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Cold War Music from the Golden Age of Homeland Security
Scene from the Broadway muiscal 'Jamaica'

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Leave De Atom Alone: Josephine Premice [1958]

One of the stranger songs ever to be featured in a pre-1970s Broadway musical, Leave De Atom Alone is an infectious and absurd calypso tune that will reverberate in the mind of the first time listener for weeks afterward. It is also an effective cautionary song about the dangers of misusing atomic energy. In keeping with the consumerism of the Eisenhower years, the lyrics warn that if "you want to keep riding in Cadillac car... if it pleasures your heart to keep smoking that big fat cigar, let me drive the point home, leave de atom alone."

'Jamaica' was a David Merrick production that starred Lena Horne and Ricardo Montalban with Josephine Premice. It opened at the Imperial Theater in New York City on October 31, 1957 and closed on April 11, 1959 after 558 performances. The 'New York Times' review in 1957 described Premice as "a razzle-dazzle lead performer who was hot flame to Horne's cool fire."

Broadway actress Josephine Premice was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1926 to Haitian parents and studied dance with Martha Graham and Katherine Dunham. Premice started her theater career in 1945 with a production of 'Blue Holiday' with Ethel Waters and the folk singer, Josh White.

Aside from 'Jamaica,' Premice appeared in such plays as 'The Cherry Orchard,' 'A Hand Is On The Gate' and 'Bubbling Brown Sugar.' Premice also appeared on television on 'The Jeffersons,' 'The Cosby Show' and 'A Different World.'

Premice's final stage performance was in the first professional all-black production of Tennessee Williams' 'Glass Menagerie' at the Cleveland Playhouse in 1989. Premice died in 2001 at the age of 74 in New York.
LYRICS/TRANSCRIPTION:
Leave De Atom Alone: Josephine Premice [1958]

Ever since the apple in the garden with Eve
Man always foolin' with things that cause him to grieve
He fool with the woman, with the Roman hot blood
And he almost washed up by the 40 day flood
But not since the doom day in old Babylon
Did he fool with anything so diabolical as the cyclotron
So if you wish to avoid the most uncomfortable trip to paradise
You will be scientific and take my advice

Leave de atom alone
Leave de atom alone
Don't get smart alexy with the galaxy
Leave atom alone

If you want to keep riding in Cadillac car
If you don't want to surely go to heaven prematurely on a shooting star
If it pleasures your heart to keep smoking that big fat cigar
Let me drive the point home
Leave de atom alone

If you want Mississippi to stay where it is
If you want to see Wall Street and General Motors continue in biz
If you want Uncle Sam to keep holding what's yours and what's his
If you're fond of kith and kin in their skin and bone
Don't fool around with hydrogen
Leave de atom alone

Bad for the teeth, bad for the bone
Don't fool with it, leave it alone

If you like Paris in the springtime (Paris in the springtime)
London in the fall (London in the fall)
Manhattan in the autumn (Manhattan in the autumn)
With music on the mall (with music on the mall)
Stop fooling with the fallout
Or puff the cosmic ball
Or soon you will be fissionable material

(Bad for the teeth, bad for the bone
Don't fool with it, leave it alone!)

Don't mess around you dopes
Lay off the isotopes

Don't you fuss with the nucleus
Don't go too far with the nuclear

Don't get gay with the cosmic ray
You'll burn your fingers, lose your hair
You'll leave big smog in the atmosphere

You're most exasperated
When radioactivated
And cannot be located on telephone

Go on back! (to rock and roll-a)
(To Rum and Coca Cola)
Go back to Eve, but leave de atom alone
(Bad for the teeth) That's right!, (bad for the bone) Uh Huh!
(Don't fool with it)

You'll spoil your complexion
Tie up the traffic
Jam up your plumbing
Lose your sweet disposition

(Don't fool with it)
Leave it alone

Josephine Premice [1958]
Leave De Atom Alone
(Music by Harold Arlen; Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg)
RCA Victor LOC 1103 'Jamaica'

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