When I was growing up in Noveleta, Cavite, back home in the Philippines, we had this turntable that played vinyl records. My father would listen to records of The Platters, The Temptations, The Commodores, etc. We also had this record of a Tagalog birthday song with a narration at the beginning that goes something like this: “Ito lang ang tanging maiaalay ko sa iyo. Maligayang bati sa iyong kaarawan.” I can’t remember now how exactly it goes and so does the song that follows. It was such a long time ago. My father would play that song if we had a birthday in the family. And that song would wake me up on the morning of my birthday.
Another song I remember is Goodnight Irene. It brought a smile to my face everytime I heard that song. That is my name after all. I also can’t recall now which version of the song my father owned. When I saw Three Men and A Baby many years ago, I immediately recognized the lullaby that the three men sang to baby Mary. Hey, that is my song, I thought. I can’t remember either if they changed the name Irene to Mary.
I found these lyrics a few years ago and only then did I realize that the words are quite grim. These are probably the same lyrics my father sang when he and my mother separated. Sad it might be, but the chorus makes for a good lullaby.
by Huddie Ledbetter a.k.a. Leadbelly
Irene good night, Irene good night,
Good night Irene, good night Irene,
I’ll see you in my dreams.
Last Saturday I got married,
Me and my wife settled down,
Now me and my wife we are parted,
I think I’ll go out on the town.
Sometimes I live in the country,
Sometimes I live in town,
Sometimes I take a great notion
To jump in the river and drown.
I love Irene, God knows I do,
I’ll love her ’til the seas run dry,
But if Irene should turn me down,
I’d take morphine and die.
Stop rambling, stop your gambling,
Stop staying out late at night,
Go home to your wife and your family,
Stay there by your fireside bright.