Lab Tracks

Mad Lab Track: It Ain’t Necessarily So

This may be one of the oldest skeptical tunes I know. Written by George Gershwin for the folk opera Porgy & Bess, “It Ain’t Necessarily So” reminds people to take things (mostly the bible, but it can easily apply to everything else) with a grain of salt. (The opera, by the way, was the first to feature a full cast of classically-trained African-American trained singers). Song and lyrics after the jump.

Skeptical music side note: In my Googling for a good video of this tune, I came across an unbelievable number of citations claiming that “It Ain’t Necessarily So” is by Nat King Cole or by Ray Charles. I beg of anyone talking about music that was made before 1950 to heed this warning: it wasn’t by that artist. It was performed by that artist, but chances are that it was written by someone completely different. Today, copyright regulations are such that if an artist makes a song famous, chances are that that artist will be the only one performing it for a good long while. Back in the day, though, the open access to sheet music made it so dozens of artists might record the very same tune. Cite the composer, please. Every time you don’t do your old-song research, a new Ke$ha clone gets a record deal.

It ain’t necessarily so
It ain’t necessarily so
The things that you’re liable
To read in the Bible,
It ain’t necessarily so.

Li’l David was small, but oh my
Li’l David was small, but oh my
He fought Big Goliath
Who laid down an’ dieth
Li’l David was small, but oh my

Oh Jonah, he lived in the whale,
Oh Jonah, he lived in the whale,
For he made his home in
That fish’s abdomen.
Oh Jonah, he lived in the whale.

Li’l Moses was found in a stream.
Li’l Moses was found in a stream.
He floated on water
Till Ol’ Pharaoh’s daughter,
She fished him, she said, from that stream.

Well, it ain’t necessarily so
Well, it ain’t necessarily so
They tells all you chillun
The devil’s a villain,
But it ain’t necessarily so

To get into heaven
Don’t snap for a second
Live clean, don’t have no fault
Oh, I take that gospel
Whenever it’s pos’ble,
But with a grain of salt.

Methuselah lived nine hundred years,
Methuselah lived nine hundred years,
But who calls that livin’
When no gal will give in
To no man what’s nine hundred years?

I’m preachin’ this sermon to show
It ain’t nececessarily so

This has been another installment of Monday Lab Tracks. Send us your musical recommendations through our contact link at the top of the page, and tell us what you think of the song in the comments below!

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Ashley Hamer

Ashley Hamer

Ashley Hamer (aka Smashley) is a saxophonist and writer living in Chicago, where she performs regularly with the funk band FuzZz and jazz ensemble Big Band Boom. She also does standup comedy, sort of, sometimes. Her tenor saxophone's name is Ladybird.

1 Comment

  1. October 31, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    Also in the early days of pop charts it wasn’t uncommon to have more than one version of a popular song in the top slots. As soon as a song caught on, various performers would jump in and record their own version.

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