Mudcat Café message #1433417 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #6969   Message #1433417
Posted By: Azizi
12-Mar-05 - 09:22 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier
Subject: Lyr Add: JOHNNY CUCKOO
"Johnny Cuckoo" is another military song that includes the name Johnny..[duh!]

This song is included in Bessie Jones and Bess Lomax Hawes 1972 book "Step It Down" [p. 71]. I also have a recorded version of it, also attributed to Bessie Jones on Alan Lomax's 4 CD set "Sounds of the South, from the Georgia Sea Islands to The Mississippi Delta.

The words to that song are:

All:   Here comes one Johnny Cuckoo.
       Cuckoo, Cuckoo.
       Here come one Johnnt Cuckoo.
       On a cold and stormy night.

       What did you come for,
       come for come [here] for?
       What did you come for,
       On a cold and stormy night.

Solo: I come for me a soldier *
       Soldier, soldier
       I come for me a soldier
       On a cold and stormy night.

[Slight increase in speed, begin off beat clapping]

All:   You look too black and dirty
       Dirty, Dirty.
       You look too black and dirty.
       On a cold and stormy night.

Solo: I'm just as good as you are.
       You are. You are.
       I'm just as good as you are.
       On a cold and stormy night.

{continue with here comes 2 Johnny Cuckoos, then 3 Johnny Cuckoos etc}

end of quote.

* I wonder if these words were originally "I come to be a soldier"

Bess Lomax Hawes writes that this song originates from the ancient British game "Three Dukes A-Riding.

I believe that "Johnny Cuckoo" may have originally been composed & played as a means of preparing Black children for the inevitable racial insults that they would receive. At the same time, this song tries to build up the children's self {and group} esteem.

While I wouldn't want children to PLAY this game now, when used with great care, I see "Johnnt Cuckoo" as great way to introduce and discuss the subject of racial self concept among Black children then and now.