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Goin’ Down to Cairo – Goodbye Liza Jane

There are two Cairos. One of course is in Egypt. The other (the one referred to in the song) is at the southern end of Illinois in the United States, the place where the Ohio River spills into the Mississippi. This is an old tune. I’ve read it might be a Civil War tune or might be older still. Cairo was the location of a Union fort during the war called Fort Defiance.

Curiously, Southern Illinois is known as Little Egypt, but Cairo is pronounced Kay-roe. I read that southern Illinois was a source of corn for residents from the northern part of the state during bad weather years. As the story goes, farmers remembered the Book of Genesis and joked “behold there is corn in Egypt.” I don’t know if that is truth of folk tale.

The tune has lyrics, but I mostly avoid singing so I’ll leave that to you. There are various versions of the lyrics. Here is one set:

Goin’ down to Cairo, good-bye and a good-bye
Goin’ down to Cairo, good-bye Liza Jane

Black them boots and make ’em shine, good-bye and a good-bye
Black them boots and make ’em shine, good-bye Liza Jane

Goin’ away to leave you, good-bye and a good-bye
Goin’ away to leave you, good-bye Liza Jane

Promenade on the inside ring, good-bye and a good-bye
Promenade on the inside ring, good-bye Liza Jane

Had no hat, had no rim, good-bye and a good-bye
Had no hat, had no rim, good-bye Liza Jane

The old cow died and how I cried, good-bye and a good-bye
The old cow dies and how I cried, good-bye Liza Jane.

 

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