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volume 9
october 2006

Joan Baez: La Llorona

 





  Chord tabs for Joan Baez' song La Llorona
Appendix to: "Locked into the Hotel California"
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PLEASE NOTE: This file is the authors' own work and represents their
interpretation of the song. You may only use this file for private study,
scholarship, or research.

Song: La Llorona (The Weeping Woman)
Traditional
Artist: Joan Baez
Album: Gracias a la Vida (1974)
Key: E Phrygian
 
  Remarks: Though sharing many lines and verses, the lyrics tend to diverge among the many versions of this traditional. In most versions the number of song lines by far exceeds those selected by Joan Baez for her own rendition. I guess, however, that she comes close to the song's original meanings and intentions. As I read her selection, the song tells of a girl identifying herself with Llorona, the "weeping woman" of Mexican legends who, long ago, drowned her children because her lover deceived her and whose ghost is still haunting the river banks. The song's protagonist, clearly, has similar reasons for her laments. Probably, just the other day ("ayer era maravilla") her lover has left her for another woman. However, having overcome her tears but still in a mood of selfdestructive anger, she has decided to join Llorona in the river and now is addressing her ghost. Hearing the song lines, one can easily imagine the girl standing at the river bank and looking at the water. Seeing her own image, mirrored there as the legendary Llorona, she is voicing her decision. The song's sad, suicidal character, all in all, contrasts sharply with the album's joyfull title. It is a nice song, though, and beautifully sung by Joan Baez.
  Though it may seem so at first sight, the song is not strictly in the key of A Minor as the E Major at the end of the verse feels as its closing finalis. In fact we are hearing an example of the Latin American counterpart of the Andalusian Phrygian modal frame, as discussed by Peter Manuel in his article "From Scarlatti to "Guantanamera." Dual tonicity in Spanish and Latin American musics," published in the Journal of the American Musicological Society, 55 (2002), 2, 311-336. It differs from the original Andalusian Phrygian modal frame, mainly by its less accentuated and softer tone shifts. Moreover by the typical Latin American insertion of D Minor as an intermediate "subdominant," the song seems to stress the position of A Minor as its foremost key (Manuel, 2002: 325). Following Manuel's analysis, though, we have to treat E Major as the main tonic, with A Minor only acting as a secondary one. The song, furthermore, is clearly based upon the Spanish cadence (Am-G-F-E), the prominent progression of the Andalusian Phrygian modal frame. The F, though, has been traded for its relative minor Dm — thereby softening the transitions between the final chords.
  Also note that the tone settings of the song's verse and chorus are opposites. The first part (verse; m1-m8) is firmly build upon the interchange of i-iv and i-V harmonic ostinato's starting from the secondary tonic. Here the girl's voice sounds rather resigned. The second part (chorus; m9-m16) is built upon the Spanish cadence and, with the girl expressing her own decisiveness, contradicts this resignation. This part of the song starts with some urgency in contradicting or qualifying of what is told in the first part; and, with the unwinding of the Spanish cadence it ends up in a calm determination. I've added an English translation. Something of the Spanish lyrics may have been lost in translation, but I think it gets the gist of the original.
  October 9, 2006 — Ger Tillekens
 
1                    2
|Am                  |Dm                  |
 Todos me dicen el    negro, Llorona, 
3                    4  
|Am                  |E                   |
 negro pero cariñ-    oso. 
5                    6
|Am                  |Dm                  |
 Todos me dicen el    negro, Llorona, 
7                    8
|Am                  |E                   |
 negro pero cariñ-    oso.      Yo 

9                    10 
|Am                  |G                   |
 soy como el chile    verde, Llorona,  pi-
11                   12
|Dm                  |E                   |
 cante pero sabr-     oso.             Yo
13                   14
|Am                  |G                   |
 soy como el chile    verde, Llorona,  pi-
15                   16
|Dm                  |E                   |
 cante pero sabr-     oso.

Ay de mi llorona, Llorona,
de ayer y de hoy. 
Ay de mi llorona, Llorona,
de ayer y de hoy. 
Ayer era maravilla, Llorona, 
y ahora ni sombra soy. 
Ayer era maravilla, Llorona, 
y ahora ni sombra soy. 
 
Dicen que no tengo duelo, Llorona, 
porque no me ven llorar. 
Dicen que no tengo duelo, Llorona, 
porque no me ven llorar. 
Hay muertos que no hacen ruido, Llorona, 
y es más grande su penar. 
Hay muertos que no hacen ruido, Llorona, 
y es más grande su penar.
 
Ay de mi llorona, Llorona,
de azul celeste. 
Ay de mi llorona, Llorona,
de azul celeste. 
Y aunque la vida me cueste, Llorona, 
no dejaré de quererte. 
Y aunque la vida me cueste, Llorona, 
no dejaré de quererte. 

English translation
-------------------
They all call me black, Llorona,
black, but they think I still care.
They all call me black, Llorona,
black, but they think I still care.
But I am like the green chili, Llorona,
yes, sharp is the flavor I wear.
But I am like the green chili, Llorona,
yes, sharp is the flavor I wear.

My tears they were streaming, Llorona,
from yesterday up till today.
My tears they were streaming, Llorona,
from yesterday up till today.
Yesterday, it all looked wonderfull, Llorona,
now I've turned into a shadow this way.
Yesterday, it all looked wonderfull, Llorona,
now I've turned into a shadow this way.

They say I don't feel the pain, Llorona,
because they don't see me cry.
They say I don't feel the pain, Llorona,
because they don't see me cry.
But even the dead do not cry, Llorona,
though their sorrow is greater than mine.
But even the dead do not cry, Llorona,
though their sorrow is greater than mine.

My tears they were streaming, Llorona,
tear drops in heavenly blue.
My tears they were streaming, Llorona,
tear drops in heavenly blue.
And, though it will cost me my life, Llorona,
I will not forsake my promise to you.
And, though it will cost me my life, Llorona,
I will not forsake my promise to you.
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