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They All Laughed (Gershwin)

20 Jun 20 - 05:07 AM (#4060275)
Subject: They All Laughed (Gershwin)
From: Ringer

It's ages since I visited this site. I hope that you will nevertheless treat my request with the civility, erudition and consideration that I remember. It's a request about a song, though not about "folk and roots" music.

George Gershwin's song, They All Laughed, begins
The odds were a hundred to one against me
The world thought the heights were too high to climb
But people from Missouri never incensed me
Oh, I wasn't a bit concerned
For from hist'ry I had learned
How many, many times the worm had turned...

My question is this: what is the significance of "people from Missouri never incensed me?"

Are Missourians renowned for provoking anger in those who come into contact with them, or what?

Thanks in anticipation.

20 Jun 20 - 07:50 AM (#4060297)
Subject: RE: They All Laughed (Gershwin)
From: GUEST,John Bowden (not a typo!)

It seems, from a bit of googling, that people form Missouri have a bit of a reputation for being sceptical, doubtful and not easily persuaded: Wikipedia says:

"There is no official state nickname.[21] However, Missouri's unofficial nickname is the "Show Me State", which appears on its license plates. This phrase has several origins. One is popularly ascribed to a speech by Congressman Willard Vandiver in 1899, who declared that "I come from a state that raises corn and cotton, cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I'm from Missouri, and you have got to show me." This is in keeping with the saying "I'm from Missouri" which means "I'm skeptical of the matter and not easily convinced."

There's a similar reference in the song "You came a long way from St Louis' too, reflecting the same "I'm not as easily impressed as most people" attitude:

"You came here from the middle-west
And naturally impressed
The population hereabouts
Listen, baby; I got news for you
I'm from Missouri too
So, naturally, I got my doubts"

So Gershwin's lyric seems to be saying "I didn't let cynical people put me off loving you"


20 Jun 20 - 09:56 AM (#4060325)
Subject: RE: They All Laughed (Gershwin)
From: cnd

I've seen that explanation elsewhere, but it doesn't satisfy me, personally.

From the context, I think Gerswhin is saying that the singer doesn't care about the opinion of people who haven't been anywhere or done anything, insinuating that Missourians are plain and boring, simple people.

At least, that's how I took it.

20 Jun 20 - 12:17 PM (#4060344)
Subject: RE: They All Laughed (Gershwin)
From: leeneia

I've lived in Missouri since 1976, and I agree with the "Show me" interpretation. John Bowden has nailed it.

20 Jun 20 - 03:34 PM (#4060376)
Subject: RE: They All Laughed (Gershwin)
From: GUEST,John Bowden (not a typo!)

Thanks leeneia - as I'm from the UK I can't speak personally, and am grateful for comments from US Mudcatters who can agree or disagree with my suggestion!

21 Jun 20 - 04:13 AM (#4060492)
Subject: RE: They All Laughed (Gershwin)
From: Ringer

Thanks, John, cnd and leeneia.

23 Jun 20 - 10:11 AM (#4060953)
Subject: RE: They All Laughed (Gershwin)
From: keberoxu

Nice recording of this one as a duet
by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.