George Johnson – The Whistling Coon – 1891 (The first recording by an African-American)

Rare Soul:

George Johnson's song Whistling Coon was one of the most popular of the Coon songs of the 1850-90s. While the records and the imagery that goes along with them are offensive, these are pioneering African-American recordings and songs. The amazing thing about the earliest of Johnson's recordings is that each one was unique. Each record was recorded and cut ON THE SPOT, so he had to do each take perfectly, and was then paid for the session. He made a decent living, but there weren't any copyright laws, or even any recorded industry at this point. It's said he did this song 56 times in one day.

(Verse 1)
Oh I've seen in my time some very funny folks
But the funniest of all I know
Is a coloured individual as sure as you're alive
As black as any black crow
You can talk until you're tired but you'll never get a word
From this very funny queer old coon
He's a knock-kneed, double-jointed hunky-punky mook*
but he's happy when he whistles in tune.

(Verse 2)
Oh he's got a pair of lips like a pound of liver, split
And a nose like an india-rubber shoe
He's a limpy, happy, chuckle-headed huckleberry nig
And he whistles like a happy killy* loon
He's an independent, free-and-easy bad and greasy ham
With a cranium like a big baboon
Oh I never heard him talk to anybody in my life
but he's happy when he whistles in tune.

(Verse 3)
Oh he'll whistle in the morning through the day and through the night
And he whistles when he goes to bed
He whistles like a locomotive engine in his sleep
And he whistled when his wife was dead
One day a fellow hit him with a brick upon the mouth
His face swelled like a big balloon
But it didn't faze the merry happy huckleberry nig
And he whistled up the same old tune.

More here. (Note: One post throughout February will be dedicated to Black History Month.)