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Turkey in the Straw

“I have lately made an Experiment in Electricity that I desire never to repeat. Two nights ago being about to kill a Turkey by the Shock from two large Glass Jarrs containing as much electrical fire as forty common Phials, I inadvertently took the whole thro’ my own Arms and Body.”

Benjamin Franklin, December 25, 1750

 

 

Something for the weekend.  Turkey in the Straw seems appropriate for the weekend before Thanksgiving.  The spirited rendition above is by the Skillet Lickers, a Georgia band of the twenties and thirties of the last century. Part time musicians, they made up in enthusiasm and faithfulness to the traditional music they played, what they may have lacked in technical skill.

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Of Rainy Days and Mondays

 

 

Something for the weekend.  Rainy Days and Mondays (1971).  Lots of rain here in Central Illinois this week as October comes in quite wet.  The Carpenters, siblings Richard and Karen, recorded this song in 1971, and it was their fourth number one song.  Actually I rather like rainy days and Mondays are great for me, as any trouble they bring can be written off since it is a Monday and the start of the work week for most, and therefore comes predestroyed as it were.  I always enjoyed Karen Carpenter’s voice and thus was saddened when in 1983 she died of anorexia nervosa and the details of her often sad life came out.  However her art remains and that is not a bad legacy for any artist.

 

 

 

 

How Ya Gonna Keep ’em Down On the Farm?

 

 

Something for the weekend.   How Ya Gonna Keep ’em Down On the Farm?  With music by Walter Donaldson and words by Joe Young and Sam M. Lewis, the humorous song became immensely popular in 1919, especially with troops awaiting demobilization.  The song reflected a real concern among parents and wives that their doughboys would come back changed men.  Well, they did, but most of them resumed their former lives with little fuss or bother. Continue Reading

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Come, Ye Thankful People, Come

Something for the weekend.  Come, Ye Thankful People, Come.  Written in 1844 by Henry Alford, a Church of England rector, it quickly became a favorite hymn throughout the English speaking world.

 

My village of Dwight, Illinois is having its annual Harvest Days festival this weekend.  It is a sight to behold, especially the basset waddle on Sunday.  Seeing hundreds of bassets waddling down the streets of Dwight is a sight that will remain with you for a very long time!

 

1. Come, ye thankful people, come,
Raise the song of harvest home!
All is safely gathered in,
Ere the winter storms begin;
God, our Maker, doth provide
For our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come;
Raise the song of harvest home!

2. We ourselves are God’s own field,
Fruit unto his praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown
Unto joy or sorrow grown;
First the blade and then the ear,
Then the full corn shall appear;
Grant, O harvest Lord, that we
Wholesome grain and pure may be.

3. For the Lord our God shall come,
And shall take the harvest home;
From His field shall in that day
All offences purge away,
Giving angels charge at last
In the fire the tares to cast;
But the fruitful ears to store
In the garner evermore.

4. Then, thou Church triumphant come,
Raise the song of harvest home!
All be safely gathered in,
Free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified,
In God’s garner to abide;
Come, ten thousand angels, come,
Raise the glorious harvest home!

 

Goodbye Broadway, Hello France

 

Something for the weekend.  Goodbye Broadway, Hello France.  A century ago the first American units had landed in France, the vanguard of the American Expeditionary Forces that would grow to over two million men.  To commemorate this vast event, Billy Baskette composed this song in 1917 with C. Francis Reisner and Benny Davis writing the lyrics.  The song became one of the mega-hits of the War.

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Heave Ho My Lads

 

Something for the weekend.  Heave Ho My Lads sung by cadets of the United States Merchant Marine Academy.

 

Labor Day weekend seems a fitting time to recall again the United States Merchant Marine.  The civilian fleet that carries imports and exports to and from the US, during war time it becomes an auxiliary of the Navy to ship troops and war supplies.  Officers of the Merchant Marine are trained at the Merchant Marine Academy, founded in 1943, at King’s Point, New York.

Technically civilians, one out of 26 merchant mariners died in action during World War II, giving them a higher fatality rate than any of the armed services.   Members of the Merchant Marine were often jeered  as slackers and draft dodgers by civilians when they were back on shore who had no comprehension of the vital role they played, or how hazardous their jobs were.  Incredibly, these gallant men were denied veteran status and any veteran benefits because they were civilians.  This injustice was not corrected until 1988 when President Reagan signed the Merchant Marine Fairness Act.  Some 9,521 United States Merchant Mariners were killed during World War II, performing their duty of keeping the sea lanes functioning in war, as in peace.

 

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One People

Something for the weekend.  The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down by The BandWhen I read Civil War history I do not read it in an us v. them spirit.  Everybody involved is an American:  Confederate, Union, black slave.  It is the great American epic, our Iliad.  It was visited upon us by God, I believe, for the reason Lincoln stated:

If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

The great lesson of the Civil War is that we are one people, North and South, black and white, and when I study that period in our history I always attempt to remember that fact.

