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Thread: Got A Problem: Too Many Cucarachas!

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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Got A Problem: Too Many Cucarachas!

    It came up in conversation with a friend, who was proud of herself for bravely standing up to the menace of a cockroach and dispatching it, overcoming her usual revulsion. The chat scurried along and turned into singing "La Cucaracha." I wondered what the words meant, and googling gave me the gist of it. Basically, the protagonist can't walk because it has no hind leg. There's much more, mucho mas, of course - there are several verses.

    I revisited it hours later, only to discover a great many inconsistencies. Some versions will have just a couple of verses, some as many as eight; some youtube (usually my first stop) versions have lyrics, some don't; some include lyrics which are not the ones being sung; English versions play fast and loose with the lyrics. Then there are the ones which change the last line of the chorus to mention marijuana, which leads to much bickering about which is correct. ¡I yi yi! Oh, and some history buffs insist it has something to do with Pancho Villa - something like he is the invincible cockroach, and he keeps walking (or dancing or fighting) even with a missing leg (or soldiers).

    Does anyone know whether there is a true definitive version? It seems that its being a folk song in the public domain has led to so many variations that may be hard to determine. After chasing cucarachas for a while I finally threw up my hands and thought I'd bring in our renowned Brain Trust or Hive Mind. Maybe someone here has enough familiarity with the genre or song they'll know. ¡Ayuda, por favor!
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Got A Problem: Too Many Cucarachas!

    I recall singing this song in like, 2nd or 3rd grade music class. Sadly, I remember very few of the lyrics (it being quite some time ago). The lyrics we were singing were mixed Spanish and English, though. That much I do recall.
    "To be obsessed with the destination is to remove the focus from where you are." Philip Toshio Sudo, Zen Guitar

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Got A Problem: Too Many Cucarachas!

    The truth about folk songs, in the proper sense of the term -- songs passed on through oral tradition -- is that they exist in different versions. Generally, no one lyric can be called 'definitive." When a definitive version exists, it indicates that people are getting the song from the same source, perhaps a school music book or a well-known record, e.g, Simon and Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair" (Matin Carthy claims that he taught this song along with his arrangement to P.S). This is also true of tunes. If you search for lyrics of any folk song, you'll run into the same issue.

    Good luck to your friend with cockroaches. Mice eat them, but, as I learned when living near Kensington Market in Toronto, trying to get the balance of mice and roaches in your home is not an easy task.
    Last edited by Ranald; May-20-2022 at 7:29pm.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Got A Problem: Too Many Cucarachas!

    I'm well aware of how the folk process/oral tradition operates. It's just I'd never seen such an extreme example, with versions - in Spanish and English - that were all over the place. In three pages of youtube results - whatever that is, as many dozen? - there were about fifteen different versions. Astonishing. Astounding. Overwhelming. My hope is that an original version exists, and someone can point me to it. I'm betting that's not the case. Shining a light on the situation just sends "Cucarachas" scattering willy-nilly. I've never seen anything like it.

    By the way, I must say I'm disappointed that I didn't find a mandolin version. Along with the mariachi bands, there were a couple of ukulele ("jumping flea" in Hawaiian) versions, though.

    I didn't know that about mice. A few weeks ago I did scare my friend with a story about a bug almost as big as a mouse - horrifying - which I did manage to kill. That said, my cat used to hunt them down. Again and again I'd go into the kitchen for a late night snack, turn on the light, and she'd be crouched down, still as can be, staring at something intently. I finally discovered she had found one and was focused on it. After I came to recognize this behavior, I used her pointing ability as a means to send las cucarachas to oblivion. She always looked disappointed - I'd destroyed her plaything - so I would give her a treat, a bit of whatever I was cooking, or some tuna. I did want to encourage her, after all, as well as reward her.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: Got A Problem: Too Many Cucarachas!

    I can assure you, having spent many years poring through thousands of folk songs, tales, tunes, jokes, proverbs, quilt patterns, and so on, the many variations on one song don't surprise me in the least. Wikipedia has a photo of an old broadside of the song.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: Got A Problem: Too Many Cucarachas!

    Music washes away from the soul the dust of every-day life. Auerbach.

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    Default Re: Got A Problem: Too Many Cucarachas!

