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'Old Man River' lyrics trouble for teacher

April 27, 2010 at 3:06 PM

MORAGA, Calif., April 27 (UPI) -- A music instructor at a California college apologized to his class for giving them the classic song "Old Man River" with the original lyrics, officials say.

The song by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein is the most famous number in the musical "Showboat," first performed in 1927. The song has become a classic but the original lyrics include racial terms now considered unacceptable.

Beth Dobkin, the provost of St. Mary's College, a Catholic institution in the San Francisco area, said the college is considering whether Louis Lebherz, an artist-in-residence, should remain there, the Contra Costa Times reported. His brother is a trustee.

E.J. Youngblood, a black senior at St. Mary's, complained about the lyrics.

"I sincerely wish to apologize to you for my insensitivity in having a student sing a song which called attention to the racial problems that were and are a serious problem for our nation, and also for our own institution," Lebherz wrote Youngblood.

In 2008, a regional accreditation group said St. Mary's hadn't done enough to recruit minority students and improve race relations on campus. This year, the group found improvement, although students have complained of problems with staff members.

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