OK, color me shocked an appalled. At her show last night, Penny Fuller, with no special set-up, launched into a lovely two-verse version of Dixie. After the song, she continued on without comment to I Got a Name.
Now, maybe I was particularly sensitized to the issue by my great friend and musical mentor Carl Barnwell who refused to play the song in a piano bar setting. I’ve always put the song in the area of symbols like the Confederate Flag, the Horst Wessel Song, and swastikas that are radioactive and need to be treated with caution.
I know I have an odd combination of being both highly “politically correct” while having an enormous willingness to be offensive in my work. (I think the balance makes sense because I never want to offend anyone inadvertently.) But I thought this callous disregard for how freighted the material is was shocking both from Fuller who spent much of the show discussing her Southerness and from director Barry Kleinbort.
I had a similar icky moment in the last couple of months. In a show, a performer discussed his move to college in Indiana after growing up in New York as the first time he ever experienced anti-Semitism. He then discussed how popular culture created many of these stereotypes. He then launched into the Irving Berlin song Cohen Owes Me $97 Dollars about a Jewish man who on his deathbed feels the need to communicate the list of monies owed him to his son. However, he performed the song in a way that expected the audience to genuinely laugh, which everyone else did. I personally thought it was a very dirty “gotcha” routine to set people up to actually make anti-Semitism appealing.
OK, maybe I’m overly sensitive. Would love hearing feedback!