Hockey just isn’t the same at the University of New Hampshire since the administration banned the playing of their erstwhile fight song “Black Betty” at its games.
I have to admit that I have never heard of this song before this brouhaha erupted. The song which is often credited to Huddy “Leadbelly” Ledbetter a prominent black blues and folk musician from the 1920’s and 1930’s and refers to a black slave. It was remade in the 1970’s by the band Ram Jam and apparently was a big enough hit that the men’s hockey team at UNH decided that they wanted it played at their home games to pump up the crowd.
So what does this song say? Here are the lyrics.
Whoa, black betty (bam-ba-lam) Whoa, black betty (bam-ba-lam) Black betty had a child (bam-ba-lam) The damn thing gone wild (bam-ba-lam) She said, “i’m worryin’ outta mind” (bam-ba-lam) The damn thing gone blind (bam-ba-lam) I said oh, black betty (bam-ba-lam) Whoa, black betty (bam-ba-lam)
Oh, black betty bam-ba-lam Whoa, black betty bam-ba-lam She really gets me high bam-ba-lam You know that’s no lie bam-ba-lam She’s so rock steady bam-ba-lam And she’s always ready bam-ba-lam Whoa, black betty bam-ba-lam Whoa, black betty bam-ba-lam
Whoa, black betty bam-ba-lam Whoa, black betty bam-ba-lam She’s from birmingham bam-ba-lam Way down in alabam’ bam-ba-lam Well, she’s shakin’ that thing bam-ba-lam Boy, she makes me sing bam-ba-lam Whoa, black betty bam-ba-lam Whoa, black betty bam-ba-lam
I certainly don’t understand the lyrics and unfortunately Ledbetter isn’t around to tell us what he meant when he wrote this song, but I severely doubt that as a black musician in the 1920’s that he was racist.
Ledbetter’s intentions don’t seem to matter to the NAACP officials who have been complaining about this song for years to UNH administrators who until now have rebuffed any attempt to remove the song from the games. Neither does the fact that according to an internet search I conducted that the song has been featured in six movies in the last five years including a movie starring black comedian and actor Bernie Mac. According to the school paper, The New Hampshire Athletic Director Marty Scarano told them that someone “more significant” raised the issue that the song is “theoretically racist” but declined to identify that someone. Does this person actually exist or is this some plan cooked up by the administration to placate the NAACP? Who is in charge here, the school or the NAACP?
Based on their response it looks like the school decided that being politically correct was easier than using common sense. Political correctness knows no bounds. It is often thought that it only affects the larger and better known colleges and universities.
This case reminds us that the smaller institutions are not immune from the culture war.
By the way I wonder how many students actually knew all the words to the song and in a packed arena full of rabid hockey fans who could hear them anyway?