Everything I Need to Know I learned from American Folk Songs

Awhile ago, I was pointed towared the magnificent Everything I Need to Know I Learned from British Folk Ballads.  I have since come to feel we need the American version.  This being the new world, we learn quite a different set of lessons.  Here are some:

1) He don’t love you.  He never did.
2) She don’t love you.  She never did.
3) Because he/she don’t love you, he/she will do you wrong with an unspecified 3rd party.
4) Killing the 3rd party will not help anything.
5) Neither will killing the stranger that she says wants you dead.  See 1).
6) Caliber of gun used to kill 3rd party is immaterial.
7) When in the arms of your best friend’s wife, be sure to have alternate alibi.
8) If you find you are a poor boy in trouble and a long way from home, bet on the ugly horse with the dumb name.
9) Never go out with the man with the overly long watch chain.  See 1).
10) Ditto gambling man.
11) Ditto any man with a snazzy nickname and no surname.
12) If your lover comes to the door at midnight and asks you to go for a ride, check for mud on his boots to ascertain if he’s been secretly digging your grave.
13) If his boots are clean, that’s no guarantee he won’t go for the hitting you over the head and chucking you in the river method.  Best to stay inside.
14) If your mother has a dream predicting your untimely demise under unlikely circumstances, PAY ATTENTION.
15) If your mother tells you not to take your guns to town, PAY ATTENTION.
16) Pay attention to your mother in general.  She’s survived more folk songs than you have.
17) Don’t brag.  You’ll be: eating your words/ spitting dirt/dead within five verses.
18) If you are not absolutely certain of the current location of your true love, check twice before shooting at anything.




Everything I Need to Know I learned from American Folk Songs — 8 Comments

  1. Pay attention to your mother in general. She’s survived more folk songs than you have.

    All brilliant words of wisdom – but the above is my favourite.

  2. Oh, Sarah, it’s brilliant! I laughed till I cried.

    And I’m with Martha — that line about mom surviving more folk songs is the creme de la creme. This blog is a keeper. I’m going to read it at filk sings — it works there too.

  3. Thanks!

    I am quite sure all the bases have not been covered. There will probably a part two.

  4. Ever since I found out that “Drop-kick me Jesus through the goal posts of life” is a real song, I’ve been confident that, while we may be young in the eyes of the English, we cover more situations than they do.

    Wonderful, Sarah!

  5. My favorite song title remains “I’ve Got Tears in my Ears from Lying on my Back in my Bed While I Cried Over You.” Honesty compels me to admit that I don’t know if this song actually exists. But it should.

    Katie, a mother whose folksong preference came from PP&M

  6. I have looked for years for the tune to a song called “If You’ve Never Made Love to the Landlady’s Daughter You Cannot Have Another Piece of Pie,” whose lyrics I heard declaimed once at a folkie cafe. Alas, as yet no joy.