American Pierrot: A Langston Hughes Songbook

Song Cycle by Robert G. Patterson (b. 1957)

Word count: 742

1. When Sue wears red [sung text not yet checked]

When Susanna Jones wears red
Her face is like an ancient cameo
Turned brown by the ages.
 
Come with a blast of trumpets, Jesus!
 
When Susanna Jones wears red
A queen from some-time Egyptian night
Walks once again.
 
Blow trumpets, Jesus!
 
And the beauty of Susanna Jones in red
Burns in my heart a love-fire sharp like pain.
 
Sweet silver trumpets, Jesus!

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Confirmed with Mein dunklen Hände. Moderne Negerlyrik in Original und Nachdichtung, herausgegeben und übertragen von Eva Hesse und Paridam von dem Knesebeck, München: Nymphenburger Verlag, 1953, page 62.


Researcher for this text: Sharon Krebs [Guest Editor]

2. Midnight dancer [sung text not yet checked]

Wine-maiden
Of the jazz-tuned night
Lips
Sweet as purple dew,
Breasts
Like the pillows of all sweet dreams,
Who crushed
The grapes of joy
And dripped the juice
On you?

Authorship

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

3. Love song for Lucinda [sung text not yet checked]

Love
Is a ripe plum
Growing on a purple tree.
Taste it once
And the spell of its enchantment
Will never let you be.

Love
Is a bright star
Glowing in far Southern skies.
Look too hard
And its burning flame
Will always hurt your eyes.

Love
Is a high mountain
Stark in a windy sky.
If you
Would never lose your breath
Do not climb too high.

Authorship

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

4. Lady's boogie [sung text not yet checked]

See that lady
Dressed so fine?
She ain’t got boogie-woogie
On her mind –

But if she was to listen
I bet she’d hear,
Way up in the treble
The tingle of a tear.
Be-Bach!

Authorship

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

5. Words like Freedom [sung text not yet checked]

There are words like Freedom
Sweet and wonderful to say.
On my heart strings freedom sings
All day everyday.

There are words like Liberty
That almost make me cry.
If you had known what I know
You would know why.

Authorship

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

6. Go slow [sung text not yet checked]

Go slow, they say --
while the bite
Of the dog is fast.
Go slow, I hear --
While they tell me
You can't eat here!
You can't live here!
You can't work here!
Don't Demonstrate! Wait! --
While they lock the gate.
Am I supposed to be God,
Or an angel with wings
And a halo on my head
While jobless I starve to dead?
Am I supposed to forgive
And meekly live
Going slow, slow, slow,
Slow, slow, slow,
Slow, slow,
Slow,
Slow,
Slow?
????
???
??
?

Authorship

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

7. Visitors to the Black Belt [sung text not yet checked]

You can talk about 
Across the railroad tracks — 
To me it's here 
On this side of the tracks. 

You can talk about 
Up in Harlem — 
To me it's here 
In Harlem. 

You can say 
Jazz on the South Side — 
To me it's hell 
On the South Side: 
  Kitchenettes 
  With no heat 
  And garbage 
  In the halls. 

Who're you, outsider? 

Ask me who am I.

Authorship

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

8. Dream boogie: variation [sung text not yet checked]

Tinkling treble,
Rolling bass,
High noon teeth
In a midnight face,
Great long fingers
On great big hands,
Screaming pedals
Where his twelve shoe lands,
Looks like his eyes
Are teasing pain,
A few minutes late
For the Freedom Train.

Authorship

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

9. Silhouette [sung text not yet checked]

Southern gentle lady,
Do not swoon. 
They've just hung a black man
In the dark of the moon. 
They've hung a black man
To a roadside tree
In the dark of the moon
For the world to see
How Dixie protects
Its white womanhood. 
Southern gentle lady,
Be good! Be good!

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Researcher for this text: John Musto

10. Heart [sung text not yet checked]

Pierrot
Took his heart
And hung it
On a wayside wall.

He said,
"Look, Passers-by,
Here is my heart!"

But no one was curious.
No one cared at all
That there hung
Pierrot's heart
On the public wall.

So Pierrot
Took his heart
And hid it
Far away.

Now people wonder
Where his heart is
Today.

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Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

11. Soledad (A Cuban Portrait) [sung text not yet checked]

The shadows
Of too many nights of love
Have fallen beneath your eyes.
Your eyes,
So full of pain and passion,
So full of lies.
So full of pain and passion,
Soledad,
So deeply scarred,
So still with silent cries.

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Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

12. Life is fine [sung text not yet checked]

I went down to the river,
I set down on the bank.
I tried to think but couldn't,
So I jumped in and sank.

I came up once and hollered!
I came up twice and cried!
If that water hadn't a-been so cold
I might've sunk and died.

But it was Cold in that water! It was cold!

I took the elevator
Sixteen floors above the ground.
I thought about my baby
And thought I would jump down.

I stood there and I hollered!
I stood there and I cried!
If it hadn't a-been so high
I might've jumped and died.

But it was High up there! It was high!

So since I'm still here livin',
I guess I will live on.
I could've died for love --
But for livin' I was born

Though you may hear me holler,
And you may see me cry --
I'll be dogged, sweet baby,
If you gonna see me die.

Life is fine! Fine as wine! Life is fine! 

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Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]