Oh, Aunt Clara!

from by Petaluma Vale

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about

This song is about my great-great-grandmother’s sister, Clara, who was a vaudeville and burlesque performer in the New York/New Jersey area in the 1930s and ‘40s. Although I never got to meet her, I’ve heard so many stories about her from my grandmother and other relatives that I feel I almost know her. She was quite a character in the family, and was known for being very religiously devoted but also extremely foul-mouthed (and hence, this song contains the album’s only f-bomb). Her signature number in vaudeville was the song “Ja-Da,” which I sing a portion of as an introduction to the song.

lyrics

Oh, Aunt Clara!

Glue your lashes, adjust your sash, and make sure those cheeks are rosy
Lights go up, the piano’s thumpin’ along
Take a breath and then squeeze it out behind dark and dingy teasers
Strut on out and then wow ‘em with your song

Oh, Aunt Clara, I wish I knew ya
so that I could talk to ya
and see you do your thing (“Ja-da, ja-da, jing, jing, jing”)
You were a smalltime star of vaudeville
and this skinny little broad will do the same

Point your toe, only ankle show, and then inch it a bit higher
Laugh it off, and then pat your coif as they stare
Need the dough, you put on your show, all those whoopin’ fools won’t harm ya
Charlie’s home cookin’ sauce that’s spiced with care

Oh, Aunt Clara, I wish I knew ya
so that I could talk to ya
and see you do your thing (“Ja-da, ja-da, jing, jing, jing”)
You were a smalltime star of vaudeville
and this skinny little broad will do the same

While with child you sang until you wore down your throat
to imbue your babe with the gift of music
As the child grew older it became clear
that your darling son couldn’t sing a note, but...

That’s okay ‘cause you had your heyday, your own Hoboken fame
You made certain to thank from whence your gift came
Prayed your rosary, though your prose would be shootin’ from the gutter
You say, “God made dirt, and it won’t hurt, so get out of my fuckin’ way, hey brother”

Oh, Aunt Clara, I wish I knew ya
so that I could talk to ya
and see you do your thing
You were a smalltime star of vaudeville
and this skinny little broad will do the same

credits

from The Long Way Out, released June 7, 2013
Petaluma Vale: piano, vocals
Raky Sastri: drums
Sean Peters: trumpet
Excerpt of "Ja-Da" written by Bob Carleton, 1918, Public Domain.
Piano for excerpt of "Ja-Da": Brendan Cooney
Vocals for excerpt of "Ja-Da": Petaluma Vale

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