Rosie

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ROSIE

(Recording of prisoners at Mississippi State Penitentiary's Parchman work camp. Recorded by song collector/archivist Alan Lomax in 1947) (Transcription adapted from pancocojams blog (which also provides commentary). For more see Association for Cultural Equity's Global Jukebox.


This is a collective work song developed by inmates, using a call-and-response form in flexible polyphonic microtonal pentatonic style, allowing each participant to sing at his preferred level and with free expression. Rhythm beats are provided by swings of hoes or axes, originally used to dig or chop. Music thus provides moral support, emotional sustenance, camaraderie, and work synchronization. Thus does musical freedom and human spirit blossom within captivity.

Video reenactment (slightly different melody and text than the below).

Audio for the following text

Try performing it together, first all together, then in small groups:

  • Select one or two leaders (for support)
  • Keep the melodic and rhythmic flexibility in mind
  • Read the text off the computer screen
  • Repeat one line and turn out lights to focus more and drop inhibitions

Text:

Lead Singer's Call: "Be my woman, gal, I'll-"
Group Response: " -be your man."

(3x)

Call: "Every Sunday's dollar-"
Response: "-in your hand."

Call: "In your hand, Lordy-"
Response: "-in your hand."

Call: "Every Sunday's dollar-"
Response: "-in your hand."

Call: "Stick to the promise, gal, that-"
Response: "-you made me."

(3x)

Call: "Wasn't gonna marry 'til-uh-"
Response: "-I go free."

Call: "I go free, lordy-"
Response: "I go free."

Call: "Wasn't gonna marry 'til-uh-"
Response: "-I go free."

Call: "Well, Rosie-"
Call: "-oh, lord, gal."

Call: "Ah, Rosie-"
Response: "-oh, lord, gal."

Call: "When she walks she reels and-"
Response: "-rocks behind."

(2x)

Call: "Ain't that enough to worry-"
Response: "-[a] convict's mind."

(2x)

Call: "Well, Rosie-"
Call: "-oh, lord, gal."

Call: "Well, Rosie-"
Response: "-oh, lord, gal."

Lead Singer's Call: "Be my woman, gal, I'll-"
Group Response: " -be your man."

(3x)

Call: "Every Sunday's dollar-"
Response: "-in your hand."

Call: "Well, Rosie-"
Call: "-oh, lord, gal."

(3x)

Call: "When she walks she reels and-"
Response: "-rocks behind."

(2x)

Call: "Ain't that enough to worry-"
Response: "-[a] convict's mind."

(2x)



From Alan Lomax archive; Global Jukebox provides the following information (navigate to Learning->Accredited lesson plans)

Song Title: Rosie

Genre: Work song; prison song

Description: Rosie is the big song of the Mississippi Penitentiary; Rosie is the faithful-unfaithful girl of the prisoner's fantasy, constant in one verse, false in the next, as one tormenting notion after another arrives in the singer's mind

Performers/Instruments: C.B. '88' Cooke; ten men; axes

African Peoples / African Diaspora N. America / African American Folk

Location: Mississippi State Penitentiary, Parchman, Mississippi

Lat: 32.71 Long: -87.06

Culture: Mississippi Delta

Alt. Names:

Language: English

Language Family: Indo-European, Germanic, Anglian

People/Culture: Africans were brought as slaves to Mississippi even before it became a state in 1817. White planters controlled the richest land along the Mississippi River and the economy based on the export of cotton increased the need for slaves. After the Civil War, many freedmen migrated to the Mississippi Delta and bought land there. Most lost their land in the early 1900s due to segregation, financial crises and decline of cotton prices.

Recorded By: Alan Lomax, 1947

Publisher: Tradition Records

Publication/Collection: Prison Recordings, ACE Online Archive

Repository: Alan Lomax Collection, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress

Source Notes: Prev. published as Negro Prison Songs. Tradition Records, TLP1020, 1957

Audio File ID: T5623R11

Duration: 0:03:11

Lomax Source: 5A65.B1

Murdock Name: U.S. SOUTH:BLACK

Murdock Number: 24619

Coding ID: 474