Friday fanfare: “Underneath a Harlem Moon”

The original version of “Underneath a Harlem Moon” was an appalling racist piece of crap by Mack Gordon from 1932 that was, of course, incredibly popular because people are horrible. (Randy Newman recorded the song in 1970 for the express purpose of making people uncomfortable, at which he succeeded.) But Ethel Waters, an African-American woman, decided to change the lyrics up and reclaim them magnificently. She first performed her version in 1933 in the short film Rufus Jones for President, and the great Rhiannon Giddens dug up Waters’s version and put it on her Factory Girl EP, and continues to sing the song live. (Here’s a great blog post by Yuval Taylor on the history of the song from 2007, which predates Giddens resurrecting the song.)

Anyhow, here’s Giddens’s version….

2 thoughts on “Friday fanfare: “Underneath a Harlem Moon”

    • No, this video is the studio version from Factory Girl. But I learned the story from the video of her concert at the Met and proceeded to do more research, which is where I found the article I linked to in the blog entry.

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