Sound Off: Where The Military's Rhythm Came From

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Sound Off: Where The Military's Rhythm Came From

Postby Trip on Wed Jun 18, 2014 3:02 am

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Sound Off: Where The Military's Rhythm Came From

Listen to it here:
http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=322589902&m=322610716
4 min 53 sec

http://www.npr.org/2014/06/16/322589902/sound-off-where-the-militarys-rhythm-came-from?ft=3&f=2

Think about all of those Hollywood depictions of the American military, from to to . In almost every one, a bunch of guys will jog past the camera at some point, singing and stepping in unison.

The first time that happened was in 1944, when a particular rhythm infiltrated the segregated Army. The cadence was credited to a soldier named Willie Duckworth. As told on a V-Disc, one of the inspirational recordings made during World War II by the U.S. military and sent to troops overseas, Duckworth was "chanting to build up the spirits of his weary comrades."



Until just this spring, Bobby Gerhardt served in the Army as a wheeled vehicle mechanic. He says he has spent more than nine years marching to, running to and calling cadence. His favorite to call follows the rhythm of Duckworth's now 70-year-old composition, though with updated lyrics.

"When I joined I had no idea how anything worked. Everything was brand new," Gerhardt says. "For me, hearing that first cadence the very first time was awesome. Because you always wanted to hear what the next verse was. So you always wanted to keep up so that you could hear the person calling the cadence so you knew what to say back to them."

The infectious appeal of cadences is used to motivate and coordinate people who might not have anything else in common. But they also do something more fundamental.

"The main purpose that I was always taught with staying in step and keeping up with the cadence, was that it would help your breathing and help your cardio if you could run and sing and manage your breath at the same time," Gerhardt says.

Cadences get a group of people doing that in unison. They rely on the call-and-response action of work songs, so they come from a long tradition. Richard Rath, an associate professor at the University of Hawaii, and author of the book , says slaves brought work songs here, and they developed to help deal with dangerous jobs.

"Like pounding rice in a mortar and pestle, where one person has to scoop the rice out and two other people are pounding with big pestles — if somebody messes up, they get scrunched," Rath says.

But a little deviation, lyrically or rhythmically, can make the cadence more effective. Bobby Gerhardt cites one cadence in particular that appeared in the 1960 Elvis Presley movie G.I. Blues.

"It's kind of off-step. And it's kind of in-between a step, but once you have a group of people marching to that cadence, it puts a big smile on your face because it's a cadence that no one's calling around the rest of the base," he says.

It's not the marchlike one-two of the standard military cadence. It's syncopated — the emphasis is on the offbeat. And that can put a spring in a soldier's step or help a worker move faster. Richard Rath says syncopation and complex rhythms made music more useful to workers than the bosses realized. Say you're rowing a boat on a rice plantation and singing to pace yourself.

"If you're rowing on the twos and the planter says speed up, you speed up the song and then row on the threes," Rath says.

It's resistance through rhythm.

Pvt. Willie Duckworth, raised by his sharecropper grandparents in Jim Crow Georgia, knew something about that. And the concept isn't foreign to Gerhardt.

"I had a couple of 'em that I'd always call, because they kind of pushed the envelope of what we were allowed to call," he says.

The aim of cadences might be to control people. But they don't always work that way.


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Last edited by Trip on Wed Jun 18, 2014 3:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sound Off: Where The Military's Rhythm Came From

Postby shawnsegler on Wed Jun 18, 2014 5:52 am

I learned something today. Thanks for posting.

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Re: Sound Off: Where The Military's Rhythm Came From

Postby chud on Wed Jun 18, 2014 9:21 am

Thanks Trip, interesting article.

By the way as an aside, I have always been interested in the way Clint Eastwood jogs in some of his movies such as Hearbreak Ridge, and Any Which Way You Can.
Though I don't know much about running, he seems to run "properly" to me: back straight, feet moving in more of a short gliding shuffle than a long stride, etc...sort of like what is described here: click.

Not to get off topic, but anyone have any insight or experience in that area?
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Re: Sound Off: Where The Military's Rhythm Came From

Postby yeniseri on Wed Jun 18, 2014 9:49 am

It makes sense from an organic standpoint ;D
Mother Earth, Nature, Rhythm, Beat, Music, Joyous, Harmonics......
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Re: Sound Off: Where The Military's Rhythm Came From

Postby Steve James on Wed Jun 18, 2014 9:58 am

More likely descended from the traditions of cadence work songs. For ex.
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Re: Sound Off: Where The Military's Rhythm Came From

Postby roger hao on Wed Jun 18, 2014 11:54 am

The first time was 1944?

Hard to believe. No one before 1944 ever chanted/sang while marching?
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Re: Sound Off: Where The Military's Rhythm Came From

Postby Steve James on Wed Jun 18, 2014 11:57 am

I think they're talking about a particular chant. There's probably been "hup two three four" since people started marching.
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Re: Sound Off: Where The Military's Rhythm Came From

Postby shawnsegler on Wed Jun 18, 2014 3:53 pm

So no "I don't know but I've been told...Eskimo Pussy is mighty cold" before WWII.

