#2. "Yellow Rose of Texas" Was About an Interracial Couple
The Famous Version:
"The Yellow Rose of Texas" is a 150-year-old folk song that Texans like to sing because the word "Texas" is repeated several times. It's a fairly antiseptic love song about a guy who met a pretty girl in Texas and is on his way back there to see her again, presumably to talk her out of rooting for the Cowboys:
One famous version is the above duet, by country stars Lane Brody and Johnny Lee, though there are literally hundreds of recordings out there, because "public domain" is the entertainment industry's favorite phrase.
This gentle folk ballad was one of the first odes to interracial love ever recorded. See, "Yellow Rose" wasn't always just a cutesy nickname to describe a Southern belle. It was originally a literal description of her skin, as the girl was biracial, which at the time was also known as being "high yellow," because old-timey racism was unspeakably strange. The song made her non-whiteness perfectly clear, as well as, incidentally, the non-whiteness of the song's narrator:
There's a yellow rose in Texas that I am going to see
No other darky knows her, no darky only me
And the spirited chorus:
She's the sweetest rose of color this darky ever knew
"Sweetest rose of color" was eventually changed to "sweetest little rosebud," once the 1880s rolled around and everyone decided that a song about a mixed-race girl simply would not do. The even dustier epithet "darky" was changed to "soldier," because they couldn't very well make the Texas flower white and leave her gentlemen suitor a black man.
Library of Congress
Keeping us from watching white Texans sing from a black man's point of view.
The song was allegedly inspired by a woman named Emily West (or Morgan, depending on who's telling the story), a beautiful mixed-race woman who helped Texas win independence by distracting Santa Anna with her feminine wiles and allowing Sam Houston's soldiers to absolutely blow through the Mexicans. (This story may or may not actually be true, considering no official records place anyone fitting that description anywhere near the battlefield.) The radical absence of white people in "Yellow Rose of Texas" has long since been edited out, because while the south has no problem using minorities to gain a competitive advantage, they'll be damned if they're going to sing about them.
#1. "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" Was About a Man Trolling for Strange
Matthew Peyton/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
The Famous Version:
Cyndi Lauper's 1983 smash "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" is almost as powerful a feminist statement as "Respect" and easily just as formidable a karaoke selection:
The lyrics make it unmistakably clear that she and every other strong, free-spirited woman out there has the right to rage against the social norms and do whatever she wants, up to and including spending uncomfortable amounts of time with Captain Lou Albano.
via The Independent
That microphone must smell like a septic tank explosion at this point.
Surprisingly, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" was written and recorded several years earlier by Philadelphia musician Robert Hazard, and it was every bit as complementary to the women's lib movement as Robin Thicke's collection of deep V-necks.
For the most part, Hazard's lyrics are the same as Lauper's, with slight yet incredibly significant differences. For example, in the first verse, Lauper sings:
I come home in the morning light
My mother says when you gonna live your life right
Oh mother dear we're not the fortunate ones
And girls they want to have fun
Her definition of "fun" is ambiguous enough that it could be anything from sex to an all-night pizza party, and, more importantly, she's the one deciding. Hazard's version slaps on a greasy layer of patriarchal chauvinism that, despite changing only a handful of words, manages to suck all of the joy out of the song:
Come home with the morning light
My mother says, "My boy, you've got to start living right"
Don't worry, mother dear, you're still number one
But girls just want to have fun
These girls just want to have fun
"I'm trying to come home and go to sleep, mom," Hazard seems to be saying, "but you know how much these girls love my penis." Those fun-loving girls will be the death of him, but there is no nobler way to shuffle loose this mortal coil than having indiscriminate sex with multiple partners. The song isn't about girls having fun so much as it is about Robert Hazard having fun.
"So ... ever play the skin flute?"
If you're still not convinced of Hazard's dubious intent, here is a bridge that Lauper didn't even bother trying to rewrite and include in her version:
I know your love for him is deep as the day's long
I know you'd never be the thing to do him wrong
But when I knock on the door, I'm close now, you'd better come
It really wasn't important. Because girls just want to have fun
Basically, "I know you have a boyfriend and you don't want to hurt his feelings, but that's all bullshit. What you really want is to drop everything and have sex with me whenever I decide to troll up to your apartment." Also, we cannot stress enough how sinister the line "But when I knock on the door, I'm close now, you'd better come" sounds. That's like something you call and tell the babysitter when you are the murderer in a campfire story.
Lauper understandably referred to Hazard's original composition as that "which we do not speak (of) lest we go blind," and made the necessary changes to the lyrics to turn the song into a massive Grammy-winning hit. Meanwhile, the appropriately named Hazard shriveled into the obscurity afforded to all aging self-aggrandized womanizers.
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