Monday, September 12, 2016

Baby Let Me Shake Your Tree

The late Rahsaan Roland Kirk is one of my favorite musicians. I’ve never seen a more dynamic performer; I describe one of his performances in “Ecstasy at the Left Bank” (the Left Bank Jazz Society in Baltimore). He used to tell stories and rhymes between tunes, and some of those were recorded. Here’s a performance of “Baby Let Me Shake Your Tree” that was recorded on Atlantic SD1575, Rahsaan Rahsaan (1970):

I have transcribed his introduction and indicated some audience reaction [enclosed in square brackets]. I follow that with the lyrics he sings to the song. You’ll have to figure out for yourself just what White House lady he had in mind.

* * * * *

We would like to play a tune by an old gypsy blues singer.
You have to be a gypsy in this country to make money...especially if you’re black.
You got to travel all over the damn land, you dig.
I’m not bitter, I’m just bittersweet.

But you have to be a gypsy to survive in this country.
Because when you stay in one place you get tagged and the guys say “Oh, that’s a local group,” you know. [laughter]
“You mean that group’s been there for five years?”
If we worked at the Vanguard 5 years straight, cats say “Oh yeah, we go down there once a year, Christmas, New Years.”
So we go out every now and then and come back.
And you all think we done been somewhere.

Been in the same old riots.

But anyway, this is a tune written by old Tongue Snatcher.
He wrote this tune back in 1859.
Tongue Snatcher, he was a mean character ‘cause anything he wanted, he would snatch it with his tongue....

Reach out and say “Aaardlugh bleyt!” [laughter]
Th’ man could touch his nose with his tongue, you know...
He could suck his hair...[laughter]

But anyway old Tongue Snatcher, wrote this tune called “Baby Let Me Shake Your Tree.”
His ultimate goal was to hang out in the tree.
Now one day old Tongue Snatcher worked at the White House.
He walked up to this lady with his tongue in his hand
[...laughter...”Wait a minute, Rahsaan, he musta’ been blind”...]
He say “Baby, let me shake your tree.”
And she was one of them square, you know, I’m-a-Hershey-Bar-eaters, stone Apple pie ladies.
She said “What you mean?”
He said “Well, come with me.
Now I know you don’t have no tree in this asphalt jungle,
So you got to know I’m talking ‘bout you baby.”

Tongue Snatcher was talkin’ ‘bout the truth.
So I hope you can dig it, please.

* * * * *

Oh baby, baby, let me shake your tree.
Oh baby, baby, let me climb the tree.
I started to grab it,
But I sure wanted to be courteous and ask you I could have it.
Oh baby, baby, let me hang out in your tree.

I don’t give a damn how many cats have climbed up in your tree...
in the last few months.
I really don’t care how many squirrels done got their nuts outa the tree, baby.
I got to warn you I ain’t no rabbit.
I’m going to be there a long long time and I just got to have it.
Ohhhhh baby, baby, let me hang out, let me hang out in your tree.

Ooowhoooah, baby, baby, let me shake your tree.
Oh, baby, baby, let me climb, let me climb up in that tree.
I ain’t no rabbit, but I hope you can stand it, ‘cause I’ll be there
An it’ll be like I had it,
Oh baby, oh baby, oh baby, let me hang out in your tree.
I don’t care how many squirrels
Done got their nuts outta’ the tree
I ... how many cats ‘ve climb up in the tree
I started to grab it,
But I wanted to check with you first,
An I knew you’d let me have it
Oh baby,
Let me climb,
Let me hang,
Let me swing,
Let me shake,
Let me shake,
Let me shake it,
Let me shake it,
I won’t break it,
Jus let me take it...

Baaby, let me climb, the tree-ee-eee!

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