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Elizabeth Cotten
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Satisfied Mind

Elizabeth Cotten

Objective: Listen to a pre-blues song sung by Elizabeth Cotten, an African American guitar player and singer and add a new verse.

Freight Train and Other North Carolina Folk Songs and Tunes sung and played by Elizabeth Cotten on guitar and banjo, produced by Smithsonian/Folkways, distributed by Rounder Records, 1989.

Elizabeth Cotten is one of the most well known African American banjo players from the Piedmont area of North Carolina. She was born in 1893 and died in 1987. She played traditional folk songs and wrote some of her own. Freight Train is probably her most famous song. She taught herself to play on her brotherís five string banjo and got her own guitar for $3.00 around 1912 after working for 75 cents a month doing odd jobs for a neighbor. She was left handed and played her guitar and banjo upside down. She said people would always tell her to turn that guitar around the right way. When she got her guitar, she played it all the time and her mother would have to tell her to put it away and go to bed when it got to be late.

One of the songs Elizabeth wrote is Oh, Babe It Ainít No Lie. The story behind this song is that Elizabeth's neighbor told a lie about Elizabeth and as a result she was punished for something she had not done. Elizabeth wrote this song about the neighbor and the neighbor overheard her singing it and told her what a pretty song it was. Elizabeth was tempted to tell the lady the song was about her, but she resisted and just kept right on playing. The blues style of this song is typical of the music in the African American communities in the Piedmont of North Carolina in the early 1900s .

Oh, Babe It Ain't No Lie by Elizabeth Cotten
Thereís one woman in this town oh Lord
She keeps telliní her lies on me.
I wish to my soul that woman would die
She keeps telliní her lies on me.
Oh Babe it ainít no lie (3 times)
Lord this life Iím liviní is very hard.

I been around this big round world
And I just got back today
I work all week and I give it all to you
Honey baby what more can I do?
Of babe it ainít no lie (3 times)
Lord this life Iím liviní is very hard.

Listen to the song.
Think of a time when you thought life was hard or unfair and write a verse about it.


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