A Song for A Mexican Soldier

For this blog post, I was going to focus on When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again and its Civil War origins changed for the Glenn Miller Band. I like other blog posts are striving to write for narratives that don’t just tell a story of white culture. As my final blog post, this attempts to shine light on marginalized groups and the importance of music in ties to their story.

While Glenn Miller adapted the 19th century song to his style of jazz to rally national spirit against the US enemies of World War II, using jazz as a strictly white American identity, in Mexican culture, something similar happened. Pedro Infante recorded the song, El Soldado Rosa, in 1943 for Mexican soldiers fighting in World War II.


The lyrics state:


Me voy de soldado raso
Voy a ingresar a las filas
Con los valientes muchachos
Que dejan madres queridas
Que dejan novias llorando
Llorando su despedida.

Voy a la guerra contento
Ya tengo rifle y pistola
Ya volveré de sargento
Cuando se acabe la bola
Nomas una cosa pienso
Dejar a mi madre sola.

Virgen morena
Mandale su consuelo
Nunca jamas permitas
Que me la robe el cielo.

Mi linda Guadalupana
Protejela a mi bandera
Y cuando me haga en campaña
Muy lejos ya de mi tierra
Les probare que mi raza
Sabe morir…



I am going as a buck private,
I am going to the front lines
with brave boys
who leave beloved mothers,
who leave sweethearts crying.
Crying on their farewell.
I am leaving for the war content,
I got my rifle and pistol,
I’ll return as a sergeant
when this combat is over;
The only thing I regret:
leaving my mother alone.
Brown Virgin,
send me your blessing,
never allow
heaven to steal her from me
My lovely Guadalupe
will protect my flag
and when I find myself in combat,
far away from my land,
I will prove that my race
knows how to die anywhere.
I leave early tomorrow
as the light of day shines
here goes another Mexican
who knows how to gamble his life,
that gives his farewell singing:
singing to his motherland.
Brown Virgin,
I entrust my mother;
take care of her she is so good,
take care of her while I’m away.


I find the line that discusses one having to die in war in order to p

rove their race is worthy particularly striking. In modern media, Latinx people are not depicted with respect so I cannot imagine the kind of bigotry faced during this time of national pride and lack of representation in mainstream media.

In a correspondence with former bracero Adolfo González, he states how important these pieces were to Mexicans for their morale in the war. He states:

 “í, cÃémo no. De aquel señor Jorge Negrete que era entonces y el señor Infante, esos eran muy grandes, grandes cantantes que lo divertían a uno. Cantinflas. (risas) (“Of course. Jorge Negrete was popular back then and then Pedro Infante. They were popular, great singers. They would entertain us. Cantiflas. [laughter].”)

Recorded Interview Here

Many in Mexican culture considered Infante very popular. Many migrant workers would sing his songs including El Soldado Rosa. The content produced by record companies to support the war and music presented from the soldier’s perspective is infinite but in contemporary media, we often gloss over content of minorities (specifically Mexican) and how

the war affected the music they produced and wrote.


YouTube, YouTube, www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-u-tWKr4AI.

-““El Soldado Raso”.” The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience, ABC-CLIO, 2019, latinoamerican2.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1481722. Accessed 18 Nov. 2019.

-“Bracero Program: Adolfo Gonzáles (Daily Life).” The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience, ABC-CLIO, 2019, latinoamerican2.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1741283. Accessed 18 Nov. 2019.



Another College Kid with a Guitar

I never read the Manitou Messenger (please don’t tell anyone I said this). I’m not a huge fan of the writing and as a senior, I’m trying to slowly assimilate to the outside world. Finding “Whatever folks are singing…that’s what makes it folk music” delighted me because it addresses ideas we’ve concluded with readings and in class discussion.

The article advertises a folk music festival at the college, encouraging everyone to audition. The article opens with a quote by Pete Seeger (the focus of my final paper) defining folk music as “whatever folks are singing; that’s folk music” (even though its so much more complex than that). Later in the article, the writer attempts to categorize folk by stating it addresses themes such as love, death, work, and historical events.

I’m not sure if this is just me, but these are extremely broad topics that doesn’t narrow down or help the reader understand what they’re supposed to understand about folk. I don’t blame the writer for their lack of communication of what folk is. The writer takes a quote from another musician on campus saying, “born with a feeling, putting into words and given a melody”.

I’m also impressed that the article recognizes the debate between the self-labeled purists and commercial style that came from record labels selling folk as a specific style.



As discussed in class and in the beginning of the article, this genre is incredibly difficult to grasp conceptually. I’m impressed for an early 60s article of St. Olaf of how honest the writer is about genuinely not knowing to answer the folk question. They provide certain musicians’ definitions but never make a solid claim on folk music. My only issues with this article comes from its failure to acknowledge the racial component within the broad genre of folk. Part of the reason folk has so many different styles within this umbrella genre is because of the exchanges made interracially throughout the late 19th and early 20th century.



