Saturday, February 20, 2010

Chrispy Time Travelin': In Search of ... "Bedelia"

Warning. Although Chrispy tries valiantly to make this a family-freindly blog, the nature of Lovecraft's beliefs and his era and milieu causes us to delve into darkness sometimes. I will do all I can to keep this of moderate temperament. "Bedelia" is ethnic and somewhat racist. Recall, Howard is now 12 years old, and these songs were permeating his young world. Chrispy believes that racism is learned, and usually in the pre-teen or teen-aged years. And so from an early age, HPL was being indoctrinated by his culture and probably by his family.

Before you throw stones at Lovecraft, let us all examine our own prejudices and beliefs. Beware glass houses. Otherwise, let us now scholarly pursure "Bedelia"

The music (no words) can be heard on this quick-time link. You will have to have quicktime. Chrispy was unable to find all the words on this time travel trip, sorry.


OK, Lovecrftians, sit back as we click the time machine and go back to visit young Lovecraft in 1903. He mentions in passing* he used to sing "Bedelia". What's a Bedelia, you may ask? Let's depress "Da Google" button, and slip up the wikipedia lever a notch, and we get ...

"Bedelia (I Want to Steal Ye, Bedelia, I Love You So)", written by Billy Jerome and Jean Schwartz. We now go over to the Indiana University archives and we find ...

Title: Bedelia
First Line: There's a charming Irish lady with a roguish winning way,
First Line of Chorus: Bedelia, I want to steal ye, Bedelia, I love you so,
Composer: Schwartz, Jean
Lyricist: Jerome, William, 1856-1932
Performer: Elizabeth Murray
Published: New York: Shapiro, Bernstein & Co., copyright 1903

Now remember, these hit songs were covered by many, many people once they broke out, so we may not know which singer he heard (see cover art above), or maybe he heard several versions of them. They would be played EVERYWHERE, much like Billy Cyrus' Achy-Breaky Heart or Macarena was a while back. You wouldn't be able to miss it. Believe me, you COULDN'T miss it, any more than you would have missed those songs YOU hear EVERYWHERE.

Here is a commentary:

... the Irish were also vilified in the early 20th century as invaders of the land and stealers of employment. The authors of this song seemed to go for a double play by sub-titling this song as "The Irish Coon Song Serenade". My God, what on earth were they thinking of! The lyrics of the song are all Irish referenced but the sub title perhaps shows just what the authors thought of the Irish.

In fact though, it does appear that it was the musical style, the "coon song" style that they may have been referring to for the lyrics make no mention of African-Americans, nor does it try to make comparisons. The lyrics do however, use stereotypes and common misconceptions about the Irish.


Lovecraft doesn't mention it, but we should add this historical note, as well.

"Cordelia Malone" a novelty song written in 1904 by Billy Jerome and Jean Schwartz, and recorded that same year by popular Irish American singer Billy Murray {Not Bill Murray, the ghostbuster SNK person}. The lyrics are a stableboy's first-hand account of his courtship of Cordelia Malone, a "smart Irish girl". Over the course of the song, he describes his seemingly successful efforts to woo Cordelia through use of the then newly invented telephone, stating that:

"...Young suitors can all nightly flock 'round the door, since her sister Bedelia won fame, but her smiles don't you see, they are only for me, so they might as well leave her alone, 'cause she seems to rejoice at the sound of my voice when I sing through the Bell telephone: "Hello, hello, sweet Cordelia"..."

The name given to Cordelia's sister, 'Bedelia', may be in reference to a popular (previous year) 1903 song, "Bedelia (I Want to Steal Ye, Bedelia, I Love You So)", also written by Billy Jerome and Jean Schwartz.


Well, that's all we have "time" for right now, heh. (Mr. Wells only lets us borrow his machine every so often.)

[* In a 1934 letter he writes down the lyrics of "Bedelia", the big hit of 1903..., I don't have a copy but a reference states this is in Selected Letters: 1932-1934 p. 365 - To J Vernon Shea, 4 February 1934]

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