I was reading an article today in Slate about a possibly racist gay white (folk?) rock artist that thought that the notoriously racist 1946 Disney song Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Da was a “great song.”  Then I was reminded of a run in with a rather questionable Disney CD that I picked up at a major toy store chain just about a year and a half ago (Children’s Favorite Songs Vol. 1 – still in very wide distribution).  The CD was on sale, Mickey Mouse was smiling on the cover and my wife and I grabbed it thinking it was safe.  We went home and played the CD.  Jimmy Crack Corn came on talking about how his “master’s gone away” and we were like OK, song sucks, but OK.  Then Dixie came on and I almost crapped myself. 

For those of you that don’t know the song Dixie, presumably written by Daniel Decatur Emmett in the 1850’s in a broken English slave dialect, opens with the lyrics “I wish I were in the land of cotton, old times there are not forgotten” then goes on to praise the south.  I learned the song as a youngster in Florida (yes that is the south), but never thought about until I heard it as an adult.  Come to find out it was a minstrel song, performed in black face. And I was able to purchase a copy of it for my son over a 150 years later!  We, of course, returned the CD, but knowing that America (and Disney) still looks at the song as appropriate children’s entertainment is unsettling.  Somehow over time the song became less an expression of a racist slave south, and more of a representation of classic American folk music history.  (The song has lost its racial sting the same way the “N” word almost has.)

Either way it’s origins cannot be denied and I believe that we as fathers should really think twice about some of the seemingly harmless children’s music we purchase.