Waterboy (song)

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For other uses, see Water boy (disambiguation).
"Waterboy" / "Water Boy"
Water Boy sheet music.jpg
Cover of sheet music to a piano version of the "negro convict song" arranged by Avery Robinson for singer Roland Hayes, 1950
Song
Published 1922
Genre Jazz, Folk, Blues
Length Typically 3-4 mins
Writer Traditional
Composer Avery Robinson (arr.)

"Waterboy" (a.k.a. "The Water Boy") is an American traditional folk song. It is built on the call "Water boy, where are you hidin'?"[1] The call is one of several water boy calls in cotton plantation folk tradition.[2]

Originally a black prison[citation needed] work song composed by Jacques Wolfe, a Romanian immigrant, Waterboy became known as a jazz arrangement by Avery Robinson[3] popularized "Water Boy" in the 1920s. From 1949 onwards, it has also been performed by many blues and folk artists.

The opening call to the "water boy" has been said to bear a resemblance to melodies found in classical works by Cui, Tchaikovsky and Liszt, as well as a Jewish marriage song and a Native American tune.[4] The first melody of the subsequent refrain is similar to the old German tune "Mendebras," used for the hymn "Oh Day of Rest and Gladness." [4]

Versions[edit]

This is the version arranged by Avery Robinson[5] (see image).
"Waterboy" was recorded by several other jazz singers around this time, including Fats Waller (see below), Earl Hines and John Payne.
This version appears on the compilations The Country Blues of John Lee Hooker, The Unknown John Lee Hooker: 1949 Recordings and Jack O' Diamonds: 1949 Recordings.[8]
Song: "I've Been Driving on Bald Mountain/Water Boy".[9]
"Waterboy" became a song Odetta performed regularly, and it appears on several of her albums. It is also the song she plays in the film No Direction Home, in a TV performance from the 1960s (shown to highlight her influence on Bob Dylan).
  • Allan Sherman did a parody of the song as "Seltzer Boy" (1962), taken from the album, My Son, the Folk Singer. He was sued by the songwriter's estates for not asking approval beforehand. Sherman paid the penalty for this. (Source: "A Gift of Laughter" by Allan Sherman (1965).)

External links[edit]

References[edit]

Retrieved January 14, 2007 unless stated

  1. ^ Sheila Tully Boyle, Andrew Buni Paul Robeson: The Years of Promise And Achievement - 2005 Page 147 "The work song, "Water Boy," is built around the cry for water of a gang of condemned and laboring men. Robeson sang the refrain ( the water cry itself, "Water boy, where are you hidin'?") a cappella and very softly, and the verses themselves ..."
  2. ^ Harold Courlander - Negro Folk Music U.S.A. 1963 - Page 86 "In the cotton fields and the cornfields of the present time, as on the old plantations, the water carrier is in constant demand. The call for the water boy (or girl), in one or another of ... Some water calls such as "Water Boy, Where Are You Hidin'?" have come to be regarded as true songs, and may be heard on phonograph recordings. The water call given here (Example 14) was recorded In Alabama in 1950."
  3. ^ AMG: Avery Robinson > Songs composed by
  4. ^ a b Sigmund Spaeth, Read ‘Em and Weep. The Songs you Forgot to Remember (New York: Halcyon House, 1926, p. 40.
  5. ^ JSTOR: The Black Perspective in Music, “Isaac Hayes in London” retrieved April 25, 2008
    If unavailable, text also contained in Google search result
  6. ^ Fats Waller - In London, AMG
  7. ^ Fats Waller - 1938, AMG
  8. ^ John Lee Hooker - "Water Boy", AMG
  9. ^ Odetta - "I've Been Driving on Bald Mountain/Water Boy", AMG
  10. ^ Harry Belafonte - Belafonte Returns to Carnegie Hall, www.akh.se
  11. ^ Paul Robeson - The Power & the Glory, AMG