The Yellow Rose of Texas (song)
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|"The Yellow Rose Of Texas"|
Cover of 1858 sheet music.
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"The Yellow Rose of Texas" is a traditional American folk song. Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time. Several versions of the song have been recorded, including by Elvis Presley and Mitch Miller.
The earliest known version is found in Christy's Plantation Melodies. No. 2, a songbook published under the authority of Edwin Pearce Christy in Philadelphia in 1853. Christy was the founder of the blackface minstrel show known as the Christy's Minstrels. Like most minstrel songs, the lyrics are written in a cross between the dialect historically spoken by African-Americans and standard American English. Written in the first person from the perspective of an African-American singer who refers to himself as a "darkey," longing to return to "a yellow girl," a term used to describe a bi-racial woman born of African-American and white progenitors. The song is an homage to Emily D. West, an indentured servant who was mistress to Mexican President Antonio López de Santa Anna during the Texas Revolution, and her service in support of the rebel Texans.
The soundtrack to the TV miniseries James A. Michener's Texas dates a version of the song to June 2, 1933 and co-credits both the authorship and performance to Gene Autry and Jimmy Long. Don George reworked the original version of the song, which Mitch Miller made into a popular recording in 1955 that knocked Bill Haley's "(We're Gonna) Rock Around The Clock" from the top of the Best Sellers chart in the U.S. Miller's version was featured in the motion picture Giant, and interestingly hit #1 on the U.S. pop chart the same week Giant star James Dean died. Stan Freberg had a simultaneous hit of a parody version in which the bandleader warred with the snare drummer, Alvin Stoller, who also featured prominently in Miller's arrangement. Billboard ranked Miller's version as the No. 3 song of 1955.
|Earliest known version, from Christy's Plantation Melodies. No. 2|
The "Dearest Mae" and "Rosa Lee" referenced in the song are the titles of two other songs also appearing in Christy's Minstrels songbooks.
25 years later, the lyrics were changed to eliminate the more racially specific lyrics, with "Soldier" replacing "darkey;" and the first line of the chorus, "She's the sweetest rose of color," (a reference to the African-European free people of color) changed to "She's the sweetest little rosebud ..."
"Dearest Mae" is replaced with "Clementine" in some variant versions of the song.
Civil War song
This song became popular among Confederate soldiers in the Texas Brigade during the American Civil War; upon taking command of the Army of Tennessee in July 1864, General John Bell Hood introduced it as a marching song. The final verse and chorus were slightly altered by the remains of Hood's force after their crushing defeat at the Battle of Nashville that December:
- And now I'm going southward, for my heart is full of woe,
- I'm going back to Georgia, to find my Uncle Joe,
- You may talk about your Beauregard, and sing of Bobby Lee,
- But the gallant Hood of Texas played hell in Tennessee.
The modified lyrics reference famous Confederate military commanders Joseph Johnston, P.G.T. Beauregard, and Robert E. Lee. Texan veterans sang it openly to mock Hood's mishandling of their Nashville campaign.
In this version of the chorus, "soldier" replaced "darky." The same substitution is made throughout the song.
In September 1955, for six weeks, Mitch Miller, had a Billboard number one hit, with the Yellow Rose of Texas. His lyrics were the sanitized version using "rosebud" and no words to indicate either Rose nor the singer were non-white.
Miller's version is the one played during the diner fight scene in the film Giant. Interestingly, the song was at number one when one of the film's stars, James Dean was killed in an automobile accident on September 30.
There is also a children’s text, following the same tune, with different lyrics:
- The Yellow Rose of Texas
- And (the) Man of Laramie
- Invited Davy Crockett
- (oh) to have a cup of tea.
- (oh) The tea was so delicious
- They had another cup
- And left to Davy Crockett
- To do the washing up.
"The Yellow Rose"
In 1984, country music artists Johnny Lee and Lane Brody recorded a song called "The Yellow Rose," which retained the original melody of "The Yellow Rose of Texas" but with new lyrics, for the title theme to a TV series also entitled The Yellow Rose. It was a Number One country hit that year.
- Western Writers of America (2010). "The Top 100 Western Songs". American Cowboy. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014.
- Dunn, Jeffrey D; Lutzweiler, James (2014) , "YELLOW ROSE OF TEXAS," Handbook of Texas Online, University of Texas at Austin: Texas State Historical Association
- Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1955
- Lanning, Michael Lee. Civil War 100: The Stories Behind the Most Influential Battles, People and Events in the War between the States. Sourcebooks, Incorporated 2006. ISBN 978-1-4022-1040-2 p 306.
- Walker, Gary C. The War in Southwest Virginia 1861-65. A&W Enterprise 1985. ISBN 0-9617896-9-7 p 130.
- Whitburn, John (1983). Top 40 Hits 1955 to present. New York: Billboard Publications, Inc. p. 188. ISBN 0851122450.
- Whitburn, Joel. The Billboard Book of Top 40 Country Hits. Billboard Books. p. 54.
- Jeffrey D. Dunn and James Lutzweiler: The Yellow Rose Of Texas from the Handbook of Texas Online
- MP3 file at Yellow Rose of Texas from amaranthpublishing.com
- MIDI file and lyrics from Songs of Texas at Lone Star Junction: A Texas and Texas History Resource
- The short film A NATION SINGS (1963) is available for free download at the Internet Archive
- Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics