Today I would like to make a case for the removal of the word “gypsy” from the jazz canon. “Gypsy” is a non-preferred and often derogatory term for Roma people*. Instead of going into detail on this here, read these articles on the subject and watch this video.
In jazz standards the “gypsy” image is often used to illustrate mysticism or foolhardy behaviour. The continued use of the word in jazz songs serves to romanticize, and subsequently erase, real, living Roma people.
The good news is, it’s really easy to replace the word with barely noticeable updates that stay true to the original intent of the lyric. Below you will find several popular tunes which use the g-word. I have written the original lines in the tune that contain the word (with a little context) and then an updated version of that line. If you know any other songs that need updating, leave them in the comments below and I will add them to this list.
1. A Blossom Fell
The gypsies say and I know why
A falling blossom only touches lips that lie
The spirits say and I know why…
2. Embraceable You
Just one look at you, my heart goes tipsy in me
You and you alone brings out the gypsy in me
Just one look at you, my heart goes wild in me
You and you alone brings out the child in me
Faint as a will o’ the wisp, crazy as a loon
Sad as a gypsy serenading the moon
Sad as somebody serenading the moon
4. Golden Earrings
There’s a story the gypsies know is true
That when your love wears golden earrings,
She belongs to you.
So be my gypsy;
Make love your guiding light,
And let that pair of golden earrings
Cast their spell tonight.
There’s a story the spirits know is true
So be my mystic;
*This definition was written in this article. It was written so succinctly I couldn’t write it any better.