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I'm Gonna Live Anyhow Until I Die
Grades 6-8, 7-9, 10-12

Click here for recording
Recorded: Como, MS, on September 21, 1959.
Performers: Bob Pratcher and Miles Pratcher

Activity 1: Can you Anticipate the Beat? (Grades 6-8; 10-12)

1. Listen, with the following question:

Q: What instruments are you hearing?
A: Fiddle, guitar, male vocal

2. Listen and try to identify some of the words for the first verse.

Possible text:
I'm gonna shake it well for my Lord
I'm gonna shake it well for you, gal
Well sticks and stones gonna break my bones
Talk about me when I'm dead and gone
I'm gonna live anyhow until I die

I'm gonna live anyhow until I die
Well, sticks and stones will break my bones
Talk about me when I'm dead and gone
I'm gonna live anyhow until I die.

Goodbye, Lord,
Goodbye, Lord.

Note that deciphering the text for some music is often difficult, for the words are not as important as the musical accompaniment. In addition, this song was composed by Shepherd Edmonds in 1901, and was well-known when this performance took place in 1959. Contemporary listeners might be expected to know the words.

3. Listen to the first verse while tapping the beat.

Q: Does the first word of each line occur on the beat?
A: No, the words anticipate the beat.

Inform the students that the performers were brothers named Miles and Bob Pratcher, African Americans from Mississippi. Note that this anticipation of the beat is common in much African American folk music of the Southern United States.

4. With the beats marked on a whiteboard, listen to the first verse, trying to figure out where the words occur.

5. Listen to the recording, singing (lightly!) along.

Activity 2: Write a Poem to Reflect the Topic of a Song (Grades 7-9; 10-12)

1. Listen, with the following question:

Q: What instruments are you hearing?
A: Fiddle, guitar, male vocal

2. Listen and try to identify some of the words for the first verse.

I'm gonna shake it well for my Lord
I'm gonna shake it well for you, gal
Well sticks and stones gonna break my bones
Talk about me when I'm dead and gone
I'm gonna live anyhow until I die

I'm gonna live anyhow until I die
Well, sticks and stones will break my bones
Talk about me when I'm dead and gone
I'm gonna live anyhow until I die.

Goodbye, Lord,
Goodbye, Lord.

Note that deciphering the text for some music is often difficult, for the words are not as important as the musical accompaniment. In addition, this song was composed by Shepherd Edmonds in 1901, and was well-known when this performance took place in 1959. Contemporary listeners might be expected to know the words.

3. Discuss the text. Note that there are no correct interpretations, and that texts can be understood in different ways.

a. What do you think “I'm gonna shake it well for you” means?
b. What do you think “I'm gonna live anyhow until I die” means?

4. Inform the students: “One way that the text can be interpreted is that life is short, and that we need to make the best of it. Think about what it is that you want to accomplish in your life. Write a poem in which you describe a life goal, and what it would feel like if you attained it.”

Lesson plan by Christopher Roberts

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