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September 10, 2020 1:06 PM   Subscribe

"The story of “Our Goodman” leaves us with as many questions as answers. It certainly seems as if the wife is having an affair; yet the husband IS very drunk, or tired, or sometimes blind…is it possible he’s imagining the whole thing? His reactions, too, can be taken in two ways: does “mustache on a cabbage head I’ve never seen before” mean he’s really fooled, or does it mean he understands what’s going on and is making sardonic comments?" A very deep well-researched dive into the backstory and breadth of versions of the widespread folk song Our Goodman. From the American Folklife Center, at the Library of Congress' blog Folklife Today.
posted by jessamyn (9 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, wow. I really only know this song through the Kate Rusby version. It's a special song for my partner and me and I know she's going to love the history here - many thanks jessamyn!

Edit: I think it's the same song way back when??
posted by sedimentary_deer at 2:01 PM on September 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

“mustache on a cabbage head I’ve never seen before”

Look, men with cabbage heads are known philanderers.
posted by deadaluspark at 2:06 PM on September 10, 2020 [4 favorites]

I'm really looking forward to listening to all the versions in the post when I'm off the clock, but in the meantime I can contribute Minneapolis dive bar staple Cadillac Kolstad's swinging number "Cabbage Head". (My favorite is the Kate Rusby version, too, though)
posted by C. K. Dexter Haven at 2:27 PM on September 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

My father used to sing this when we were kids, he called it 'Wifey Dear' and the refrain was "Now wifey dear, wifey dear, please explain to me". I loved it for the funny voices and silly jokes long before I got the dirty joke underneath it all. He would get all thoughtful and confused on the punchline of every verse and it was just the funniest thing in the world to us. Daddy, the man who knows everything, pretending to not understand. What could be funnier?

It was in the small child top ten along with one about a horse named Bill who's super-equine speed lead to misadventures (my favorite was when he "fell entangled with his eyeteeth in the barber's left shoulder") and the filks he'd impromise to various tunes about our pets, or the silly thing the baby said. Wish I had recordings of those.
posted by buildmyworld at 2:34 PM on September 10, 2020 [4 favorites]

My first encounter with this was as "Drunkard's Special," sung by Coley Jones and collected on Harry Smith's landmark Anthology of American Folk Music. I've always liked it, so I'm eager to read the article. Thanks for sharing.
posted by the sobsister at 2:51 PM on September 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

But surely there's never been POWDER ON A HEN???
posted by sedimentary_deer at 3:21 PM on September 10, 2020

Professor Longhair's version was the first I heard. And this is the first I heard of the song's origin. Good post!
posted by CCBC at 3:56 PM on September 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

There are many great variations of this song. The first version that I heard was Steeleye Span's Four Nights Drunk.

Folklife Today looks like a great resource, too. Thank you!
posted by talking leaf at 4:45 PM on September 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

I have the Dr. John version on a few playlists and it's like one of those optical illusions that can be a pair of faces or a vase (or, if you prefer, a mule or a cow) depending on how you look at it.

I swear I've heard a version that ends "last night i come home / tired as a man can be / i found no wife in my bed / where my wife is supposed to be" as it fades out, which is the logical end of the story . . . but of course resolves nothing. Of course his wife ran off with her lover! Or, of course is wife finally got sick of this guy coming home drunk night after night and imagining shit!
posted by mark k at 5:39 PM on September 10, 2020

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