Sad to think we have already come to the end of the 2017 Scarriet March Madness first round in the Song bracket with this contest.
How fleeting life is!
“Sometimes I feel like a motherless child, a long way from home…”
There isn’t a sadder lyric than this in all of song.
Except, perhaps, from “A Horse With No Name:” “After two years in the desert sun, my skin began to turn red. After three years in the desert sun, I was standing by a river bed. And the story it told of a river that flowed made me sad to think it was dead.” Well, no, actually. “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child” is much sadder.
It goes up against another anonymous folk/spiritual lyric: “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine,” which is one of the happiest. Exuberant, one might say.
Both involve parenthood.
We wonder how many, who really don’t have a mother, could sing “Motherless Child” without collapsing in tears? Are the song’s words for the sad, but not the truly afflicted? Melancholy we can tolerate. Depression we cannot.
“This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine” rolls off the tongue very nicely—a great example of alliteration and assonance.
“Sometimes I feel like a motherless child” is dominated by that lone long “e” sound in feel.
Why do folk songs depict sorrow and pain of the most realistic kind? Family sorrow. Murder. Tragedy.
And why is the popular, by contrast, so fluffy and romantic and escapist?
Both folk music and popular music are for “the people.”
So why are they so different?
Opera, which is highbrow, is also concerned with great tragedy.
Therefore folk music, with its sorrow, is closer to high culture—yet “folk songs” are as close to the earth as you can get.
In the middle realm are the smiling musicians, well-presented, jingling and jangling their pretty songs of effusive romance. Melancholy, these songs may be, but they go down easy.
The highbrow is salt, not sugar. (Though genius often mixes the salt and the sweet.)
Who wins this contest? The sorrowful “Motherless Child” or the joyful “This Little Light of Mine?”
Who can possibly say?
These two poles—the sad and happy child—stretch outward to infinity.