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Joan of Arc, They Are Calling You

I commend you to God; may God watch over you and grant you grace so that you can maintain the good cause of the Kingdom of France.

Joan of Arc

 

 

Something for the weekend.  Joan of Arc, They Are Calling You.  A hit song a hundred years ago in the US.  Music by Jack Wells and lyrics by Al Bryan and Willie Weston.  Although the Maid of Orleans would not be canonized until 1920, the French had regarded her as a saint since her death.  In World War I French soldiers would usually have an image of Joan of Arc on them as they went into battle in a War most of them regarded as a Crusade to save France.

Fortnight For Freedom: The Liberty Song

 

Something for the weekend.  The Liberty Song.

 

Written by Founding Father John Dickinson in 1768, the song was sung by patriots in America to the tune of Heart of OakThe video below is the most hilarious scene from the John Adams mini-series where a completely fish out of water John Adams gets donations for the American cause from French aristocrats as they sing the Liberty Song, led by Ben Franklin who is obviously immensely enjoying himself.  It is a good song for Americans to recall, and perhaps especially so in this year of grace, 2017. Continue Reading

Good-bye Broadway, Hello France

Something for the weekend.  Good-bye Broadway, Hello France.  Like the Civil War, World War I produced endless songs, most of which were never heard of again after the  War was concluded.  Quite popular during the War was Good-bye Broadway, Hello France, written in 1917 by by Billy Baskette, with lyrics written by C. Francis Reisner and Benny Davis.  Whenever a World War I documentary has ever been produced, this song is often played as US troops are shown being shipped to France.

Nearer, My God, To Thee

Something for the weekend.  Nearer, My God, to Thee, sung by Mahalia Jackson.  Written in 1841 by Sarah Fuller Flower Adams, it retells the story of Jacob’s Dream.  A hymn of surpassing power in time of grief and loss, it was played by Confederate bands after Pickett’s Charge, and was sounded while the Rough Riders buried their dead.  Its title was the last words said by a dying President McKinley and the band on the Titanic ended their heroic service by playing the hymn as the ship sank beneath the waves. Continue Reading

The Reluctant Conscript

 

 

Something for the weekend.  The Reluctant Conscript performed by Bobby Horton who has waged a one man crusade to bring Civil War era music to modern audiences.  This song is typical of the type of humorous songs sung by soldiers on both sides.    Civil War soldiers endured hardships and casualties that modern students of that conflict can only regard as appalling.  However, the amazing thing is the good humor that those very brave men also displayed, often directed against themselves.  We stand on the shoulders on the giants, and among those giants are a lot of 18-20 young men clad in blue and gray, many of whom did not get any older, and who overwhelmingly met their fates with courage and a type of laughing gallantry that is all too foreign to our debased times.

Stand Up For Uncle Sam My Boys

 

 

Something for the weekend.  Stand Up For Uncle Sam My Boys sung by Bobby Horton who has waged a one man crusade to bring Civil War music to modern audiences.  A pro-Union song written in 1861 by that tireless writer of Civil War tunes George F. Root.  Sadly its patriotism may seem over the top to modern audiences.  Not so to most of the fighting men on both sides during the Civil War who liked their songs about the War to be lively and very patriotic.

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America

 

Something for the weekend.  America from West Side Story.  Hard to believe that it is 60 years since this updating of Romeo and Juliet was first performed on the stage.  Parts of it are still powerful, especially at the end where Maria blames the hate of both the Jets and the Sharks for the death of her Tony, and the gang members join in carrying away his corpse.  Of course some elements now seem absurd.  The gang members now look so clean cut that they are more like young members of a Rotary Club than would be street criminals.

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Lincoln and Liberty Too

 

 

The low clown out of the prairies, the ape-buffoon,

The small-town lawyer, the crude small-time politician,

State-character but comparative failure at forty

In spite of ambition enough for twenty Caesars,

Honesty rare as a man without self-pity,

Kindness as large and plain as a prairie wind,

And a self-confidence like an iron-bar:

This Lincoln, President now by the grace of luck,

Disunion, politics, Douglas and a few speeches

Which make the monumental booming of Webster

Sound empty as the belly of a burst drum.

Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body

 

Something for the weekend.  Lincoln and Liberty Too, the most stirring campaign song in American history, sung by Bobby Horton who has waged a one man crusade to bring Civil War music to modern audiences.  Mr. Lincoln’s birthday is on Monday which this year coincides with the state holiday in Illinois.  I always close down the law mines on that day.  Lincoln used to say that Henry Clay was his ideal of a statesman and for me Abraham Lincoln has always filled that role.  Presidents come and Presidents go, but Washington and Lincoln remain, the fixed stars of the better angels of our natures.

