One of the first pieces of vinyl I had as a child was Puff The Magic Dragon by Rocking Horse Orchestra And Chorus. After a few dozen listens, I basically only played two tracks: “Puff…” and “Pick A Bale Of Cotton.” I used to sing both loudly in my room especially the “Oh, Lordy!/Pick a pale of cotton/Oh, Lordy!/Pick a bale a day.” It wasn’t until decades later that I found out it was an old work song sung by slaves. At first I was felt bad, but soon realized that this joyous, infectious song got many through a very dark time in American history.
After tracking it down to hear it again, I realized this version reeks of irony. This version is so completely prefect in performance that it is rendered soulless. All emotion behind it is gone. That it had been white washed. This struck me as pretty damn funny as I learned more of the history of the song. Of course, this makes it perfect for a children’s album: keep it as simple as possible, remove emotion and pick the catchiest songs to include. Oh, wait, that’s capitalism.
“Pick A Bale Of Cotton”