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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

(p.77) 4 Ol’ Man Parody
Who Should Sing Ol' Man River?

Todd Decker

Oxford University Press

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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