“Shame and Scandal in the Family”

shame-scandal-in-the-familyYesterday’s article about “All in the Family”: Australian Woman Finds Out her Fiancé is Actually her Half Brother (which now has claims it is a fraudulent story) reminds me of a reggae song I first heard some years ago while I was in the Caribbean. I suspect all genealogists can sympathize with this young man’s problem!

“Shame and Scandal in the Family” is a song written by calypso singer Sir Lancelot. It was later recorded by folksingers Odetta and Burl Ives and later still by Trini Lopez and by Trinidadian calypsonian Lord Melody. In 1964, The Kingston Trio included a live performance of the song. Other versions have been recorded in several different languages by still other artists. The lyrics varied slightly in the various versions.

In Lord Melody’s 1960s version the story follows a young Trinidadian man in search of a wife. In each of the verses, the young man asks his father for permission to marry a different woman, only to be told he can not marry the girl as “The girl is your sister, but your mamma don’t know”. However, the tables are turned during the last verse, where the young man’s mother tells him that “Your daddy ain’t your daddy, but your daddy don’t know”, clearing the path for him to marry any of the girls.

Here are the lyrics in Lord Melody’s 1960s version:

(click on the image below to listen to Shawn Elliot’s version)

Woe is me
Shame and scandal in the family
Woe is me
Shame and scandal in the family

In Trinidad there was a family
With much confusion as you will see
It was a mama and a papa and a boy who was grown
He wanted to marry, have a wife of his own
Found a young girl that suited him nice
Went to his papa to ask his advice
His papa said: “Son, I have to say no,
This girl is your sister, but your mama don’t know”

Oh, woe is me
Shame and scandal in the family
Oh, woe is me
Shame and scandal in the family

A week went by and the summer came ’round
Soon the best cook in the island he found
He went to his papa to name the day
His papa shook his head and to him did say
“You Can’t marry this girl, I have to say no
This girl is your sister, but your mama don’t know”

Oh, woe is me
Shame and scandal in the family
Oh, woe is me
Shame and scandal in the family

He went to his mama and covered his head
And told his mama what his papa had said
His mama she laughed, she say, “Go man, go
Your daddy ain’t your daddy, but your daddy don’t know.”

Oh, woe is me
Shame and scandal in the family
Oh, woe is me
Shame and scandal in the family

5 Comments

Dick: Do you remember the song “I’m My Own Grandpa!” Shades of the night for all us genealogists. Happy Holidays

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you made my day!! this one is going to travel far!

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My husband, who has extended family in New Orleans, tells me that back in his high school days, whenever a young male in the household dated a girl, his mother and aunts would check her lineage and more often than not put the kibosh on the budding relationship. He recalls one of his young uncles complaining, “Why are all the pretty ones related to us?” His own first love turned out to be a near cousin.

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If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.
— George Bernard Shaw, Immaturity

The one thing one must accept when embarking on the journey to find your ancestors is that *some* of them had more than a whiff of scandal in their lives, some of that concealed when they were living, but long after they’re dead and a genealogy researcher is acquiring documents, the details unravel…, and that T-shirt that says “My ancestors did WHAT?!?” is appropriate to wear. While most often one finds ordinary people leading ordinary lives, some have a colorful past, too.

I laugh about it all – after all, if it weren’t for both the upstanding citizens and the rogues, I wouldn’t be here – but then I’ve choreographed a few dance numbers for my family skeletons. C’mon everybody! 🙂 Conga!

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