I Don't Like that Face You WearMinstrelsy
Ernest Hogan, the author of this song, is often credited as one of the originators of the ragtime style. He also, to his later regret, helped invent the “coon song.” “Coon” was originally a slang term applied to white people. It described a person who was uneducated but slick, capable, tricky, and adaptable. Davy Crockett, the frontiersman, would describe himself as a “coon.” Later the term gets applied to “Zip Coon,” a stock character in the minstrel show who dressed in flashy clothes and flouted the law. In 1895 Hogan wrote a song called “All Coons Look Alike to Me,” which introduced some elements of ragtime into vocal performance. It started a vogue for “coon songs,” which carried the minstrel tradition into solo and duet performance. In this song, performed by Bert Williams and George Walker, the two men tell stories and sing and laugh in dialect. The lyrics describe a woman who dislikes the face of her suitor. Williams and Walker initially billed themselves as “The Two Real Coons.” Walker wrote: “We thought that as there seemed to be a great demand for black faces on the stage, we would do all we could to get what we felt belonged to us by the laws of nature.” It’s worth considering that “I Don’t Like that Face You Wear” was sung by black men in blackface.