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a guide to removing the g-word from your favourite jazz songs


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

Original lyric:

The gypsies say and I know why
A falling blossom only touches lips that lie

Updated lyric:

The spirits say and I know why…

2. Embraceable You

Original lyric:

Just one look at you, my heart goes tipsy in me
You and you alone brings out the gypsy in me

Updated lyric:

Just one look at you, my heart goes wild in me
You and you alone brings out the child in me

3. Skylark

Original lyric:

Faint as a will o’ the wisp, crazy as a loon
Sad as a gypsy serenading the moon

Updated lyric:

Sad as somebody serenading the moon

4. Golden Earrings

Original lyric:

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.

Updated lyric:

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.

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Renée is a queer, non-binary, disabled, and chronically ill creator based in Montreal. They are a singer, songwriter, pianist, YouTuber, and Periscoper. They are currently a student of jazz studies at Mcgill University and a freelance vocal coach for young and emerging singers.

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