Land of 1,000 Dances

Following up on my “Name Rhymes” posting (with examples from Cab Calloway and Paul Simon), Mike Pope wrote to remind me about Wilson Pickett’s “Land of 1,000 Dances”, with a rather different rhyme scheme involving names. From one version of this song (there are many):

Got to know how to pony
Like Bony Maronie
..
Do the Watusi
Like my little Lucy
..
Out in the alley
With Long Tall Sally
Twistin’ with Lucy
Doin’ the Watusi

In my earlier posting, the rhyming words are adjacent in a line. Here we have rhyming couplets, but still involving names.

Calloway and Simon. In both cases, we have four-line verses with three lines that end in a personal name that rhymes with the preceding word, followed by one constant line. Disregard the constant line (the equivalent of a chorus), and focus on the others, all of the form

LEAD-IN + PERSONAL-NAME (PN),
where the LEAD-IN has two accented feet (F1 + F2)
and ends in a word W that rhymes with the PN

Now the details of the patterns. Note: these are the patterns, from which some lines have deviations.

Calloway: W is a food name; F1 is dactylic (SWW); F2 and PN are trochaic (SW)

— Have a banana, Hannah: PN is Hannah; W is banana; F1 is have a ba-; F2 is –nana

Simon: W and PN are monosyllables; W is not semantically constrained

— Hop on the bus, Gus: PN is Gus; W is bus

It is surprisingly easy to internalize these patterns without ever having explicitly articulated them. People just recognize examples as “sounding right”.

1,000 Dances. There’s a complex history for this song. Some discussion in my posting “na na na” from 3/28/15, where two of its significant characteristics are discussed: the considerable number of dance names it alludes to, and the “na na na” refrain. Both are illustrated in one of Wilson Pickett’s recordings there, where I note that the song was not originally his — it was written and first recorded by Chris Kenner — and that versions of it have been recorded by an extraordinary number of musicians.

In any case, the rhyme scheme is very simple and flexible: rhyming couplets. But you have to work the dances into it.

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