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The Dog Song
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Later a member of the acclaimed Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Freedom Singers, Reagon says that the group performed “Dog Dog” at nearly every concert. “It was a wonderful song because it taught lessons people could learn from their pets. Dogs seemed to be ahead of humans on the social level in the South.”

Retired from Sweet Honey since 2004, Reagon says she was cheered to find “Dog Dog” on the ensemble’s Grammy-nominated 2007 children’s album Experience … 101. “They sent me a copy of the CD and it includes a version of ‘Dog Dog,’ she says, with a smile. “It’s so clearly a song for the young and the young at heart.”

Oakland musicologist and choir director Melanie DeMore recognizes the entertainment value of “Dog Dog.” “I usually teach it in three-part harmony,” she says. “I encourage both adult and children’s choirs to add barking sounds and to be very animated during its performance. It’s hysterical when you see a whole bunch of folks on the stage delivering the powerful message of the song and still having fun by jumping up and down like puppies and barking.” 

In another interpretation, Harry Belafonte, on his 1967 album Belafonte on Campus, adds a rousing calypso beat to the song, which also includes this verse:

My little doggy was a playing one day
Down in the meadow by a bundle of hay
Another little doggy well he come along
Said let’s get together and eat this bone
Now a why can’t we sit under the apple tree?

Reflecting on the historic victory of President-elect Barack Obama, Bernard LaFayette says “Dog Dog” serves as a reminder of the stunning racial progress achieved in the past 50 years.

“Dogs are therapeutic,” he declares. “They can be unbiased eyes and ears for us in so many ways. When dogs get to know each other, regardless of their breed, they inevitably become friends. They show us how to break down barriers, overlook differences and focus on common bonds. I consider ‘Dog Dog’ a benchmark of how far we’ve come since segregation. It seems only fitting that the Obamas would welcome a puppy to the White House.”

 

 

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This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 52: Jan/Feb 2009
Evelyn C. White is editor of The Black Women's Health Book and author of the biography Alice Walker: A Life. Her work also appears in Smithsonian, Ms., Essence and others.

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