The Sun Singer's Travels

Malcolm R. Campbell's World

Research falls out of the sky from the strangest places

Writers never know when a fact’s going to be needed. So, we jot things down in notebooks and/or keep links in a DOC file.

adamI like looking at the wild sheet music covers on American Memory, the Library of Congress site filled with recordings, photographs and articles from long ago. There’s a lot of good stuff out there even though the search engine can use some work; by that I mean, stuff shows up in the list of hits that has nothing to do with the search terms.

Old sheet music had covers that don’t match today’s political correctness, music lovers’ styles and fads, or even the kind of music we like. That’s why they’re fun to look at.

Needless to say, when I saw the cover for “Why Adam Sinned,” a song written in 1904 by Alex Rogers and performed by Aida Overton Walker, I wanted to know why.

Due to copyright restrictions, I can’t reproduce the lyrics here, though you can find them elsewhere if you keep looking. But the why of it is this: He sinned because he didn’t have a mother to teach him right from wrong.

Now, since Eulalie–my African American conjure woman in “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and “Eulalie and Washerwoman”–is also a singer and makes a lot of references to music, this “why” about Adam is perfect for her to say in a conversation about the good Lord. Who knows when and where I’ll use it, but sooner or later she just might tell the deacon something like this:

“‘It’s just like the song testified about: He didn’t have no Mammy to teach him right from wrong,’ said Eulalie.”


“‘It’s just like Aida Walker sang: He didn’t have no Mammy to teach him right from wrong,’ said Eulalie.”

The deacon probably won’t like hearing that, but she won’t care because she likes stirring things up.

Writers collect bits and pieces of stuff like some people save baseball cards or have rooms filled with old car parts or stuff from along the side of the road that might come in handy some day.

You just never know. . .


cwcBoth conjure woman novels are available in audiobook, e-book and paperback from major online booksellers; you can also ask your nearby bookstore to order them from their Ingram catalogue.


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