Give me your answer, do

In a July 2013 post about summer songs, I mentioned the 1892 ditty “Daisy Bell” or “Bicycle Built for Two.” A young man proposes, but then what? One of my listeners introduced me to extra verses that continue the story. In some versions, the suitor is named Michael, in others Harry (in honor of the song’s composer, Harry Dacre). Either way, here’s Daisy’s cheeky reply:

Michael, Michael,
Here is my answer true.
I’m not crazy
All for the love of you.
If you can’t afford a carriage
There won’t be any marriage.
‘Cause I’ll be switched
If I’ll get hitched
On a bicycle built for two!

Harry, Harry,
Here is my answer true.
I’d be crazy
If I were to marry you.
If you can’t afford a carriage
You can’t afford a marriage,
And I’ll be damned
If I’ll get crammed
On a bicycle built for two.

This got me thinking about the genre known as “Answer songs,” when not just an additional verse or two, but an entire new song is written in response to another. For example:

  • “I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen” (1875) is Thomas Westendorf’s answer to another popular ballad of the time, “Barney, Take Me Home Again.” You don’t hear much about Barney anymore, but Kathleen endures.
  • Hughie Cannon’s “Bill Bailey Won’t You Please Come Home” (1902) inspired the tune “I Wonder Why Bill Bailey Don’t Come Home,” published the next year.
  • Drawing words from an old nursery rhyme, Ella Fitzgerald and Al Feldman wrote “A-Tisket, A Tasket” in 1938. Fitzgerald collaborated with bandleader Chick Webb on a follow-up song: “I Found My Yellow Basket.”
  • “Open the Door, Richard” (1947) prompted at least 6 answer songs, including “I Ain’t Gonna Open That Door” and “My Name Ain’t Richard.”
  • The Weavers’ 1950 recording of the folk song “Goodnight, Irene” was soon answered by novelty vocalist Ziggy Talent’s “Please Say Goodnight to the Guy, Irene.”
  • Woodie Guthrie wrote “This Land Is Your Land” in 1940, his response to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.” Guthrie originally titled his song “God Blessed America for Me.” His lyrics favor a political message over a patriotic one.
  • Rosemary Clooney’s smash hit “Come on-a My House” (1951), by playwright William Sarayon and his cousin, Ross Bagdasarian, is an adaptation of an Armenian folk song. It was Sarayon’s only venture into popular songwriting. (Bagdasarian is known mostly for creating the animated Alvin and the Chipmunks characters.) “Come on-a My House” has an answer song, “Where’s-a Your House?,” recorded by 1950s game-show host Robert Q. Lewis. It makes me laugh.

Copyright © 2014 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.

This entry was posted in Music history and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Give me your answer, do

  1. Judie says:

    I never knew William Sarayon wrote that song! Can’t wait to tell Ross. Love what I learn from you!

  2. June ritchie says:

    Makes you wonder if any of the popular music of today will be worth while talking about 50 or 60 years from now?

  3. Aunt Evie says:

    Your research is amazing. Too bad there’s not a quiz show on songs and song writers–you’d be the big winner.

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