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    When a definitive version exists, it indicates that people are getting the song from the same source, perhaps a school music book or a well-known record, e.g, Simon and Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair" (Matin Carthy claims that he taught this song along with his arrangement to P.S).
    I believe this is not just a claim, but established fact. Carthy's version, with the distinctive accompaniment, was released a year before Simon and Garfunkel's. The song itself is from the 1800s, and is one of the Child ballads,, but that arrangement is Carthy's.

    https://ig.ft.com/life-of-a-song/scarborough-fair.html

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    I'm well aware of how the folk process/oral tradition operates. It's just I'd never seen such an extreme example, with versions - in Spanish and English - that were all over the place. In three pages of youtube results - whatever that is, as many dozen? - there were about fifteen different versions. Astonishing. Astounding. Overwhelming. My hope is that an original version exists, and someone can point me to it. I'm betting that's not the case.
    It's a catchy tune, easy to remember, so it's easy to hang the lyrics of the moment on the framework. Given that the framework is more than a few hundred years old, you're not likely to find the original.

    I've been amused over time to hear so much music hung on the public-domain bones of Pachelbel's Canon in D.
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    Default Re: Got A Problem: Too Many Cucarachas!

    Yes, wikipedia does a decent job of standardizing it - or at least making a valiant attempt thereof - albeit with several variations.

    And this is so true: "The origins of 'La Cucaracha' are obscure. The refrain's lyrics make no explicit reference to historical events; it is difficult, if not impossible, therefore, to date." However, they present several variants which have historical references, which are intriguing.

    That broadside can't be considered original, as it goes off the rails before the first chorus is even done. The final line is unlike anything else I've seen: "dinero para gastar" translates to "money to spend." The lyrics go on and on and on from there. My Spanish no es muy bueno, but it looks like these do not comport with anything else I've encountered. Then again, maybe everything else is hinky ...

    It's really the English version that are the most inexplicable - it seems people will set anything to this melody.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: Got A Problem: Too Many Cucarachas!

    Quote Originally Posted by Explorer View Post
    I've been amused over time to hear so much music hung on the public-domain bones of Pachelbel's Canon in D.
    Yes, Rob Paravonian had a lot to say to that.
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

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    Default Re: Got A Problem: Too Many Cucarachas!

    Enjoy!

    X:1
    T:La cucaracha
    C:anon.
    R:Rumba
    M:C|
    L:1/8
    K:G
    z d,2d, GG BB|"G"d3B- B2 z2|"G"z d2e dc Bd|"D7"c3A- A2 z2|
    "D7"z d,2d, FF AA|"D7"c3A- A2 z2|"D7"z d2e dc BA|"G"G4 z d, d,d,|
    |:"G"G3B zd, d,d,|"G"G3B- B2 z2|"G"z G2G FF e,e,|"D"d,4 z d, d,d,|"D7"F3A z d, d,d,|"D7"F3A- A2 z2|"D7"z d2e dc BA|[1"G"G4 z d, d,d,:|[2"G"G4 z4|]
    T:Thirds
    z F2F BB dd|f3d- d2 z2|z f2g fe df|e3c- c2 z2|
    z F2F AA cc|e3c- c2 z2|z f2g fe dc|B4 z F FF|
    |:B3d zF FF|B3d- d2 z2|z B2B AA GG|F4 z F FF|
    A3c z F FF|A3c- c2 z2|z f2g fe dc| [1B4 z F FF:| [2B4 z4|]
    Last edited by Simon DS; May-21-2022 at 5:58am.

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    Default Re: Got A Problem: Too Many Cucarachas!

    That's all ... fine, I guess, in its own way, as far as it goes. My question concerns the lyrical content. I'm all set with the melody.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: Got A Problem: Too Many Cucarachas!

    " That said, my cat used to hunt them down. Again and again I'd go into the kitchen for a late night snack, turn on the light, and she'd be crouched down, still as can be, staring at something intently. I finally discovered she had found one and was focused on it. After I came to recognize this behavior, I used her pointing ability as a means to send las cucarachas to oblivion. She always looked disappointed - I'd destroyed her plaything - so I would give her a treat, a bit of whatever I was cooking, or some tuna. I did want to encourage her, after all, as well as reward her. "

    Reminds me of "The Adventures Of Fat Freddy's Cat" from the Furry Freak Brothers comics.
    Last edited by Charles E.; May-21-2022 at 10:55am.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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    Default Re: Got A Problem: Too Many Cucarachas!

