Friday, October 3, 2008

Darlin' Corey


Today we'll look at the bluegrass song, Darlin' Corey. My painting from my Bluegrass Series is above (click to enlarge).

Darlin’ Corey 30" by 40" Acrylic on canvas. C 2008. The song Darlin’ Corey has been recorded by most of the top bluegrass pickers and was a crossover hit for Bruce Hornsby. The song is similar in form and chord structure to Little Maggie though they are distinctly different songs. In some versions some of the lyrics have floated between the songs.

The painting is a series of four scenes:

1) Darlin’ Corey sitting by the sea with a forty-four around her body and a banjo on her knee.

2) Darlin’ Corey sleeping after drinking too much corn liquor. A possum tries to wake her and warn her the revenuers are coming.

3) Two revenuers spot Darlin’ Corey’s still.

4) A man digs a hole in the meadow (her grave) to lay Darlin’ Corey down. A bluebird sings on an overhead branch.

Darlin’ Corey is modeled loosely on the L’il Abner character Daisy Mae. The blond hair and outfit a striking appearance. The first scene (Darlin' Corey with banjo) is based on an actual cover of a L'il Abner comic strip. The challenge was to make a painting that included all these elements but still focused on the "Wake up wake up" verse. Here are the lyrics:

Darlin’ Corey

Wake up wake up darlin' Corey,
What makes you sleep so sound?
The revenue officers are coming,
They're gonna tear your still-house down.

Well the first time I seen Darlin' Corey,
She was sitting on the banks of the sea.
Had a forty-four around her body,
And a banjo on her knee.

Go away go away Darlin' Corey
Quit hanging around my bed.
Your liquor has ruined my body,
Pretty women gone to my head.

Dig a hole, dig a hole in the meadow,
Dig a hole in the cold, cold ground.
Dig a hole, dig a hole in the meadow,
Gonna lay Darlin' Corey down.

Can't you hear those bluebirds a-singing,
Don't you hear that mournful sound.
They're preaching Darlin' Corey's funeral
In some lonesome graveyard ground.

My lyrics are essentially those found in the early recordings done in the 1920's. The last verse is largely attributed to Bill Monroe, but who knows where he got it. Here's a version from the 1920s by Buell Kazee with solo banjo accompaniment:

The song has evolved since then but it still has that modal quality. It uses a dorian mode with a b7 and b3. I play it in the key of G with a capo on the 2nd fret (sometimes higher). Many people play the same chords as Little Maggie.

Next blog we'll look at some details from my painting. If you are interested in obtaining a print of this painting let me know:


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