Songs to raise girls: Pack up your sorrows

This song interests me. It is the fourth in my series about the songs that my sister and I learned growing up.

When we recorded our family songs, my sister said she liked it. I said, I think it is creepy, with that juxtaposition of a sweet tune and then words that are not so sweet.

No use cryin’
Talking to a stranger
Namin’ the sorrows you’ve seen

Oh, ’cause there are
Too many bad times
Too many sad times
Nobody knows what you mean

If somehow
You could pack up your sorrows
And give them all to me

You would lose them
I know how to use them
Give them all to me

The line that bothered me was “I know how to use them”. What does that mean? Use them for what?

No use ramblin’
Walkin’ in the shadows
Trailin’ a wanderin’ star

No one beside you
No one to hide you
An’ nobody knows where you are

Ah, if somehow
You could pack up your sorrows
And give them all to me

You would lose them
I know how to use them
Give them all to me

And how could you give your sorrows to someone else? The singer is offering to listen to sorrows but also take them away. “You would lose them.” And then the singer “knows how to use them”.

No use roamin’
Walking by the roadside
Seekin’ a satisfied mind

Ah, ’cause there are
Too many highways
Too many byways
Nobody’s walkin’ behind

Ah, if somehow
You could pack up your sorrows
And give them all to me

You would lose them
I know how to use them
Give them all to me

I never got around to asking my sister if it was the tune she liked or the words or what it meant to her. I chose to play that recording at her Washington memorial. I could not go to her California memorial because I was too ill. My father had terrible emphysema and was on oxygen. I thought I had pertussis but it turned out to be systemic strep A, which hurts. At any rate, I was too sick to travel. Her Washington Memorial was a month or two later, when I was well enough to organize it…..

You would lose them
I know how to use them
Give them all to me

It is by Pauline Baez. The version by Richard and Mimi Farina is the one I’m familiar with, so my parents probably had the record:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4LbU8w7Th4.

Joan Baez, Pauline and Mimi Farina were sisters. Joan Baez recorded it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAMe1bRW8Ao. So did Peter, Paul and Mary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVxNleqVpx4.

And so did Johnny Cash and June Carter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ctVhDEuTYE

The picture is a music party at my house in 2009, my father seated and Andy Makie on harmonica, Jack Reid standing with the guitar.