The Songs He Sang
As performed by Cisco Houston
John Jacob NilesAppears on:
- LP A Legacy
I met her in Venezuela With a basket on her head. And if she loved others she did not say But I knew she'd do to pass away To pass away the time in Venezuela. To pass away the time in Venezuela. I bought her a sash of blue A beautiful sash of blue. Because I knew that she could do With all the tricks I knew she knew To pass away the time in Venezuela. To pass away the time in Venezuela. Her lingo was strange, but the thought of her smile, The thought of her beautiful smile. Will haunt me and taunt me for many a mile For she was my gal and she did the while To pass away the time in Venezuela, To pass away the time in Venezuela. And when the wind was out to sea The wind was out to see. And she was taking leave of me I said, "Cheer up. There'll always be Sailors ashore in Venezuela. Sailors ashore in Venezuela."
Not sure I'd claim the authorship of this insulting tale of a man loving and discarding a woman, but since Cisco sang it, I'm including it, and the following note.
From Mudcat: John Jacob Niles said that while he was sitting in some bistro in Marseilles, he heard a group of Barbados sailors (what Barbados sailors were doing in Marseilles, I'm not sure) singing Venezuela, and he learned it from them. Some years later, Burl Ives recorded the song, but apparently didn't properly credit Niles. Niles sued him for breach of copyright and won! Ives said, "I thought you said you learned it from a bunch of sailors." Niles responded, "I lied! I wrote it!"
When Richard Dyer-Bennet sang a concert in Seattle a few decades ago, he alluded to this incident and told the audience that, true or not, he is always very careful to give proper credit to John Jacob Niles before he sings the song.
Niles claimed to have written a large number of songs that everybody assumes are traditional, including Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair, despite the fact that there is ample evidence that most of these songs were kicking around in one form or another long before Niles chose to grace our planet with his presence. Good songs. Interesting singer. Strange Man. He gave a whole new dimension to the expression "credibility gap."