Many people regard love as the greatest virtue, but since there has always been a shortage of virtue in the world, lots of folks settle for lust. Now, in any community with an economic system, wherever there is a demand, there is an opportunity for profits to be made — thus, the advent of prostitution, or, as it's widely known, "the world's oldest profession." Given the profession has likely been around since the concept of barter was established, it is no surprise that people have been singing about it for many years, and while rap musicians are popularly derided for singing about pimps and hoes, they are certainly not the first poets to do so. Thus, for your edification, The Weekly proudly presents this list of old school and classic playa songs. Enjoy!
"Stack O' Lee Blues" (Cliff Edwards)
The tale of Stagger Lee, in its varying versions and spellings, was a folk tale based on the historical pimp, Lee Shelton, who shot and killed fellow gangsta William "Billy" Lyons after the two got into a quarrel and Lyons took Shelton's hat. Though the first recording of "Stack O'Lee Blues" was by Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians, this, Cliff Edwards's, charming version was recorded in 1928.
"Minnie the Moocher" (Cab Calloway)
"Minnie the Moocher" was first recorded by Cab Calloway back in 1931 and has sold over a million copies. The song was especially well known for Calloway's scat singing, during which he engaged and interacted with his audiences. However, since most of the lyrics were slang references, many listeners never picked up on the fact that the song is about a lascivious dancer (dancing, also, most likely being a euphemism for doing the nasty). While the references are not exactly blatant, this early 20th century song is certainly about a career girl of questionable morals who winds up getting involved with druggies, slips away into a fantasy hallucination about her glamorous lifestyle, and winds up dead. There are various length versions of the song; the longer ones contain more of poor Minnie's story, and the shorter ones focus on the musicality and theatricality of Calloway and his orchestra.
"The House of the Rising Sun" (Tom Clarence Ashley N Gwen Foster)
An ancestor of the famous "House of the Rising Sun," recorded by The Animals in 1964, this 1933 recording of "The Rising Sun Blues" was one of the earliest incarnations of a folk song about a house of ill repute. While not specifically about pimps and hoes, per se, it does speak of the downfall of persons whose road has led them to the titular house of gambling and prostitution.
"Ain't Gonna Give it Away" (Barrel House Annie)
Not a whole lot of information is available about this 1937 recording by Barrel House Annie. The title and lyrics leave little to the imagination in this tune about a street walker. Other songs by Barrel House Annie are equally provocative and include the titles "If It Don't Fit (Don't Force It)," "Must Get Mine in Front," and "Love Operation."
"Street Walkin Blues" (Washboard Rhythm Kings)
The Washboard Rhythm Kings were a group of jazz performers, comprised of a rotating line-up of players. "Street Walkin Blues" was recorded between 1935-1936, when the band included Arnett Nelson on clarinet and Casey Bill Weldon on steel guitar and vocal. Again, not much is known about the song or its origin; however, the songs performed by this band of high caliber musicians likely reflected the events and people they knew during The Great Depression, and desperate times frequently call for desperate measures.