BLACK JACK DAVID

Latest update on 11/03/2016

Artist: Professor And Mrs. I.G. Greer
Author: traditional
Label: Paramount
Year: 1929

According to Bill Malone (author of Country Music USA) a macho song. This is the hillbilly variation of an English-Irish-Scottish ballad The Gypsy Laddie. Versions under that original title: by John Jacob Niles ('39), Ewan MacColl ('50s), The Tannahill Weavers ('79), Jean Ritchie ('61) and by Harry Cox ('53), Jeannie Robertson ('60) and Paddy Doran ('52), collected in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland and were melted as a medley on the Rounder compilation Classic Ballads Of Britain And Ireland, edited in the Alan Lomax Collection.

Covers:

1939:

Cliff Carlisle

1940:

Carter Family [also as The Gypsie Soldier]

1944:

Woody Guthrie [as Gypsy Davey]

1945:

T. Texas Tyler

1955:

Ed McCurdy [as Black Jack Davy]

1956:

Warren Smith [B-side of Ubangi Stomp]

1957:

Pete Seeger

1957:

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger

1960:

Obray Ramsey

1961:

Bob Dylan [as Gypsy Davey, bootlegged on the East Orange Tape and in '92 as Blackjack Davey on his Good As I Been To You-cd]

1965:

New Lost City Ramblers

1970:

Fotheringay

1970s:

June Tabor [as Gypsum Davey]

1972:

Incredible String Band

1974:

Taj Mahal

1975:

Steeleye Span

1998:

Dave Alvin [idem]

1999:

Jody Stecher [as Gypsy Davy]

2000:

Melville's

2002:

Hackensaw Boys [as Gypsy Davy]

2003:

White Stripes

2004:

Julie Glaub [as Gypsy Davy]

2009:

Seatsniffers

2014:

Carlene Carter [with Kris Kristofferson]

2016:

Loretta Lynn

Song of the ages. According to rock writer Nick Tosches in his book Country, the theme of Black Jack David finds its origin with Plato and the ancient Greeks: the myth of Orpheus & Euridice, where a god descends on earth to capture a lady. Through Roman writers as Virgil the Orpheus myth was spread throughout Europe. What is considered to be the first modern opera, Claudio Monteverdi's l'Orfeo (1607), was based on that same theme. The English, Irish and Scots adapted it again. In their ballads no god but a 'Gypsie Lad' took away their wives. Since the 15th century Gypsies and Travelers of disputable repute roamed all over Albion. See a ballad as The Gypsie Laddie, notorious through the writings of Scotland's national poet Robert Burns. The oldest British versions mention a Johnny Faa, in those days a current name in gypsy circles. In 1540 James V of Scotland granted the title of Earl of Little Egypt to a Johnnë Faa. Later on, all Egyptians were ordered to leave Scotland on pain of death. The Parliament issued a formal expulsion edict and there are facts to prove that a Captain Johnny Faw was arrested and executed in 1624, along with his son and seven disciples. The accusation read: "for contemptuously entering and residing in the country". Immigration policy problems are truly of all times, fed by a case of abduction that was proved by a rolemodel ballad: Lady Cassilis Lilt, a manuscript from 1630 with similar convincing power as a tabloid rumour. A certain Lady Jean Hamilton was in love with a Sir John Faa from Dunbar but got married with the Earl of Cassilis. When that marriage was blessed with two children, the lady's lover reappeared in full Sheik of Araby attire. Lady Hamilton and her Rudolph Valentino were caught in the act by the Earl himself, who executed the Gypsy lad while incarcerating his wife in the castle's tower, throwing the key away. A legend was born. Even today the bridge over the river Doon along the castle wall is still called 'The Gypsies Steps' and there's still an 'Earl Cassell' or a 'Lord Cash' mentioned in modern day versions of the Gypsy Laddie. See the Alan Lomax Collection medley mentioned, whereby the Earl is regarded as the good guy, the 'dark-eyed gypsy' as the bad guy. June Tabor has her own theory explaining this saga's enduring power: a strange man appearing out of the blue, offering a wedded wife a way to escape matrimonial shackles, has long been regarded as an opportunity of a lifetime. Since there were no Gypsies in America, Black Eyed Davy or Black Jack David or Blackjack Davey is regarded as a good outlaw conquering the west and all that goes with it, while it's the lady he dishonored who was all to blame. Stand By Your Man. What works for Blackjack Davey works for the Raggle - or Wraggle - Taggle Gypsies. (see there)

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