-Newbury, Jan. “Universal Databases.” Welcome to East View – Manitou Messenger (DA-MM), 1963, No. 1, Vol. 76, stolaf.eastview.com/browse/fullimage?issueId=2712140&pg=6.

Dvořák’s Letter to a Friend

Antonín Dvořák

As we have read in the latest Shadle reading, Antonín Dvořák’s interest in involving black music into a specific American sound sparked controversy in the American classical world of music. In a letter, Anton Dvořák wrote to Oskar Nebdal, his former student and principle conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra from 1896 to 1906. The letter comes from Otakar Dvořák’s work, Anton Dvořák, My Father. The date of the letter is unknown but I believe its reasonable to guess it came after the publication of From a New World. Dvořák writes:

“I am sending you Kretschmar’s analysis of Symphony, but omit the nonsense that I used an American and Indian motif because it is a lie. I just wrote in the spirit of American national melodies,” (Dvořák 159).

(Hermann Kretschmar: German musicologist)

After reading this passage for class, I had questions regarding the intentions and thoughts of this composer. After finding this letter, I have more questions. If Dvořák sparked so much controversy in America defending his stance of Negro music needing to make American music distinctive, then why leave out details for his friends at home. What does he mean by the spirit of American national melodies? In my last blog post, I discussed the spirituality involved in Negro Spirituals argued by H. T. Burleigh and Samuel Floyd Jr.
Perhaps Dvořák didn’t want to explain the race relations of America to his Czech friends and the controversy following him around. Another possibility could be the composer wanting credit for the music and not being told he stole from other sources.

I find this letter fascinating. While it makes a clearer image of the life of Dvořák during this time, it brings up more and more questions about the thought process of the composer and what occurred during this time for him.



-Dvořák Otakar, and Paul J. Polansky. Antonín Dvořák, My Father. Czech Historical Research Center, 1993.

Floyd and Burleigh’s Spiritual Requirements

As a class, we have encountered H. T. Burleigh many times already. As an African American composer, he adapted many pieces of Negro Spirituals into concert spirituals. Burleigh has been criticized for not presenting these songs in their original style but also praised for preserving them. In the Sheet Music Consortium, I found a H. T. Burleigh piece, “Tis me, o Lord; Standin’ in de need of Pray’r” with a preface saying, “Success in singing these Folk Songs is primarily dependent upon deep spiritual feeling. The voice is not nearly so important as the spirit;”. Burleigh takes part in the spiritual belief one must have when performing these songs. There are only a few other authors throughout this semester who argue this. One could say he’s trying to keep this works genuine because he goes on to warn against performing these songs by “treat them as ‘minstrel songs’”. Yet, he still relies on a spiritual aspect of performance.

H. T. Burleigh; Arranger of “Tis me, o Lord; Standin’ in de need of pray’r”


I found this text fascinating because I immediately thought of one of our dear friends Samuel A. Floyd Jr. and the notion of “cultural memory” he constantly brings up throughout the reading. He defines it as, “Cultural memory, obviously a subjective concept, seems to be connected with cultural forms-in the present case, music, where the ‘memory’ drives the music and the music drives the memory,” (Floyd 8). Both accounts suggest the almost metaphysical aspect to performing this music. They both stress the importance of the person’s spirit becoming involved in the music.

We’ve encountered these two accounts by black men telling us how spirituals must be performed. Both musicians have studied and lived with this music for their lives. As members of the black community with a long history with this music, do we take their notions of “cultural memory” and “spiritual feeling”. On top of all this, Burleigh wrote in classical European style, so how on earth does a white person approach this work keeping all these ideas in mind?

Samuel Floyd Jr.




-“Samuel A. Floyd, Jr. (1937-2016).” UC Press Blog, 25 Aug. 2017, www.ucpress.edu/blog/22093/samuel-a-floyd-jr-1937-2016/.


-“H. T.  Burleigh (1866-1949).” The Library of Congress, www.loc,gov/item/ihas.200035730


-Floyd, Samuel A. “Introduction.” The Power of Black Music: Interpreting Its History from Africa to the United States, Oxford University Press, 1997.

-Burleigh, et al. “Tis Me, o Lord; Standin’ in De Need of Pray’r; Negro Spiritual.” Duke Digital Collections, G. Ricordi, 1 Jan.1970, library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/hasm_n)738/.


In class discussions, the topics of advertising someone based on their race has popped up in conversations multiple times. In our context, we’ve only mentioned this in design of literal records. This article shows the same affect taking place or at least reinforcing that idea with a Teen Life magazine article written by Elvis Presley where he talks about his music. The preface to the article states, “A young lad born in Mississippi and whose singular style of singing has skyrocketed him to fame in his own words tells the simple truths about how a star is born.”

