Angelina Baker (often referred to as Angeline the Baker) was written by Stephen Foster and published in 1850. He wrote it for the Christy Minstrels, a black face group formed in 1843. As Wayne Cantwell writes on his website, it was not one of Foster’s more popular songs. In fact, in 7 years it earned him a whopping $16.87, which would be equivalent to about $543 today!
The song’s original lyrics tell of a slave who was in love with a beautiful young slave named Angelina Baker. He was the best worker until he met Angelina and fell in love, but now his heart is broken and he laments because Angelina is gone; she has been sold, and he is left with only tears and destined to play the jawbone (an improvised slave percussion instrument) to pass the time..
The title of the song probably evolved into Angeline the Baker as the lyrics were changed away from the original and versions can be found mentioning:
She won’t do the baking because she is too stout,
She makes cookies by the peck, throws the coffee out.
and in another version of the lyrics, a line says:
Her father was a baker, they called him Uncle Sam.
Tim Talbot writes, When one hears minstrel songs, slave empathy does not usually come to mind. But through several of his songs (Old Folks at Home, My Old Kentucky Home, and Angelina Baker) Foster showed that, regardless of popular white nineteenth century beliefs, plantation slaves had feelings too.
This was the first tune I learned from my teacher. It is a very simple tune utilizing only 6 notes – 3 on the A string and 3 on the E string. I haven’t recorded in a while, so I thought I would record this. Here is my simple playing of Angelina Baker.
And, here I am playing it closer to tempo.
And, here it is played by the Turtle Creek String Band.
If you would like to download the Tab version, I have it posted here.