Saturday, August 7, 2010

Japanese Sandman

Years ago, I discovered a hand written copy of the lyrics to Japanese Sandman in an old book of poetry I purchased from a local antiques store. I will not pretend that I looked at the written prose and intellectually recognized this as a song. It took a little digging to understand its original purpose. Once I did, I was reminded of a few other instances where previous generations took the time to hand copy favorite poems, versus or lyrics to keep them tucked away in safe places for re-visiting as time allowed.

At first, whenever I discover these little personal mementos, my romantic sensibilities get a little charged.....perhaps this was the tune that played during their first dance....or last dance before he went away.....or at the very least, a mother's remembered lullaby that she hummed to her children? I know, I'm pathetic.....but then, perhaps these could just be favorite songs. As I read the words, and listened to a rendition on YouTube (included below), I wasn't struck with a huge romantic chord. Yes, it was a nice catchy tune, but I was suddenly reminded about our own current behavior as song hoarders. Ask Apple why we download so many songs on iTunes. They don't have an answer, simply because music has been and always will be a huge part of our culture. We have special songs for every teenagers we made mixes to describe our every random emotion....and as adults, maybe we secretly still practice this behavior. I know when I'm a bit blue there isn't anything that feeds that mood more than Moonlight Sonata. However, in the past generations, they didn't have iTunes, or CDs, or even cassette tapes to keep their favorites for re-playing over and over until they made their friends and family completely crazy! What about the years prior to phonograph, and even during those years, not every favorite song was available, and certainly not to the lower economic classes. If they were lucky to have a piano, or other instrument, they could re-create some, but if not......perhaps having the lyrics in written form was the next best thing. It would certainly make group singing or humming the song a bit easier......and if the lyrics had a special meaning, all the more reason to keep them in a favored nook or cranny.

For more on the song and the Asian influence that was popular in the 1920s, here is a site describing some of the other popular pieces. Japanese Sandman is the last entry at the bottom of the page. I was shocked to see that the author of these lyrics was the same gent that penned that other fantastic song - Good Ship Lollipop! One of my all time childhood favorites!
CD 8/7/10



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