Date: Mon, 21 Nov 1994 12:35:39 -0500


Subject: Re: song lyrics

Still on The Band v. Joan Baez...

Actually there's no contest. At least on the 1975 live version

("From Every Stage"), Joan got it right and sang "till Stonewall's

cavalry came", the authentic lyric. Who the hell 'uz Stoleman? And it

is a pretty compressed and complex song. I always figured it like this:

the narrator is evidently in SW Virginia (Ollie North country nowadays),

driving "the Danville train", though his wife's "back.. in Tennessee";

but Stonewall's cavalry were tearing up their own side's tracks to

prevent the Yanks from using them; put ol' Virgil Cain right out of work.

The bells were ringing, as they have from time immemorial, to warn of the

(Yankee) enemy's attack; and I guess the image of driving Old Dixie down

summons up driving cattle: the cavalry on horseback, the people

fleeing on foot.

Stereo Review once picked The Band as the most American of

bands except that they were 4/5 Canadian; the song is by Robbie

Robertson, a Canadian, but is a feature for Levon Helm, a Tennessee

mountain boy (he also played Loretta Lynn's daddy in 'Coalminer's

Daughter'). Anyway, it ain't 'Louie Louie'...

My own favorite mishearing was when a linguist friend in grad

school (I won't tell her name, but she wrote an excellent phonetic/

dialectological diss., also in coal-mining territory...) heard the

then-current Eric Clapton hit "Lay Down Sally" as "Way Down South".

Where Clapton learned to vocalize his L's is anybody's guess!

--peter patrick