Thursday, October 7, 2010

Song of the Week, "Lily of Laguna," 1898

Eugene Stratton
She's my lady love,
She is my dove, my baby love.
She's no girl for sitting down to dream,
She's the only queen Laguna knows.
I know she likes me,
I know she likes me,
Because she said so,
She is the Lily of Laguna,
She is my Lily and my Rose.

Written in 1898 by Leslie Stuart (best known for writing the musical, Floradora), Lily of Laguna was popularized by singer Eugene Stratton who performed the song in blackface—a common performance technique at the time. Originally, the song lyrics were written in such a way that they would be considered terribly racially insensitive today. This was not meant to offend anyone, but rather to convey a sense of a different culture which, today, seems quite outmoded. In the 1940’s the song once again became popular after a rewritten version was performed by Bing Crosby and Mary Martin. In the newer version, the racially insensitive language was replaced with imagery of boats and lollipops and the composition was given a jazzier feeling.

Lily of Laguna is quite important historically. Not only was the song adapted to be “We Are The Navy Blues,” the theme song of the Carlton Football Club, it was used as a means of sending a coded message during World War II. The British Military ordered that the song be played at specific times over the radio as a signal to underground troops.

The most memorable part of the song is the chorus, “She’s my lady love.” It’s a joyful, light-hearted lyric—no matter the version.

In this clip from the British film, The Way Ahead (in the U.S.--Immortal Battalion) neatly demonstrates the sentimentality and significance of Lily of Laguna during the second World War.

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