Lift that barge, tote that bail

My dear sainted mother was a big fan of musicals of all forms and sizes. As a result I grew up watching TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Broadway Musicals (Show Boat / Annie Get Your Gun / Kiss Me Kate / Seven Brides for Seven Brothers) and so and so forth. I also got to see such turkeys as The Little Prince and Paint Your Wagon.

The last new musical I watched and really loved was Victor/Victoria and that was twenty-five years ago. I might have liked All That Jazz, if they had hired someone who could sing or act to star in it. I didn’t see Rent, as I liked the music but didn’t want to be disappointed yet again. The last bit of music from a musical that I really loved was Love for the Circ De Sole show in Vegas, but that hardly counts as I loved the songs to start with.
One of my all time favorite films was Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. This film is liberaly sprinkled with odd bits of poetry and silly song. Candy is dandy but liquer is quicker. Up the airy mountain and down the rushy glen, we daren’t go a hunting for fear of little men. We are the dreamers of dreams. All great stuff.
I used to think that everyone must have grown up watching these movies, of course, if everyone still loved these silly films they would still be making them. I know that Dreamgirls was a bit hit and won all kinds of awards, but I never went to see it. Maybe I just never liked the story of the Supremes and don’t want to watch a movie set in an alternate universe where the names are changed to protect the writers from lawsuits.
As a result of watching all these movies, I had a set of pat sayings that I say, rather a lot. Lift that barge and tote that bail is one of my favorites. It’s from Showboat, Old Man River to be precise. This is one of the greatest show tunes, one of the greatest songs period, of all time. The most common response from people when I say this is a blank stare. But I really can’t help from saying. It’s like a Brit taking a deep breath and saying Right before tackling something unpleasant.

It’s just something that I do.
Here we all work ‘long the Mississippi
Here we all work while the white folk play
Pulling’ them boats from the dawn till sunset
Getting no rest till the judgement day
Don’t look up and don’t look down
You don’t dare make the white boss frown
Bend your knees and bow your head
And pull that rope until you’re dead
Let me go ‘way from the Mississippi
Let me go ‘way from the white man boss
Show me that stream called the River Jordan
That’s the old stream that I long to cross
Old Man River, that Old Man River
He must know something, but he don’t say nothing
He just keeps rolling, he keeps on rolling along
He don’t plant taters, and he don’t plant cotton
And them what plants ’em is soon forgotten
But Old Man River, jest keeps rolling along
You and me, we sweat and strain
Bodies all aching and wracked with pain
Tote that barge and lift that bale
You get a little drunk and you land in jail
I get weary and so sick of trying
I’m tired of living, but I’m feared of dying
And Old Man River, he just keeps rolling along

I like the versions of this song from the movies, deep rich voices filled with sorrow. I am not so fond of Rod Stewart or Frank Sinatra singing it. But maybe that’s just me.

So maybe taking portraits of grumpy Baptists isn’t exactly picking cotton, but then, that’s kind of the joke. Maybe I could just take a deep breath from now on and say Right.

Jon Herrera

Jon Herrera

Writer, Photographer, Blogger.
Jon Herrera

Latest posts by Jon Herrera (see all)

Writer, Photographer, Blogger.

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