cadeblog:

I’ll begin with Ray Charles’ rendition of James A. Bland’s “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” (1878). Bland, a African-American composer, wrote this piece for black-face minstrelsy engaged with the ‘longing for the south’ rhetorical tradition of civil war American. Highly controversial, the song exemplifies the contradictory and often counter-intuitive reality of American folk music. “Folk” songs often do not sprout from the lay people themselves, but from professional composers whose work is taken up by the community through a complicated process of popular music dissemination. What was born as a highly controversial folk song about African-Americans “longing” for the “cotton fields” of the American south, became adapted by African-American communities and reclaimed. The song is often regarded now as highly problematic and is rarely performed notwithstanding its haunting beauty.