Thoughts on minstrels and music

Blackface seems to have made a comeback in Virginia.  Maybe the actual use of it was a while back, but it’s in the news now.  Blackface was traditionally used in a ‘minstrel show’, where a white man sings in imitation of a black man.

Mark Steyn mentioned minstrel shows a few years ago while discussing racial silliness in the news and politics.  Then the topic jumped back into his lap more recently.

Historically, a minstrel was a musician who sang songs and played an instrument to entertain.  That older idea is what Gordon Lightfoot was talking about in Minstrel of the Dawn, but at least one phrase fits these politicians in blackface: not too wise.

The minstrel of the dawn is he
Not too wise but oh so free
He’ll talk of life out on the street
He’ll play it sad and say it sweet

Another song that comes to mind, also unrelated to minstrel shows, is Minstrel Boy, over two hundred years old but still relevant.

The minstrel boy to the war is gone;
In the ranks of death you’ll find him;
His father’s sword he has girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him;

 

 

 

 

 

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