Redhead Quickie – Depression Era Series – Pt 2

More music and movement from Langston Hughes.

Song for a Banjo Dance

by Langston Hughes

Shake your brown feet, honey,

Shake your brown feet, chile,

Shake your brown feet, honey,

Shake ’em swift and wil’—

Get way back, honey,

Do that rockin’ step.

Slide on over, darling,

Now! Come out

With your left.

Shake your brown feet, honey,

Shake ’em, honey chile.

Sun’s going down this evening—

Might never rise no mo’.

The sun’s going down this very night—

Might never rise no mo’—

So dance with swift feet, honey,

(The banjo’s sobbing low)

Dance with swift feet, honey—

Might never dance no mo’.

Shake your brown feet, Liza,

Shake ’em, Liza, chile,

Shake your brown feet, Liza,

(The music’s soft and wil’)

Shake your brown feet, Liza,

(The banjo’s sobbing low)

The sun’s going down this very night—

Might never rise no mo’.

Our featured redhead is Christina Hendricks, best known for her role as Joan Holloway on Mad Men. The show takes place in the 60’s, but the main character, Don Draper, grew up as Dick Whitman during the Depression, the product of a prostitute mother who died when he was a young boy, and an abusive father. Joan, limited by the attitudes of her times toward women, uses her sexuality to advance her career, but not without emotional consequences.


The featured popular song from this period is “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” by Young and Ahler which became a standard after it was first recorded by Fats Waller and released on May 8, 1935. I’m not sure which cover I recall from my Grandpa’s collection, but the melody was catchy and the lyrics always tickled me.

I’m gonna sit right down
And write myself a letter
And make believe
It came from you.
I’m gonna write words
Oh so sweet,
They’re gonna knock me
Off my feet,
A lot of kisses
On the bottom –
I’ll be glad I got ’em.

I’m gonna smile and say
“I hope you’re feeling better,”
And close “with love”
The way you do.
I’m gonna sit right down
And write myself a letter
And make believe
It came from you.

Redhead Quickie – Depression Era Series

This is a spin off of the “popular” series Redhead Record Review. It is a celebration of the poetry of Langston Hughes and popular American music of the Great Depression.

For those of you who are of the belief that there is nothing new under the sun, this may help to explain why we sometimes feel we are born into the wrong period in history. The post-hippie conservative inflationary 70’s I grew up in probably had a lot in common with the edge of the Jazz Age Roaring Twenties leading into the Great Depression of 30’s America. Some of my earliest and most lasting memories are of my grandfather sharing the music of his youth on old 78’s, Hi-Fi records and reel-to-reel tapes.

The poetry of Langston Hughes, from his 1935 collection The Dream Keeper, echoes the popular music of the times.

langston hughes

Negro Dancers – Langston Hughes

‘Me an’ ma baby’s
Got two mo’ ways,
Two mo’ ways to do de Charleston!’
Da, da,
Da, da, da!
Two mo’ ways to do de Charleston!’
Soft light on the tables,
Music gay,
Brown-skin steppers
In a cabaret.
White folks, laugh!
White folks, pray!
‘Me an’ ma baby’s
Got two mo’ ways,
Two mo’ ways to do de

Our featured redhead is Mae West. I think she was actually platinum blond, but since photos and movies were in black and white, I can take some liberties. Besides, I already featured Shirley Temple in an earlier post.

Just kidding; representing the period is the great Katharine Hepburn with her performances in Little Women and Morning Glory for which she won an Oscar in 1933.


To lift the spirits of a nation suffering under the weight of desperate times, many of the popular songs featured optimistic and dream inspired melodies and lyrics.

On the Sunny Side of the Street is credited to Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh, but there are some who claim that it was actually written by Fats Waller who sold the rights. The song has been covered so many times, with slight variations. I’ve selected an excerpt from a Billie Holiday recording.