    I thought it couldn't walk because it didn't have any pot to smoke.

    Another bubble burst.
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    Default Re: Got A Problem: Too Many Cucarachas!

    Oh no, sir! That version exists. It's mentioned in the wiki article. And it's mentioned quite a lot in the youtube video comments.

    I think it's a later version of the lyrics, even though it goes back quite a while, maybe a century. As the song lends itself to variation, even parody, it was perhaps inevitable someone would devise a different reason for the star of the show to stumble.

    And "marihuana que fumar" fits the meter and rhyme of "las patitas de atrás" quite nicely.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: Got A Problem: Too Many Cucarachas!

    Judy Garland, La Cucaracha with mari....



    Music washes away from the soul the dust of every-day life. Auerbach.

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    Default Re: Got A Problem: Too Many Cucarachas!

    Thanks for that. It's funny seeing Judy and company singing about marijuana in this "wholesome" clip. The plains Indian chief holding the donkey makes me cringe though! Is "La Cucaracha" sung throughout Spanish-speaking countries in the Americas?
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: Got A Problem: Too Many Cucarachas!

    Another M-Cafe, namely Mudcat, loves to chew over song origins and lyrics.

    Here's one of their several discussions of La Cuc; this one went on for over a decade (there's no zombie penalty on Mudcat, it seems):

    https://mudcat.org/thread.CFM?thread...&threadID=5841

    D.H.

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    Default Re: Got A Problem: Too Many Cucarachas!

    Thanks. Yes, I was afraid that would be the case at mudcat. I see my trepidation was justified.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: Got A Problem: Too Many Cucarachas!

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hicks View Post
    Another M-Cafe, namely Mudcat, loves to chew over song origins and lyrics.

    Here's one of their several discussions of La Cuc; this one went on for over a decade (there's no zombie penalty on Mudcat, it seems):

    https://mudcat.org/thread.CFM?thread...&threadID=5841

    D.H.
    Thanks for that, Dave. The Mudcat thread was interesting and not as long as I feared. I found the possible Spanish origin of the song especially interesting. I'm not arguing with whether the writer is correct, but my Spanish is limited to cowboy-show talk, so unless the writer is talking about gringoes, senoritas (supply your own accent), and bad hombres, I'm lost. There's an area of folklore studies called "Folk Etymology" that covers "folk" origins of songs, sayings, words, tales, etc., believed by many who lack research or understanding. Some of these folk etymologies may be correct, others are definitely wrong, and with many, we'll never know. As we can see on Mudcat, folks will argue passionately for the origin or meaning of a song only because someone told them that or because that person came up with an "origin' that made sense to them. I think very few of us aren't guilty of arguing for an origin or meaning, even the "proper" version of a playground song, feellng that we have the "voice of authority " though we really don't know what we were talking about.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: Got A Problem: Too Many Cucarachas!

    Yessirree. In this egocentric, anthropomorphic culture, people are prone to believe whatever they have believed for however long they have believed it to be true, even to being The One True Truth. But as you pointed out or pointed the way to, this may only be because that is what they heard first - and since that is familiar, it is to that all that follows will be measured. I freely admit that might have been the case in this case, if I had had any idea what might be the rest of the lyrics beside the title. But I don't. Heck, I'm not completely convinced I even knew the melody of the verse, or even that there was a verse, before I started looking into this. In other words, I am approaching this from a standpoint of near-total ignorance - yet with a willingness, even a compulsion, to learn.

    That said, I'm guessing the marijuana version is not the original, however popular it may be. I find it extremely difficult to believe a children's song, or one deemed suitable for you, impressionable ears, would contain this reference - which comes with an inference, which would imply familiarity with said item's effects. I think it more likely someone at some point in time thought it would be funny to create this variation, and it caught fire - so to speak. But this is based on assumptions - not definitive research, which seems lacking, as far as I have been able to discern, to this point - however reasonable they may be. For all we know, it could have evolved the other way, or a different way. Ah, where's a time machine when you need one?

    PS: Alt+164 produces ñ.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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