At the turn of the 20th Century many songs featured “humorous” lyrics that would be offensive by today’s standards. The following sheet music are examples of songs that were considered funny during their time but demonstrate a certain degree of racial insensitivity toward minority groups through the use of stereotypes.

 

Historical Content Disclaimer: The content in this collection reflects the opinions of the time they were written. Some content may be offensive to viewers. The opinions expressed in the following sheet music do not reflect those of Baylor University or this exhibit and are displayed for academic purposes only.

 

African Americans

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Title: A Royal Coon
Composer: James Reese Europe
Publisher: Chicago, Ill. : Will Rossiter
Date: c1907
Find the Sheet Music Here
 
What’s it about?
The singer is a king to the Zulu tribe.
 
Lyrics: 
“I am a royal coon, royal coon,
I hail from Mataloon, Mataloon,
If there’s a doubt about it,
I’ll prove my ancestry,
Cut down my family tree, family tree,
Look up my pedigree, pedigree,
And you will find out soon,
I am a royal coon, coon.”
 
 

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Title: All Coons Look Alike to Me : A Darkey Misunderstanding
Composer: Ernest Hogan
Publisher: New York : M. Witmark & Sons
Date: c1896
Find the Sheet Music Here
 
What’s it about?
The singer’s girlfriend left him for another man who “spends his money freely.” Offensive language aside, this song is about a 19th Century gold digger.
 
Lyrics
“All coons look alike to me,
I’ve got another beau, you see,
And he’s just as good to me as you, nig!
Ever tried to be,
He spends his money free,
I know we can’t agree,
So I don’t like you no how,
All coons look alike to me, me.”
 
 
Video courtesy of YouTube. All rights reserved.
 
 
Screen Shot 2014-11-22 at 1.48.02 PM Title: Dat Am a Chicken : A Coon Declaration
Composer: Sidney L. Perrin
Publisher: New York : M. Witmark & Sons
Date: c1904
Find the Sheet Music Here
 
What’s it about?
This song plays up several stereotypes, most prominently, that African Americans love chicken. Additionally, several other stereotypes about nationalities and preferred foods are used in the chorus.
 
Lyrics
“The English loves his roast beef,
The Japanese loves his tea,
The German loves his sauerkraut,
And the Frenchman Fricasee,
The Irish loves his cornbeef,
With cabbage head thrown in,
But give the coon and American bird
And dat am a chicken, en.”

 

 

Chinese and European 

Both of these titles come from the sheet music book “The Forbidden Land.”

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Title: We’re Tramps Upon Our Way
Composer: Frederic Chapin
Publisher: New York : M. Witmark & Sons
Date: c1904
Find the Sheet Music Here
 
What’s it about?
The tramps of the early 1900s are not the tramps we know today. These tramps live a care-free and happy life of stealing from people. The song claims that the original tramps come from the Orient and all other hobo gents owe their decent to them, and that’s where things get racist.
 
Lyrics
“The Asia beggar antedates
The tramp of the United States,
That homo gent owes his decent
To us here in the Orient.
Te-rol-de-dol-di-de
did-dle doo-dum-day
And so we want it understood
We organized the brotherhood.
Without a care or grief to bear,
The happy tramp is everywhere.”
 

 

Title: Ay Vant to Go Back to Sveden 
Find the Sheet Music Here
 
What’s it about?
The entire song is written with a Swedish accent. Enough said.
 
Lyrics
“Ay vant to see Sveden,
Ay bat you,
Tan doaler Ay naver gat dar.
Oh Sveden Ay no skall forgat you,
Ay vish hum vould sand for me har,
My faller hae vork in das dairy,
Bae yimminy hae baen good man!
Hue yodel yust like das canary.
Ay vish ay could har hum again.”
 
 
 
 

Native American 

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Title: Big Chief Oy, Oy
Composer: Frederic V. Bowers
Publisher: New York : J.H. Remick & Co
Date: c1908
Find the Sheet Music Here
 
What’s it about?
Several Native American stereotypes are used in this song including the terms “savage Indians” and “big heap man,” when describing Big Chief Oy, Oy.  Good luck figuring out what the chorus is saying.
 
Lyrics
“Big chief Oy, Oy,
he was a boy-oy,
Mashed each squaw in town,
He had eyes of brown,
Never known to frown,
He was funny,
Ready money,
Blow his “dough” in town,
On an Indian bud
Called “Stick-in-the-mud”
Who threw Ow, Ow down, down.”

 

 

Interracial Marriages

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Title: The Wedding of the Chinee and the Coon : Comic Song & Chorus
Composer: Bob Cole
Publisher: New York (1260-1266 Broadway, N.Y.) : Howley, Haviland & Co.
Date: c1897
Find the Sheet Music Here
 
What’s it about?
The singer finds the soon-to-be marriage of a Chinese woman and an African American man a “strange amalgamation.”
 
Lyrics
“I heard there’s gwine to be
A mighty jubilee
Way down in Chinatown tomorrow morning,
All the Chinese in the land
Must surely be on hand,
For the Chinese Embassador has given warning,
The cause of this affair
Is strange I do declare,
It’s the funniest thing that’s happen’d for many a moon,
Of all things beneath the skies,
This will be a great surprise,
For a pretty Chinese girl will wed a coon.”
 

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Title: Arrah Wanna an Irish Indian Matrimonial Venture
Composer: Theodore F. Morse
Publisher: New York : F.B. Haviland Pub. Co.
Date: c1906
Find the Sheet Music Here
 
What’s it about?
A Native American maid is being courted by an Irishman. He loves her and wants them to live in a “wigwam built of shamrock green.” While the racial stereotypes are there, so is the genuine love.
 
Lyrics
“Arrah Wanna, on my honor,
I’ll take care of you.
I’ll be kind and true,
We can love and bill and coo,
In a wigwam built of shamrocks green,
We’ll make those red men smile,
When you’re misses Barney, heap much Carney,
From Killarney’s Isle.”
 
Video courtesy of YouTube. All rights reserved.

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