ?
HEKBEUT E. HEUSHEY.
An Irishman lingered long over a I
monument upon which was inscribed :
"Here rests the body of James Blank ,
Esq. , a successful lawyer and an honest
man ! "
"What are you standing there for so
long ? "
' 'Oim studying and whondering why
they buried the two of them in the wan
grave ? "
THE CONSERVATIVE will contain cor
respondence next week from Matthew
Marshall upon finance. This author is
an authority of great respectability and
weight. His contributions in The New
York Daily Sun during the last ten
years have elicited the commendation
of the thoughtful and prudent men of
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