Addressing Discussion Questions regarding “By the Banks, In The Pines”
In Lead Belly’s song, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” (?1941-1947, Smithsonian Folkways / Moe Asch collection). In regards to the question about the expression of the lyrics I think that the lyrics are expressed in a constant fashion thought the entirety of the song. I mean the tone, pitch and manor in which the song is sung does not change regardless of what is being sung. As Professor Carson discussed in lecture on Oct. 6, 2009 this manor of sinning in a constant pitch and tone is considerable common in folk music of this time period and as I understand it has remained fairly common to this day. Although one Aspect of the song which I found to express a slight change, is when Lead Belly finishes the first run of lyrics ending with “where did you sleep last night.” He says almost like he is speaking the words “come’on tell me baby.” Each time this line is repeated a slightly different form of this spoken phrase is said. This is the only aspect where the expression of the song changes from melodic to almost spoken word.
As to address what is the form of this song, it would seem to me that the song follows an A B A B format very closely. The song appears to be in the form of a conversation between a man and a woman, in a back and forth fashion. The man question where the woman slept and woman answers in the pines where the cold wind blows.
I hope this is how I am supposed to participate in the discussion.
- R. Schindler
The two renditions of “In the Pines” are dramatically different. The Monroe Brothers clearly inspired by Led Belly’s singing style took it to another level. In being a duo, they adopted the style of drastic pitch changes and complicated the method. Also in straying from the darker nature of Led Belly’s version, they made the song more audience friendly. “His head was found in a driving wheel But his body never ever be found”, in Led belly’s rendition, tells a more sinister story than that of the Monroe Brothers. In telling this seemingly uninterrupted (by censor) it feels more authentic and raw. Though the Monroe Brothers are playing a blues tune, their style is not. The livelier more upbeat Monroe version aims at a more commercially attractive product. Their wailing hollers seem to emulate some of the stylings of earlier blues artists, but it does not elicit an authentic sense of loss, pain, and anger that Led Belly does. The style of Led’s guitar provokes a dark atmosphere key to the blues. In my opinion the Monroe Brothers’ version is country not blues. Led Belly’s version is authentic blues.
Thanks for the contribution Christopher. I have to agree with you the two songs are very different in sound and genre. Of course Lead Belly is more of a blues inspired rendition of this classic folk song. I did a touch of back research and found out that Bill Monroe and the Monroe Brothers’ are classified generally as “Blue Grass.” Anyhow thanks for the thoughtful comment.
Yeah I know what you guys mean. LeadBellys version is so monotone that I didnt enjoy it that much. I listened to all 3 songs in order and every song became more and more dramatic and meloncoly. I really got into Nirvanas version because it sounds alot more personal compared to the others. But im not so sure about the interpertation of the song. I thought it was about the girl leaving the guy and thats why hes asking where were you last night, like if she was cheating on him