On the Sunny Side of the Street

Grab your coat and get your hat
Leave your worry on the doorstep
Just direct your feet
To the sunny side of the street
Can’t you hear a pitter pat
And that happy tune is your step
Life can be so sweet
On the sunny side of the street

I used to walk in the shade
With those blues on parade
But no I’m not afraid
This Rover crossed over

If I never have a cent
I’d be rich as Rockefeller
Gold dust at my feet
On the sunny side of the street


I drew inspiration, and borrowed theme and structure, from one of my literary heroes. Part One is Langston Hughes’ famous poem, with its enduring image of a raisin in the sun. Part Two is poem for my mother.


What happens to a dream deferred?

      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?

      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?


What of a dream
that is never dreamed at all?

This undreamed dream—
A son dreamed dream
Does she hunt
by the light of the moon?
Or rust and rot—
on her moorings?

Does it suffocate—
Depressed, compressed
under granite?

Or float softly,
like a sad song in the air?

Sunday Scribble Challenge

Sharing my contribution to a fun challenge, #SSC 12, May 28-June 3rd, write a six word story with a twist ending. Inspiration courtesy of the swing of death, and 1992 hip-hop classic Know the Ledge by Eric B. & Rakim.


Stepped over ledge,








Thanks to Natalie of, the writings of my son, Cliff, and of course his chickens for the inspiration


Half-done like a soft-boiled egg, bright and sun yellow, you gently poke and it oozes its sticky nectar.


One foot

in front of other

moving forward…


to sanguinary

baptismal waters

baby step revolution

“No, you may not!”

Phone cameras capture


Assault weapon wielding

hero and




Digitized celluloids chronicle

Immolation of a Nation

Surreality TV

Speak thee of the divinity of Man?


extinction event


Blind Faith and Stick Figure Jesus

Sketch courtesy

This is not a review or retrospective of the album released in 1969 by the band of the same name led by Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood. I found the hand drawn representation of the original controversial album cover by happenstance while doing a Google search of blind faith. The website is interesting and included a link to share, so please visit. I think the sketch dovetails nicely with the drawing featured with my poem.

I was born into the Catholic church, was baptized, received my first holy communion, and later the sacrament of confirmation. Like many children who attend public school, once a week I was excused early to attend religious instruction. There I committed to memory the tenets of the church along with the Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary and the Apostle’s Creed. The language is elevated and beautiful, designed to make us feel safe and loved, and to remind us that we are all sinners.

Shortly after confirmation, I came to realize that the choice to continue my religious education and to attend church was my own. I soon decided that whiffle ball and street football were more interesting pursuits than studying scripture. However, a question raised by a young layperson teacher, who was studying to enter the priesthood, has stuck with me.

“Why did Christ sacrifice himself on the cross for mankind?”

This one was easy, and several kids answered at once, “To open the gates of heaven.”

He smiled, then asked, “What does that mean? Did Jesus come with a key and actually unlock and swing open some huge gate in the clouds?”

What was this? Were we actually allowed to ask questions about our faith and all of the pat phrases repeated to us over and over? At the same time, it was a challenge to look beyond the words to understand the meaning. This was going to be complicated. It is so much simpler to get on your knees, fold your hands and recite what you’ve been taught, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.”

Like any other artistic trait, some people draw better than others. For most of us, our drawing skills haven’t progressed beyond what we learned in grade school. Ask the average adult to sketch a landscape and the result would be hard to distinguish from the efforts of a third-grader. However, the novice can improve their drawing skills, if not intrinsic artistic ability, through instruction and practice. The same is true of one’s understanding of religion and scriptures through guidance and study.

This similarity is the focus of my subject in Stick Figure Jesus. The young woman becomes five-years-old at her desk while exercising her underdeveloped artistic skills to draw a simple representation of Jesus on the cross, or when she kneels to recite the prayers from her childhood. For the innocent five year old girl, the young woman, and her own children, perhaps this is enough. The speaker in the poem is demanding more.

Art is large, the techniques of drawing are small. Spirituality is large, religion is small. My intention is not to measure the relative spiritual benefits of confession and penance, fasting and dietary restrictions, zazen, or even sun worship as a path to enlightenment, but to show through the image of the child turned woman how little her relationship to God has evolved.

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