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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bert Williams, Play That Barbershop Chord (1910)

(Library of University of Colorado at Boulder)
no copyright infringement intended

This record comes from 1910: the Harlem Renaissance had still one decade or so before coming into stage, still the years around 1910 had their momentum, as they witnessed the entrance of Ragtime (associated till then with bordellos and smoked taverns) into the Harlem mainstream, with its minor key and catchy rhythm. The song of Bert Williams gives us the picture: a kinky-headed ladie they call Chocolate Sadie goes to a rathskeller where a swell colored fella named Bill Jefferson Lord plays the piano, sending the audiences into something prone to ecstasy.

She heaved a sigh
every time she could catch his eye, she'd cry,
Mr. Jefferson Lord, aw, play the barbershop chord!
It's got the soothin' harmony,
It makes an awful, awful, awful hit wit me!

Play dat strain, aw, please, play it again!
'Cause Mister when you start, the minor part,
I feel your fingers slippin' and agrippin' round my heart!
Oh Mr. Lord! Dat's it!
That's the barbershop chord!

(I'm using here info and quoting abundantly from Camille F. Forbes, Introducing Bert Williams: Burtnt Cork, Broadway, and the Story of America's First Black Star)

(Bert Williams)



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