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According to The Story Behind the Song: 150 Songs that Chronicle the 20th Century
, the Hughie Cannon composition "Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home?" signaled the demise of the "coon song". Although it was similar to other songs of the genré using stylized dialect, it deviated from the strongly polar issues of "us versus them" ie black against white.
The song "could easily have been about a rift between a white man and his wife".
While this latter claim is true, it was the rise of Vaudeville and the emergence of a more sophisticated type of humour that led to the demise of the "coon song"; the developments of ragtime, swing and jazz also meant that old-fashioned and archaic music forms quietly fell out of fashion; the same thing happened in due course to music hall.
"Bill Bailey..." was copyrighted 1902 by Howlery Haviland, and 1938 by Jerry Vogel Music. Writing in The Singing Bourgeois..., Derek Scott points out that the 1902 edition contained no ragtime rhythms. The song has long since become a standard, and was recorded in 1902 by both Arthur Collins on Columbia and Silas Leachman on Victoria; both had good sales, although whatever the dialect, this is clearly a song that is best sung by a woman. Later recordings include Della Reese from her 1961 album Special Delivery and a 1969 live duet between Ella Fitzgerald and Jimmy Durante at the Hollywood Palace, (an alluring combination). The song has also been popular as an instrumental.
The sheet music has been widely published, including an arrangement c1988 for brass band by Eric Hughes. (thanks, Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 2)
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