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Dixie
Dixie
by Daniel Decatur Emmett
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Dixie Music

Unlock the melody, harmony, and rhythm

According to the most widely accepted account, Daniel Emmett wrote “Dixie” in 1859 when one of the owners of Bryant’s Minstrels asked him to work up a “walk-around.” Walk-arounds were one of the most popular parts of minstrel shows, and minstrel troupes were under constant pressure to develop new renditions. In a walk-around, one member of the cast would start singing and/or dancing with the other members seated in half-circle behind him. These other cast members would start out just beating time, but then one by one they would take their turn center-stage and sing a verse or dance a few steps.

It was the competitive nature of these walk-arounds that made them so popular. After a string of energetic, try-and-beat-this solos, the entire cast would leap to their feet for an all-dance finale.

Many music historians trace the walk-around to certain dances performed by American slaves on plantations where they had evolved from the communal religious dancing of West Africa. As such, the subject of many walk-arounds was slave life, and many of the songs’ narrators told stories that took place on a plantation. “Dixie” was written with that tradition in mind, and the song’s walk-around performance would not have been received as scandalously as it would be today.

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