THE KING OF NAMES

Posted on Posted in Breedloves's Folk Songs
  • THE KING OF NAMES
    A version of this song is found in Carl Sandburg’s “American Songbag” (1927) with the
    title “Man Goin’ Roun'”. It is also in Vance Randolph’s “Ozark Folksongs” with the title
    “The Angel of Death”. Randolph collected it in 1921 from Mr Enos Calkins in Little
    Rock, Arkansas. Calkins said he learned it in Missouri from a man named Wilks in the
    late 1890’s. The song talks about “a man goin round taking names and putting them in
    chains.” It refers to African names being changed for English European names.
    Sandburg’s commentary in part about the song is: “At first glance this may seem a
    whimsical reference to the census taker going from door to door and taking the names of
    all people without regard to sex, color, race, or previous condition of servitude. Then we
    come to the line, “an’ he leave my heart in pain,” and we know it is a more august and
    austere Enumerator than any employed in the transient and temporal governments of
    man. Each verse deals with a relative, mother, father, sister, brother, or other dear one,
    checked off from the list of the living. A true instance of the poetry “to be overheard
    rather than heard,” it keeps for those of long acquaintance with it, an overtone of a reverie
    on the riddles of death and the frail permits by which any one generation walks before the
    mirrors of life.”
    There’s a man goin’ ’round takin’ names,
    Well there’s a man goin’ ’round takin’ names.
    He took my father’s name,
    And he left my heart in pain,
    There’s a man goin’ ’round takin’ names.
    An’ he took that liar’s name, takin’ names,
    He took that liar’s name, takin’ names.
    He took that liar’s name,
    His tongue got twisted and it died in shame,
    There’s a man goin’ ’round takin’ names.
    When the child saw the man takin’ names,
    What a funny, what a funny game, takin’ names!
    He took his brother’s name,
    And he took his father’s name,
    When the child saw the man takin’ names.
    And there’s a King on the throne takin’ names,
    There’s a King on the throne takin’ names;
    And there’s a priest in flames,
    And the court’s gone insane,
    And the King’s sittin’ there takin’ names.
  • I had a dream, I had a dream,
    I had a dream last night that worried me,
    It worried me.
    Trees were bending, People were trembling,
    I had a dream that worried me, that worried me, worried me.
    There’s a man goin’ ’round takin’ names,
    There’s a man goin’ ’round takin’ names.
    He took my father’s name,
    And he left me there in pain,
    There’s a man goin’ ’round takin’ names