The entire article from here on, tries to defend the “original style” that Elvis has made for himself. Elvis has become controversial in the past few years for his appropriation of music by black artists such as hound dog (originally recorded by Big Mama Thorton. He states in the article, “A lot of people ask me where I got my singing style. Well, I didn’t copy my style from anybody. I got nothing in common with Johnny Ray, except we both sing-if you want to call it singing” (citation). As a modern audience, we can all agree this is not true at all.
Through a simple search on YouTube, we can confirm that Elvis took music and musical styles from black artists such as Big Mama Thorton’s original performance of the song “Hound Dog”.

Teen Life Article

I doubt Elvis read the George Pullen Jackson we had to read for class and thought “Oh! Some of African American music comes from white countries, so it’s okay that I do this”.

Johnny Ray

I can only think of two answers to Elvis’ intentions when writing these words that contradict his actions. Either, he is a big fan of the works of George Pullen Jackson and believed the work to be his or due to multiple factors in the past decades, it was completely acceptable to just take work from black artists if you needed to support yourself and your family. In the article he focuses on how his success has helped him and his poor Mississippi family. Johnny Ray, a white singer who also borrowed from a lot of black artists, is the only one Elvis acknowledges might have a similar style.


-Presley, Elvis. “Elvis Tells You His Own Story in His Own Words.” Teen Life, Apri. 1959, pp. 15-15

-Yiannis/John. “Johnnie Ray.” Johnnie Ray, 1 Jan. 1970, gaycultureland.blogspot.com/2016/10/johnnie-ray.html.

Blackface Minstrelsy on the World Stage

Here is a picture of William “Billy” Emerson

As talked about in class, blackface minstrelsy that originates from the United States. This form of racism borrows from the Italian theatrical form of Commedia Dell’arte as well as multiple musical practices (a form I have performed and trained in). This performance practice came to feed into a culture of racism and uphold the constructs of whiteness and blackness in the United States in ways that affect our contemporary society. It’s also important to recognize how this form became seen from an international perspective.
In an 1885 article of the Huntsville Gazette, a newspaper based in Alabama, there’s an article called “Two Noted Minstrels, Who Have Won Fortunes and What They Say About Stage Life”. The article discusses the minstrel performer “Billy” Emerson who immigrated from Scotland to pursue a life on stage. Many assume that performers were only white American men but blackface became so popular during this time that shows went on international tours.
The article says:
He visited Australia in 1874 and on his return to America joined Haverly’s minstrels in San Francisco at $500 a week and expenses. With this troupe he played before her majesty, the Queen, the Princes of Wales, and royalty generally.

In class we discussed how common minstrel shows at the White House had become but rarely are the performances for European royalty recognized. This is an example of non-Americans working in an American form or being exposed to an American form. Europeans took part in blackface Minstrelsy but my question becomes “Does this form become entirely tied to an American sense of identity such as the mime for the French or Commedia Dell’arte for Italians?” This past performance practice became capitalized on and I worry blackface minstrelsy is the only American form we are known as a country for during this century. Thinking internationally, I question how this form we made affected racial constructs in other countries.


“Two Noted Minstrels, Who Have Won Fortunes and What They Say About Stage Life.” Huntsville Gazette, 6 Oct. 1885, pp. 4–4.

Yeager, Danni Bayles. “Billy Emerson.” Performing Arts Archive, www.performingartsarchive.com/Vaudeville-Acts/Vaudeville-Acts_B/Billy-Emerson/Billy-Emerson.htm.

Troublesome Music Collecting

Lomax and Amerson

In the first recordings blue grass, Erich Nunn argues the whiteness of Lomax making the informant uncomfortable in his playing. In my other blog, I discussed the tension in recordings that may have risen with Frances Densmore. In this post, this picture shows the collector and the informant, as Nunn describes. The discomfort of the performer with the collector makes me question the authenticity of the recordings. In the recording, Monologues on Accidents, the interaction between the collector and musician becomes awkward the longer they interact:


McTell: Well, that . . . all songs that have reference to our old people here . . . they hasn’t very much stuff of the people nowadays because . . .

Lomax [interrupting]: Any complaining songs, complaining about the hard times, and sometimes mistreatment of [sic] the whites. Have you got any songs that talk about that?

McTell: No, sir, I haven’t. Not at the present time because the white people’s mighty good to the Southern people, as far as I know.

Lomax: You don’t know any complaining songs at all?

McTell: Well . . .

Lomax: “Ain’t It Hard to Be a Nigger, Nigger,” do you know that one?

