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49 "What does the title of 'Green Grow the Rushes' refer to?" (R.E.M.)




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This article is from the R.E.M. FAQ, by Ron Henry (rgh3@cornell.edu) with numerous contributions by others.

49 "What does the title of 'Green Grow the Rushes' refer to?" (R.E.M.)

It may refer to the poem, "Green Grow The Rashes," by the Scottish poet
Robert Burns (1759-1796), whose opening verse reads,

Green grow the rashes, O;
Green grow the rashes, O;
The sweetest hours that e'er I spend,
Are spent among the lasses, O!

It has been noted that Burns' was but one of many variations of a
then-popular lyric by this name, many of them bawdy, and most sung by
workers or soldiers to while away the hours. A historically- unconfirmed
story says that immigrants to the New World from the British Isles were
especially fond of the song (their "finest worksong"?), and to the panish
born population the Anglo-Americans who sang this work song became known as
"greengrows" (later shortened to "gringos"). Since Stipe has been quoted as
saying the song concerns American exploitation of migrant (Mexican) workers
by U.S. corporations, one might speculate he had some or all of these
possibilities in mind.

Rec.music.rem reader <ihooker@inforamp.net> suggested another song of the
title might be alluded to. The folk song called "Green Grow the Rushes, O"
completely unconnected to the Burns lyric, is very, very old; it was first
written down in Hebrew in the 16th Century and is probably much older.
There are many versions and it is a popular Christmas Carol and harvest
song.

I'll sing you one, O
Green grow the rushes, O
What is your one, O
One is one and all alone and evermore shall be so.

Whichever traditional song Stipe is alluding to, the premise that it was
identified with Anglo-American colonists is probably still valid.

 

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