Wainwright re-imagines famous pub song


by admin on December 2, 2009

The Editor,

I’m sure some of your readers will have noticed that Martha Wainwright’s lyrics on the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield, Quebec are a creative re-imagining of one of the best known pub songs of all time.

Titled “The Whiffenpoof Song,” it tells of the Yale-based a capella group of choristers, the Whiffenpoofs – Cole Porter was a member once – who on a visit to their friend Louis at Mory’s Temple Bar seems to have experienced the kind of existential crisis that changes their lives forever:

“Gentlemen songsters all on a spree

Doomed from here to eternity

Lord have mercy on such as’ we

Baa, baa, baa”

As the chorus recounts: “We are poor little lambs / who have lost their way /. . . we are little black sheep who have gone astray” etc.

In Wainwright’s version, her doomed group are “singin’ the songs that we learned on our mother’s knee”. And the realization that “we’ll never be this free again.” They are, in her words, “four black sheep. . . losing their way in the cold blue snow.”

It’s powerful, disturbing stuff, and, as Paul Symes indicates in his comments, light years away from the vapid sentiment of Hallmark Cards.

Patrick MacFadden