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The Banks of the Ohio

Why is there such a trend towards horrific mysogny in folk songs that sounds so pleasant. The Banks of the Ohio is a perfect example (as are many Nick Cave songs, if you prefer a current manifestation of dirges). Everything is so pleasant and cheerful, then he suddenly stabs the poor woman for refusing to marry him? Can we assume the guy is overreacting? Either way, there seems to be a vein of this type of sentiment in a lot of music, collected most admirably by a Prevention Connection wiki (click the title to access the wiki).

Frankly, it severely damages my ability to listen to this type of music, aside from acknowledging that this type of behavior was (and indeed probably still is) a social entity, a social force in America.

It is a shame because it is one of the few songs that use the word Ohio, something that chagrins me. More about Ohio later!

I asked my love to take a walk
Just a little ways with me
And as we walked and we would talk
All about our wedding day

(chorus)

And only say that you’ll be mine
In no others arms entwined
Down beside where the waters flow
On the banks of the Ohio

I asked her if she’d marry me
And my wife forever be
She only turned her head away
And had no other words to say

(chorus)
I plunged a knife into her breast
And told her she was going to rest
She cried “Oh Willy, don’t murder me
I’m not prepared for eternity.”

I took her by her golden curls
I drug her down to the river-side
An I there threw her into drown
And I watched her as she floated down

(chorus)

And going home between twelve and one
I cried “Lord, what have I’ve done?”
I’ve killed the girl I love
Because she would not marry me

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About Author

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

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