Oh, Lord, not Kumbaya!

Campfire songsMy muse is upset because everyone is making fun of Kumbaya.
Relax, Kumbaya is safe. The story you read in the Gazette, Oh Lord, not Kumbaya, syndicated from the Dallas Morning Herald, is a rather underhanded loaded question. You know the classic example: “When did you stop beating your wife?” Whether you never stopped or never started, the load is delivered, you do. (But you don’t.)

The DMH article asked “How did Kumbaya become such a joke?” and then lists instances of the joke being made: A GOP ad, a Christian Science Monitor quip. They are able to find an early instance in an obscure 80’s comedy Volunteers spoofing the Peace Corps. It seems to me SNL has made fun of everything, that wouldn’t make the ridicule universal.

I was tipped off when my friend paraphrased the article as having said Kumbaya was an “international joke.” What international? The rest of the world isn’t making fun of our spirituals, certainly not our peaceniks. The lambast is purely English-speaking and it’s coming from corporate mouthpieces who want to ridicule any tools of grassroots community efforts.

Television has no interest in sing-a-long songs. People singing together and not looking at the TV doesn’t serve them at all. But for people communing together, a melody and lyric like Kumbaya is very powerful, especially because everybody knows it already. When protestors assembled with Cindy Sheehan last year in Crawford, we sang Kumbaya among others. We wound up singing all the patriotic songs too because they were the only ones we all knew.

And so the media is determined to keep the heat on hippies and idealists, religious or not, by making fun of them, and concluding that the derision is universal. The press laughs with each other’s jokes and then report the humor to be statistically unanimous.

The Dallas reporter asked several etymologists “why did Kumbaya become an idiom for idiocy?” And none of the etymologists knew. Maybe that’s a tip off it isn’t.

Hopefully one day the press will stop trying to paint people who hope for peace and goodwill to all mankind as idiots.

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Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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8 Responses to Oh, Lord, not Kumbaya!

  1. Avatar Marie Walden says:

    Eric, you are so right. Television has no interest in sing-along songs!

    I’d like to buy the world a home and furnish it with love,
    Grow apple trees and honey bees, and snow white turtle doves.
    I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony,
    I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.

    It’s the real thing, Coke is what the world wants today.

  2. Avatar Jonah says:

    yeah, maybe kumbayah isn’t commercially viable because it doesn’t have a snazzy beat they can use to sell us unnecessary crap.

    Also can’t possibly be turned into a war anthem.

  3. Avatar The 13th says:

    I’ve read in days of old that the town fool often led funeral processions.

    Perhaps it’s instinctive for the media to make fools while ignoring concepts of peace. We’re gonna need a lotta Kumbayas to roll these coffins home.

    Years back I recall singing Puff the Magic Dragon with the crowd at an anti-nuke rally staged at one of Colorado’s many silos. I never felt sillier. And likewise, it was those very emotions that I was trying to defend, i.e. my right to Be.

    Keep singing. Ignore the bagpipes.

    On the other hand, I really don’t like Kumbaya very much. So perhaps some lyric sheets might give your clan a chance to sing Imagine, or if so inclined, The Lady is a Tramp, etc.

    After all this IS a diversity movement, is it not?

  4. Avatar Jonah says:

    True. And I remember that the PTA once suggested censoring puff the magic dragon because it was supposedly Drug oriented, that Magic Dragon was somewhere somehow slang for a joint.

    Peter made a statement on that, I will try to quote him as best I can but my recall of verbal input is less perfect than that of text input.
    “If we wanted to do a song about dope we would have said ‘yeah, it makes you stupid, makes you lazy, ruins your health and your sex life’ (and the music performance,)
    But dragons don’t have anything to do with drugs. Drugs are drugs and dragons are dragons, and I’ll believe that until somebody can show me a junkie dragon”.

    I wrote some lyrics we could use if say, a certain self anointed spokesfreak for the right wing lunatic fringe comes to town.

    (to the tune of Old MacDonald) (which I believe is public domain)
    Bill O’Reilly is a punk.
    E I E I O
    and all his friends are wussies too.
    What a bunch of ho’s
    With a bitch bitch here and a punk punk there Everywhere a punk bitch what a bunch of ho’s.

    I can see people who have never been under fire pointing out the hugely obvious fact that killing people is not a good thing.
    On the other other hand, sitting back on their couches and telling others that they are cowards for refusing to go and kill and die for them just, in the copyrighted words of Dudley DooRight, Ups my dander…

    Imagine is copyrighted. You would just have to get permission from Yoko, Paul, Ringo and George’s widow. Which they gladly do. (the Plastic Ono Band AND Wings AND the Travelling Wilburys are affected by the Beatle’s original contracts, had that perpetuity clause in it.)
    I would suggest a mock-up of Happy Birthday but that one, surprisingly enough, is also copyrighted.

  5. Avatar Marie says:

    I like the idea of singing The Lady is a Tramp. I’ll dress like a slutty Statue of Liberty.

  6. Avatar The 13th says:

    Wonderful Marie! It was Ms. Liberty that I was thinking of. After all, she’s only wearing a drape and rumor has it she holds a welcome light too. But let’s not bash the sex life of a statue, lest we’re singing Jonah’s O’Reily song.

    As per copyrights – if it’s in our heads it should belong to us.
    “Imagine” having no “Happy Birthdays”.

    Speaking of copyrights, there’s a group who copyrighted a zillion phone number ring tones just so they could lay claim to the music played when we dial our phone. The lawyers will have to sort this one out by mail.

    Yes, Puff is not about smoking dope, but Kumbaya still sounds better if you do! Few people know this but if you play “Kumbaya My Lord” backwards it surprisingly sounds like “Drape Your Bum in Mayo”. Wonder if we should be worried.

  7. Avatar Jonah says:

    That’s like playing a Windows installation disk backward, and it gives satanic messages, but if you play it forward, it does something even more scary and creepy…. It installs windows on your computer.

  8. Avatar The 13th says:

    I feel compelled to print an addedum to my earlier post on this topic as sometimes humor can be misleading.

    Kumbaya does not sound better with pot. Probably the only thing in my opinion that makes this song sound good at all is when it is performed with/by a crowd.

    Likewise reading a biased newspaper does not get any easier with pot. Probably the only thing that would make the newspaper be useful is a few parakeets and time.

    Whether it is Kumbaya, Puff the Magic Dragon, or even the Birthday song – the important thing is that people try to come together.

    I wanted to clarify this in case any of my own feeble humors might give impression that “wierdos” have taken over Kumbaya.

    It’s a song. No less. No more. And Eric’s original post is right – innuendo and satire is fine among humorists but not by newspaper gossip.

    I would hate for anyone to challenge protest by ethics of fashion, musical taste, or for anything other than opposing the message. This seems basic, but likewise, if the newspaper feels the impressionable can be so easily mislead, perhaps it’s better to dissect some of the humor into retraction for this topic, and I feel better having done so with this (boring) elaboration.

    As for newspapers, read several and/or challenge ALL the editorials with vigor.

    As for protest singing, I still advocate the use of lyric sheets, and am keeping my request in for The Lady is A Tramp.

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