What does the song “Rednex – Cotton Eye Joe” mean?

What does the song “Rednex - Cotton Eye Joe” mean? songs

In the nineties of the twentieth century, many rating projects appeared on the world musical arena, which had a significant impact on the minds and tastes of contemporaries and subsequent generations. Among such discoveries is the Swedish pop group Rednex, which was born in 1994. The name of the group goes back to the American word “redneck”, which means a rude, uncouth person or, to put it simply, a redneck.

The authorship of this project belongs to the producers Patrick Edenberg and Janey Eriksson. They managed to realize a daring plan – to combine the super-popular arrangements of the Eurodance direction and American rhythms in the country style. The debut was the song “Cotton Eye Joe”. This happened in August 1994. The composition immediately received powerful recognition from the audience. This can be confirmed by the fact that she immediately took a leading position in the charts of the vast majority of European countries. Literally in a couple of weeks, the song was also loved overseas. What is so attractive about this work – let’s try to figure it out.

Song history

“Cotton Eye Joe” is an American folk song created in a traditional style. The first written mention of this work dates back to 1882, when Louisa Clarke Pirnell’s book Diddy, Dumps and the Kid, or Childhood on a Plantation, was published. The writer told readers that from an early age she had heard how the slaves sang this song on the plantation that belonged to her father.

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Later, in the twenties of the twentieth century, several stories were published by people who happened to hear how this song was sung in the period before the Civil War in the United States. Common in such stories was the fact that the folklore melody sounded in the performance of slaves, who retold the story of “Cotton-eyed Joe” in different ways.

In 1967, a new stage in the life of a popular song began. This is due to the appearance of an instrumental version of the work, which was recorded by Al Dean. It is easy to guess that “Cotton Eye Joe” turned out to be perhaps the most famous folk melody on the American continent.

In 1994, thanks to the fact that the group “Rednex” introduced “Cotton-eyed Joe” into their repertoire, a new phase of the song began. The whole world recognized the composition. People warmly accepted the remix of the famous beat presented by him. In 2002, the Swedish team performed another reading of this song, when people were able to enjoy the dance version of the composition.

The variety of interpretations of the song “Cotton Eye Joe”

Many people are familiar with the song “Cotton-eyed Joe”, but few will be able to explain what these same “cotton eyes” are.

All variations of the text basis of the song are dedicated to the same story. The narrator was despondent because a mysterious man, who was nicknamed Cotton-eyed Joe, suddenly appeared in the city. This stranger kidnapped his young lover and disappeared with lightning speed.

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Throughout the years that this song has existed, several versions of the decipherment of the phrase “cotton-eyed Joe” have been put forward.

In the early years of the performance of such a composition, the expression “Cotton Eye” was perceived as American slang and meant a person who has amazing bright eyes that allow him to differ from others.

Soon a version appeared that the owner of the “cotton eyes” was simply drunk. He drank so much alcohol that his eyes became like cotton or cotton. With this version of the reading of the text, the abduction of the girl appears as the result of a terrible intoxication of the hero: in a sober state, it would not have occurred to him to commit such a crazy act.

A third version of the cotton-eyed Joe suggests that this kind of eyes are indicative of blindness caused by excessive consumption of low-grade grain alcohol. This alcohol was often consumed in the 19th century. This interpretation does not abolish the previous one, but only concretizes it.

Another way of understanding our phrase concerns the racial affiliation of the hero. According to this view, we have a dark-skinned man with light blue eyes.

In addition, the fate of such a character is clarified. This is a runaway Negro slave who escaped from a cotton plantation from back-breaking and exhausting labor. He managed to celebrate his escape with a heavy drink, and then went “on exploits” and stole the narrator’s beloved.

Finally, the most curious version, which tries to solve the mystery of “Cotton-eyed Joe”, says that we are not dealing with a person, but only with a dance. Such a view of the popular folklore text is found in the book Negro Folk Rhymes by Thomas Washington Talley, which appeared as early as 1922. This work clearly shows the idea that “Cotton Eye Joe” refers us to African slavery. In addition, it is said that this folk melody was performed by slaves who tried with all their might to escape death on the plantation.

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Instead of a conclusion

The composition “Cotton Eye Joe” was a huge success in the United States. However, many Americans were touched by the way the group showed the stereotypes of their historical past. Pat Rainis, one of the representatives of Rednex, tried to justify himself to the public in this situation. He noted that his colleagues did not want to offend anyone with their portrayal of the American folklore tradition.

Despite the fact that this composition was very popular in North America from the very beginning of the existence of the Swedish group, it was only in 2017 that the inhabitants of this continent managed to hear it performed live. The merit of «Rednex» is that the team, with its unusual composition, attracted the attention of the world to universal human problems, which will have to be solved for a long time to come.

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