McTell: Well . . . that’s not in our time. And . . . now, there’s a spiritual down here called “It’s a Mean World to Live In,” but that don’t have . . . still don’t have reference to the hard times.

Lomax: It’s just because of the . . . Why is it a mean world to live in?

McTell: Well, no, it’s not altogether. It has reference to everybody. Country music and the souls of white folk 627

Lomax: It’s as . . . It’s as mean for the whites as it is for the blacks, is that it?

McTell: That’s the idea (Nunn 623)

With the racial politics of the era, it becomes reasonable to ask if any of these recordings collected are authentic. In this interaction, it seems as though Lomax is looking for a concept of black music rather than what the specific musician had to offer. Even as a respected musicologist, I question what John Lomax specifically looked for in his collection as well.
This photo includes John Lomax and musician Richard Amerson, who went on to record other folk albums later on in his career.
I continue to wrestle with the idea that record companies would advertise to different racial groups based on the race of the musicians. I wonder if this also become the case for Lomax and his collection based on the Monologues On Accident and photo. It feels as though while Lomax may be preserving a tradition through recordings, but also preserving problematic notions of race through his preconceived notions of what he wanted in his collection.


– Nunn, Erich. “Country Music and the Souls of White Folk.” Criticism, vol. 51, no. 4, 2010, pp. 623–649., doi:10.1353/crt.2010.0000.

– “Negro Folk Music of Alabama, Vol. 3: Rich Amerson—1/ Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, folkways.si.edu/negro-folk-music-of-alabama-vol-3-rich-amerson-1/African-american/album/Smithsonian.

– Lomax, Ruby. Richard Amerson and John A. Lomax, Sr., at the Home of Mrs. Ruby Pickens Tartt, Livingston, Alabama. 27 Oct. 1940.

Densmore and the uninterested Ute Tribe

When studying Frances Densmore’s notes on the music of the Pawnee people, I was impressed that many recordings were supplemented with written European musical notation such as sheet music. Phonetic pronunciation of words and sounds were provided. It’s very clear that for the time, Densmore used all the resources available to her to put together an archive of Native American tribal music.
When reading through her memoir of Frances Densmore and American Indian Music, Densmore accounts on instances where her plans of recording tribes became difficult due to lack of cooperation. In this primary source dating from 1916, she recounts her first encounter with the Ute tribe, located on their Southwest Colorado reservation, and their disinterest in making an archive and recording.
She writes:
Not all Indian tribes have the same disposition and before I went to the Utes I was warned that they were “touchy” by nature. Events proved this to be correct. From the day of my arrival the Utes did not like the idea of my work. I had a pleasant cottage for an office, far enough from neighbors so the singing could not be overheard, and on a street conveniently near the trader’s store. I set up the phonograph in the front room, secured a good interpreter and hoped for singers. Many Indians came out of curiosity, looked in the windows, sat around the room and laughed. In vain I explained through the interpreter, that I had been with many tribes who were glad to record their songs. I told of the building in Washington that would not burn down, where their voices would be preserved forever, but still they only looked at each other and laughed (Densmore 39).

The lack of desire from these tribes to work with Densmore poses a problem. Densmore is a pioneer in her attempt to preserve the believed to be disappearing traditions of Native American tribes. Through all the work we have studied as a class, I believe her intentions were to give the most accurate preservation of the music and such is shown in the visceral work she provides through writing and recordings. This primary source makes me question the authenticity of the work Densmore strived for (the musical practices and songs of Native American tribes) given that there were clearly Native people who had no interest in cooperating with Densmore. There are many factors that make me question whether Densmore achieved the goal she set out. Not only were the people clearly apprehensive but their songs had been taken out of their ceremonious context.

The musicologist may have also brought some tension to the situation. In her article of The Music of American Indians, Densmore writes, “In all his means of expression, the Indian is still a child. When he dances, he puts his feet together and moves from side to side with a motion precisely like that of a three-year-old.” When the collector and performer comes to the act of recording with such tension and veracity, how can an accurate recreation of these practices take place?

These sources open the audience up to the possibility that Densmore may have not achieved her goal. In the book, Densmore labels this section as “Incidents In The Study of Ute Music”. The format in which Densmore chooses to present the encounter becomes a question of biased as well as mention in The Music of American Indians that they are children. If the passage begins with her warning the reader of the tribe being “touchy” and continuing on to what allegedly happened, it stands to reason that other tribes may have felt uncomfortable taking part in Densmore’s work but had not spoken up.

Works Cited

-Hofmann, Charles, and Frances Densmore. Frances Densmore and American Indian Music; a Memorial Volume. Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, 1968.

-FRANCES D. “THE MUSIC OF THE AMERICAN INDIANS.” Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine (1868-1935), vol. XLV, 03, 1905, pp. 230. ProQuest, https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.stolaf.edu/docview/137407364?accountid=351.