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"The Yellow Rose Of Texas"
YellowRoseOfTexas1858.jpg
Cover of 1858 sheet music.
Written by J.K.
Published 1858
Language English
Form Minstrel

"The Yellow Rose of Texas" is a traditional folk song which has long been popular in the United States and is considered an unofficial state song of Texas. The actual author is unknown; the original publisher (Firth, Pond & Co.) only stated that it was composed and arranged expressly for Charles H. Brown by "J.K." The A. Henry Moss Papers in the Center for American History has an unpublished early handwritten version of what may be a similar song, perhaps dating from the time of the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836.[1]

The soundtrack to the TV miniseries James A. Michener's Texas dates a version of the song to 1927 and co-credits the authorship thereof to Gene Autry. However, Don George ('I'm Beginning to See the Light') reworked the original version of the song, which Mitch Miller made into a popular recording in 1955 that knocked Bill Haley's "(We're Gonna) Rock Around The Clock" from the top of the Best Sellers chart in the U.S.[2] Miller's version was featured in the motion picture Giant. Actor James Dean, who starred in the movie, died when Miller's version was atop the Best Sellers chart.

Contents

The Legend

A twentieth century myth has turned the Yellow Rose into one Emily D. West, a housekeeper in a hotel in New Washington, Texas, during the Texas Revolution.[3]

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Legendary account

Briefly stated, the song is based on a Texas legend from the days of the Texas War of Independence. According to the legend, a woman named Emily D. West — a mulatto, and hence, the song's reference to her being "yellow" — who was seized by Mexican forces during the looting of Galveston seduced General Antonio López de Santa Anna, President of Mexico and commander of the Mexican forces. The legend credits her supposed seduction with lowering the guard of the Mexican army and facilitating the Texan victory in the battle of San Jacinto waged in 1836 near present-day Houston. Santa Anna's opponent was General Sam Houston, who won the battle literally in minutes, and with almost no casualties.

This legend is comparable to the Biblical war story of Jael and Sisera, found in Judges 4:14–22 and repeated in poetry in Judges 5:23–27. Jael's story was popular with Protestant Christians of the time and would have been familiar to slaves and freedmen as well as the white population.

Historical account

Historians assert that if West was with Santa Anna, it was not by her choice, nor did she play any part in deciding the battle. The seduction legend was largely unknown until the publication of English tourist William Bollaert's diary in the 1950s, when amateur historians propagated an embellished version.

The basic facts[4] appear to be that Emily West migrated to Texas from New York City in late 1835. Sources describe her as a teen or as a woman of twenty. According to one version of the legend, she became an indentured servant on the plantation of James Morgan near what was then called New Washington and is now Morgan's Point. Because of her indenture to Morgan, some historians say, she became known by his surname, as was the custom for indentured servants as well as slaves.[citation needed]

Santa Anna reportedly saw West in April 1836 when he invaded New Washington prior to the Battle of San Jacinto. Legend states that she was forcibly placed in his camp. Allegedly, Santa Anna was with her when Texan General Sam Houston's troops arrived, forcing him to flee without weapons or armor and enabling his capture the next day.

Lyrics

Minstrel versions (1858)
There's a yellow rose in Texas that I am going to see,
No other darkey knows her, no darkey only me;
She cried so when I left her, it like to broke my heart,
And if I ever find her we never more will part.
(Chorus)
She's the sweetest rose of color this darkey ever knew,
Her eyes are bright as diamonds, they sparkle like the dew,
You may talk about your Dearest May, and sing of Rosa Lee,
But the yellow rose of Texas beats the belles of Tennessee.
Where the Rio Grande is flowing, and the starry skies are bright,
She walks along the river in the quiet summer night;
She thinks if I remember, when we parted long ago,
I promis'd to come back again, and not to leave her so.
(Chorus)
Oh! now I'm going to find her, for my heart is full of woe,
And we'll sing the song together, that we sung so long ago;
We'll play the banjo gaily, and we'll sing the songs of yore,
And the yellow rose of Texas shall be mine for evermore.
(Chorus)

Civil War song

The song became popular with Confederate Army troops, especially those from Texas, though the last verse and the chorus are slightly different.

(Last verse)

Oh my feet are torn and bloody, and my heart is full of woe,
I'm going back to Georgia, to find my Uncle Joe,
You may talk about your Beauregard, sing of General Lee,
But the gallant Hood of Texas, played hell in Tennessee.

This refers to famous Confederate generals Joseph Johnston, Robert E. Lee, P. G. T. Beauregard, and John Bell Hood.

The chorus substitutes the word "darky" with "soldier". The same substitution is made throughout the song.

"The Yellow Rose"

In 1984, country music artists Johnny Lee and Lane Brody recorded a song called "The Yellow Rose". This song, which retained the original melody of "The Yellow Rose of Texas" but wrote new lyrics for it, was used as the title theme to a TV series also entitled The Yellow Rose and was a Number One country hit that year.[5]

See also

References

  1. ^ Rodriguez, "The Yellow Rose Of Texas.
  2. ^ http://www.steynonline.com/content/view/2414/28/
  3. ^ Henson, "Emily D. West": "Emily D. West, erroneously called Emily Morgan by those who presumed her a slave of James Morgan and the "Yellow Rose of Texas" by twentieth-century myth-makers, was born a free black in New Haven, Connecticut."
  4. ^ Harris, Trudier, (1997). "The Yellow Rose of Texas: A Different Cultural View." Callaloo 20.1 pp. 8–19 at 12.
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel. The Billboard Book of Top 40 Country Hits. Billboard Books. p. 54. 

Bibliography

Further reading

  • Bunkley, Anita (1989; reprint 1999). Emily, The Yellow Rose. Houston: Rinard Publishing. ISBN
  • Turner, Martha Anne (1971) "The Yellow Rose of Texas: The Story of a Song," Southwestern Studies, Monograph No. 31. University of Texas at El Paso: Texas Western Press, pp. 3-19.
  • Turner, Martha Anne (1976) "The Yellow Rose of Texas": Her Saga and Her Song. Austin: Shoal Creek Publishers.

External links


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