Fables of Faubus

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"Fables of Faubus"
Song by Charles Mingus
from the album Mingus Ah Um
Composer(s)Charles Mingus
Producer(s)Nat Hentoff[1]

"Fables of Faubus" is a song composed by jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus. One of Mingus's most explicitly political works,[2] the song was written as a direct protest against Arkansas governor Orval E. Faubus,[3] who in 1957 sent out the National Guard to prevent the integration of Little Rock Central High School by nine African American teenagers.

The song was first recorded for Mingus's 1959 album, Mingus Ah Um. Columbia refused to allow the lyrics to the song to be included,[4] and so the song was recorded as an instrumental on the album.[5][6] It was not until October 20, 1960 that the song was recorded with lyrics, for the album Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus, which was released on the more independent Candid label.[5] Due to contractual issues with Columbia, the song could not be released as "Fables of Faubus", and so the Candid version was titled "Original Faubus Fables".[7] The personnel for the Candid recording were Charles Mingus (bass, vocals), Dannie Richmond (drums, vocals), Eric Dolphy (alto saxophone), and Ted Curson (trumpet). The vocals featured a call-and-response between Mingus and Richmond.[1] Critic Don Heckman commented of the unedited "Original Faubus Fables" in a 1962 review that it was "a classic Negro put-down in which satire becomes a deadly rapier-thrust. Faubus emerges in a glare of ridicule as a mock villain whom no-one really takes seriously. This kind of commentary, brimful of feeling, bitingly direct and harshly satiric, appears far too rarely in jazz."[8]

The song, either with or without lyrics, was one of the compositions which Mingus returned to most often, both on record and in concert.

Cover recordings[edit]

The song has been recorded by other jazz musicians, including Gerry Mulligan, Lionel Hampton, Charlie Hunter, Oliver Lake, Project Trio and the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. The Normand Guilbeault Ensemble released a version called "Fables of (George Dubya) Faubus" in 2004.

The Mingus Big Band's recording of "Fables of Faubus", on their album Gunslinging Birds, features in the background the piano player playing tunes of the civil war, like the Confederate "(I Wish I Was in) Dixie" and Federal "Battle Hymn of the Republic", emphasizing Mingus's contempt for racism.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Santoro 2001, p. 173
  2. ^ Hersch 1998, p. 113
  3. ^ Hersch 1998, p. 109
  4. ^ Santoro 2001, p. 154
  5. ^ a b Monson 2007, p. 183
  6. ^ The liner notes to the 1998 reissue of the album state that the piece started life as an instrumental, and only gained the lyrics later.
  7. ^ Monson 2007, p. 264
  8. ^ Heckman, Don (August 1962). "About Charles Mingus". American Record Guide: 916–18. As cited in Santoro 2001, p. 198

External links[edit]