Mudcat Café message #3291660 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #50004   Message #3291660
Posted By: GUEST,Dave Rado
16-Jan-12 - 07:13 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Lady Mary / Palace Grand / The Sad Song
Subject: RE: Origins: Lady Mary / Palace Grand / The Sad Song
This is a fascinating thread. I've loved Joan Baez's rendition of "Lady Mary" all my life and it's amazing that several generations of folk singers have been singing one of the versions of this song while being stumped by its origins - and now Jim on mudcat has unearthed the article in Harper's which proves that the original version of the song (or at least of the words: it doesn't say anything about the melody) was written by Francis Behrynge in around 1871.

But there are still some mysteries.

First, did Behrynge write the melody or was that added by an anonymous singer some time between 1871 and 1900, when May Kennedy McCord first heard it?

Second, Joan Baez said she got it from Randolph, who got it from McCord; yet the lyrics Randolph published in 1931 are significantly different from those that Baez sings (as well as being significantly different from the original version); and the lyrics Randolph published contain no mention of "Lady Mary". The reference to "Lady Mary" seems out of place in an American folk song in any case - American women are not given the title of "Lady.

But in 1941 Randolph recorded McCord singing the lyrics that Baez later used, including the reference to "Lady Mary"; and there is also a recording of McCord singing it in 1960 with those lyrics. So is it reasonable to conclude that McCord herself modified the lyrics to include the "Lady Mary" reference some time between 1930 and 1941? And if so, she might also have made some modifications prior to 1931, so that perhaps the version that McCord heard in 1900 could have been close to the original version that Behrynge wrote and published in 1871, and the differences between the original and the version Randolph published in 1931 might also have been made by McCord herself?

Clearly Baez didn't get the lyrics from the version Randolph published, despite what she wrote in her notes; but maybe she first saw the song written down there and then subsequently heard McCord sing it with the "lady Mary" lyrics, and learnt those lyrics direct from McCord, rather than from Randolph, and later mis-remembered the sequence of events? (I emailed Joan's publicist about that, asking if Joan could shed any light on this, but she didn't reply, unfortunately.)

One other mystery: there is no one in the US or German phone book with the name "Behrynge", at least not with that spelling; and if you google the name, the only search result is Francis Behrynge. So it seems unlikely that he was born with that name, at least with that spelling; and if he had any children, they must presumably have changed the spelling of their surname. However, "Behringer", "Behring" and "Beringe" are all fairly common German names, so maybe his name was really one of those. Could Harper's magazine have mis-spelled his name?