Going to Meet the Man

Going to Meet the Man "This Morning, This Evening, So Soon" and American Folk

The title of the sixth story in Baldwin's collection comes from the title of an American folk song which also goes by the name of "Tell Old Bill." The refrain, "This morning, this evening, so soon," comes at the end of each verse. The song tells the story of a man named Bill who it seems has died after going to town the night before. The song dwells in the domestic realm; the second verse goes:

Bill's wife was a-baking bread this morning,

Bill's wife was a-baking bread this evening,

Bill's wife was a-baking bread,

when she found out that her Bill was dead,

This morning, this evening, so soon.

The song's origin's, like many of the songs in the Roud Folk Index and Carl Sandburg's American Songbag, originated from African people brought to America by force. Their songs were then anthologized by a predominantly white cohort of music ethnographers, who, in often-unethical circumstances, transcribed and recorded the songs without attributing authorship to the person or people who shared the songs with them. This is why so many American folk songs have no certain origin.

"Tell Old Bill," also known as "This Morning, This Evening, So Soon," and "Dis Morning, Dis Evening, So Soon," has been covered by hundreds of musicians in the last century, and most of them are white musicians. The most well-known cover of the song is performed by Dave Van Ronk, known as the Mayor of MacDougal Street for his charismatic and familiar performances around Greenwich Village.