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Who Should Sing Ol' Man River?The Lives of an American Song$
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Todd Decker

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199389186

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199389186.001.0001

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Ol’ Man Parody

Ol’ Man Parody

Chapter:
(p.77) 4 Ol’ Man Parody
Source:
Who Should Sing Ol' Man River?
Author(s):

Todd Decker

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199389186.003.0004

Parody versions of the lyrics to “Ol’ Man River” and satirical performances of the song are brought together in this chapter. A radio sketch by Stan Freberg endeavored to “correct” the lyric’s faulty grammar; a reciprocal sketch by Phil Silvers imagined Kern teaching the well-educated Robeson to sing in dialect. The possible Jewish content of the song is explored by way of a spoken version delivered in a thick Yiddish accent and a contemporary sung version called “Cold Chopped Liver” sung by a rabbi and posted on the Internet. Parody versions by black musicians who revised the lyrics in an effort to adjust racial stereotypes in the song are also discussed.

Keywords:   parody lyrics, Stan Freberg, Phil Silvers, Cootie Williams, Jewishness in popular music, racial stereotypes

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