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Re: Sound Off: Where The Military's Rhythm Came From

Postby roger hao on Wed Jun 18, 2014 4:00 pm

Boom chaka laka laka
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Re: Sound Off: Where The Military's Rhythm Came From

Postby klonk on Wed Jun 18, 2014 4:35 pm

Then there are the taunting inter-rhythms:

An' Jody was there when you left?
Right!
And what did you do but you
Left!
And what do you say but I'ze
Right!
Sound off!

It's the ingenious marriage, a poetic masterpiece, of Left, Right, Left,

You LEFT your girl, am I RIGHT?

Jody stands in for every useless bastard who ever got your girl.
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Re: Sound Off: Where The Military's Rhythm Came From

Postby Steve James on Wed Jun 18, 2014 4:35 pm

A song sung by Captain Pip Bernadette in Volume 2 of the Hellsing manga. Seen by fans as one of Pip's defining characteristics.
The lyrics to the Eskimo Song are as follows:

I don't know but I've been told
Eskimo pussy is mighty cold!
Tastes good!
Mighty good!
Good for you!
Good for me!


I knew it was familiar :) http://www.mangareader.net/205/hellsing.html

And, of course, good old FMJ
Last edited by Steve James on Wed Jun 18, 2014 4:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sound Off: Where The Military's Rhythm Came From

Postby Steve James on Wed Jun 18, 2014 4:43 pm

Btw, fwiw, "Jody" is an old African-American folk character like Staggerlee. It's short for "Joe the grinder."

Bruce Jackson has also written an article which gives a pretty good picture of the origins of the "Jody" songs. This is what he has to say in "What Happened To Jody" (Journal of American Folklore 80, 1967)

Life in an army during wartime and life in prison anytime have a number of aspects in common, so it's not surprising when we find items of folklore shared by both camps. One mutual concern is who is doing what, with, and to the woman one left at home. In Negro folklore, this concern is personified in the songs and toasts about one Jody the Grinder-"Jody", a contraction of "Joe the" and "Grinder", a metaphor in folk use for a certain kind of coital movement.

Jody's activities and life style are perhaps best described in the toast bearing his name. Roger Abrahams collected a version of "Jody the Grinder" in Philadelphia in the early 1960's. I collected a longer and more detailed version in Texas in 1965. The toast is pretty well dated by its content and slang: "solid news" and "solid sender" were out of circulation by the early 1950's; Japanese war brides didn't start receiving much attention until some time after the
American occupation of Japan was well under way, probably around 1947. The atom bomb and fall of Japan are so central that they supply an
absolute early cut off. One would be safe in assuming somewhere between 1947 and 1950.

But Jody was around earlier. He is named in the brief blues "Joe the Grinder", recorded by John Lomax from the singing of one Irvin Lowry
in Gould, Arkansas, in 1939. During the war years, Jody figured in the marching song "Sound Off", a version of which is printed in Alan
Lomax's "The Folk Songs of North America". Lomax says "In many variants this song was sung by all Negro outfits in World War II." Abrahams notes that "This song is often called 'Jody's song' and other similar ones 'Jody Calls'.
Woody Guthrie in an undated note included in "Born to Win", says, "The best of marching I saw in my eight months in the army was to the folk words of a folky chant tune that went:

Ain't no use in writin' home/Some joker got your gal an' gone/
Hey, boy, ya' got left, right?/Ho boy, ya' got right."

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Re: Sound Off: Where The Military's Rhythm Came From

Postby klonk on Wed Jun 18, 2014 4:51 pm

As with masterpieces in general, we may say that further imitation is inferior. Jody was there when you left. I'm right.
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Re: Sound Off: Where The Military's Rhythm Came From

Postby Trip on Wed Jun 18, 2014 5:05 pm

chud wrote:Thanks Trip, interesting article.

By the way as an aside, I have always been interested in the way Clint Eastwood jogs in some of his movies such as Hearbreak Ridge, and Any Which Way You Can.
Though I don't know much about running, he seems to run "properly" to me: back straight, feet moving in more of a short gliding shuffle than a long stride, etc...sort of like what is described here: click.

Not to get off topic, but anyone have any insight or experience in that area?


Don’t know if this will help much but here’s an alternative running method that has a lot of overlap with your post.
It’ the Pose method that Crossfit promotes.

Image
http://crossfitendurancespfld.com/2012/03/23/what-is-pose-running-and-why-do-we-teach-it/pose-stance-full/

I’m not endorsing the Pose method, just thought you’d find it interesting. Especially the overlaps like foot landing under the hip.

Here’s a link to a video with 3 Pose drills from an average Joe who went from couch potato to running 50 mile races.
http://youtu.be/byfgkkmP9MA?t=1m41s
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Re: Sound Off: Where The Military's Rhythm Came From

Postby Trip on Wed Jun 18, 2014 5:10 pm

Steve James wrote:More likely descended from the traditions of cadence work songs.


Sounds right to me. And, they also say pretty much the same thing in the article.

Cadences get a group of people doing that in unison. They rely on the call-and-response action of work songs, so they come from a long tradition. Richard Rath, an associate professor at the University of Hawaii, and author of the book , says slaves brought work songs here, and they developed to help deal with dangerous jobs.
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