21 January 2009

Sherman tractors

As a pacifist and longtime collector of Shermaniana, it has always been a bit troublesome when folks mention General Sherman or Sherman Tanks when I say anything about Shermaniana. You can imagine how thrilled I was when Reverend Lowery said in his benediction at the inauguration that we should beat our tanks into tractors.


nigel fowler said...

Agreed, and I furthermore noted that both both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert later mocked the Rev. Lowery for his concluding remarks, (referring to him as the old man), which I suppose is one of the pitfalls of having to be a satirist every day. Presumably they missed the fact that he was referencing a well-known blues song (at least well-known to Lowery's generation of blacks), the refrain of which goes:
If you're white you're alright
If you're brown stick aroun'
If you're black, brother, get back get back.

I'm grateful for my musicological and historical education.

Sherman Clarke said...

Many years ago, one of my Cornell coworkers introduced me to the "if it's yellow, let it mellow" refrain in reference to saving water in the bathroom. I was amused. More recently, I saw a work by Betye Saar at Michael Friedman Gallery that used the whole refrain from the blues song. I had no idea of the racial origins. You can get some context by googling "betye saar yellow." That really changed my thinking about the refrain. I thought Rev Lowery's benediction was one of the best parts of the whole inauguration ceremony. Perhaps I like "old" stuff.