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Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Song titles not intended as insult any more than team nicknames

 In my never-ending quest to augment my available stash of great music for above-the-ground enjoyment, I often go on subterranean spelunking missions, emerging with an arm-load of CDs I haven’t heard for some time.

Last week I came upstairs with five four-packs of CDs (that would amount to 20 discs) by Anita O’Day, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Lee Konitz and Charlie Barnet.

It is the latter disc to which I would like to draw your attention. The Barnet recordings were made before the American Left made its presence known in the area of what we now recognize as Political Correctness.

The furor over our beloved Chief Wahoo, symbol of the Cleveland Indians, is a manifestation of PC. Don’t dispute me on this. If it is now considered Politically Incorrect to approve of the chief, let alone carry on a love affair with the lovable little rascal, you can thank the American Left.

It is they who picket baseball games with their pathetically small band of sign bearers. Mostly they are ignored. They are no longer even considered annoying. Their point, that naming a baseball team after a group of Native Americans, is shared by a few, but as Winston Churchill would have said, only a very few.

But what, you ask, does all of this have to do with Charlie Barnet? Well, in my youth, when the college football teams at Stanford and Miami (O.) had not yet succumbed to PC and bore nicknames that honored American Indians, The Mad Mab, as Barnet was known, recorded song after song with Indian names.

No one cared. No one complained. No one protested.

The best known example was Barnet’s recording of “Cherokee.” It was written, as I recall, by Ray Noble. It was not intended as an insult to real Indians, any more than the naming of nearly a dozen streets in North Willoughby was meant to insult anyone or any group of people.

They were just considered to be pretty names, as “Cherokee” is a pretty song.

Anyone who knows the first thing about popular American music is familiar with the song, and can probably hum it, or even sing the first few lines of it, as I am able to do when driving alone.

But how many other Barnet recordings are you familiar with – songs that have their roots in American culture?

How about “Redskin Rumba?” You may have heard of that. How about Ogoun Badagris (the Voodoo War God?”) Betcha I got you on that one.

Then there is “Pow Wow.” We all know what a pow wow is. You may not have known it is a song in the Charlie Barnet portfolio.

You may not be familiar with “Comanche War Dance.” That’s because you were not with me in the car the other day when I was playing it.

Others on the CD are “By the Waters of Minnetonka” and “Iroquois.”

We are also treated to “Indian Love Call” (also recorded by Artie Shaw with a well-known vocal by Tony Pastor), “Indian Summer,” recorded by many bands and vocalists and especially by tenor saxophonist Stan Getz, and “Wahoo’s Lament.”

That one was new to me.

We also hear “Seminole,” “Redskin Mambo,” “From the Land of the Sky Waters” and “Pale Moon,” which may or may not be a reference to anything Indian in nature.

Now, if it were “Pale Face,” that would be a different story. That is an old Bob Hope movie, which might be a funny film depending on your sense of humor.

The lady of the house and I don’t think he is all that funny. That is why we stopped watching “Road to Zanzibar” after about 15 minutes. But I digress.

My point is, none of these songs, nor team nicknames, is intended to be insulting, any more than Chief
Wahoo expresses anything other than the love of Cleveland baseball fans.

Nor was Betty Hutton intending to insult anyone when she sang, “Send your Injun Chief and his tomahawk back to Little Rain in the Face.” She was just having fun – at nobody’s expense.

Please remember what I told you at the beginning – the only ones who take up the cause of Political Correctness on behalf of Native Americans are those of the American Left and a handful of actual Indians who are being exploited by the Left.

So if you disagree, don’t bother contacting me. I already know who you are. You are from the Left, now known as Progressives, and I have heard your arguments before. They are getting old.
Remember, Charlie Barnet never meant to hurt or insult anyone. And neither did I.


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