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God Bless the USA

 

 

It is thought by many, and said by some, that this republic has already seen its best days; that the historian may now write the story of its decline and fall. Two classes of men are just now especially afflicted with such forebodings. The first are those who are croakers by nature. The men who have a taste for funerals, and especially national funerals. They never see the bright side of anything, and probably never will. Like the raven in the lines of Edgar A. Poe, they have learned two words, and those are, ‘never more’. They usually begin by telling us what we never shall see.

Frederick Douglass, December 7, 1869

Something for the weekend.  This rendition of Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA seems very appropriate as a new administration begins.  We Americans are a tough and resilient people, something our adversaries frequently forget and something we too also fail to sometimes remember.

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Hail to the Chief

 

 

 

Something for the weekend.  Hail to the Chief.  The Presidential anthem, it was written by James Sanderson in 1812 and became associated with the Presidency in 1815 to honor George Washington and the ending of the War of 1812.  Andrew Jackson was the first living president for which the song was played.  During the Civil War it was played for both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis.  Chester A. Arthur did not like the song and had John Philip Sousa write a replacement, the Presidential Polonaise.  After Arthur’s term of office the Marine Corps Band went right back to playing Hail to the Chief to announce the President.  Here are the almost never sung, thank goodness, lyrics:

Hail to the Chief we have chosen for the nation,
Hail to the Chief! We salute him, one and all.
Hail to the Chief, as we pledge cooperation
In proud fulfillment of a great, noble call.

Yours is the aim to make this grand country grander,
This you will do, that’s our strong, firm belief.
Hail to the one we selected as commander,
Hail to the President! Hail to the Chief! Continue Reading

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Less of Me

Something for the weekend.  Less of Me sung by the Statler Brothers.  I heard this song sung by the Statler Brothers endlessly back in the early seventies as my parents had the radio on in the kitchen tuned,  as always, to country western station WPRS in Paris, Illinois, as they prepared for work and my brother and I were still in our room before we got up to prepare for school.  Originally recorded by Glen Campbell in 1965, the song is a rendition in music of the poem A Creed by English-American poet Edgar Albert Guest which he wrote in 1909: Continue Reading

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Courage

 

Something for the weekend:  Heart of Courage.

 

 

We have made men proud of most vices, but not of cowardice. Whenever we have almost succeeded in doing so, the Enemy permits a war or an earthquake or some other calamity, and at once courage becomes so obviously lovely and important even in human eyes that all our work is undone, and there is still at least one vice of which they feel genuine shame. 

CS Lewis, Screwtape Letters

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Canon in D

 

Something for the weekend.  A nice mild October Saturday after a not uneventful week in the law mines  Time to celebrate with Pachelbel’s Canon in D.  Perhaps the greatest of the middle Baroque composers, Johann Pachelbel enjoyed enormous popularity in his lifetime.  After his death in 1706, with changing fashions in music, he was largely forgotten.  This changed dramatically in 1968 with a recording of Canon D by Jean-Francois Paillard.  Great Art never really ceases to be great Art, it merely slumbers until new audiences appear to appreciate it.

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Missouri Waltz

 

 

Something for the weekend.  Missouri Waltz.  Published in 1914, the melody was by John Valentine Eppel, arrangement by Frederic Knight Logan, with James Royce Shannon supplying the lyrics.  Initially the song sold poorly, but its popularity increased over the years.  After Harry Truman became President it became associated with him, and was played constantly when he appeared during his long uphill campaign throughout the nation in 1948.  In 1949 Missouri adopted it as its state song. Continue Reading

Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

 

 

Something for the weekend.  Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!  The 1840 campaign for President was considered to be an insult to intelligence by more than a few observers.  The Whigs put up a military hero of the War of 1812 William Henry Harrison.  Prior to the War of 1812 in 1811 he had gained the victory against massed Indian tribes under Tenskawtawa (the Prophet) the brother of Tecumseh.  The two Shawnee brothers had been meeting with some success in setting up a nascent Indian confederation to resist American expansion.  The battle was fought at Prophetstown, modern day Lafayette, Indiana, near to the confluence of the Wabash and Tippecanoe rivers, hence the name of the battle was Tippecanoe and became a nickname for Harrison.  Harrison went on after the War to be a Senator from Ohio and an ambassador to Colombia, but had met with little political success in the 1830s.  At the time he received the Whig nomination he was Clerk of Courts for Hamilton Country Ohio.  His running mate was John Tyler, a Virginia aristocrat and former Democrat, who had turned against Jackson.  Tyler had served in the state legislature in Virginia, in Congress both in the House and in the Senate, and as Governor of Virginia.  He was put on the ticket to ensure Southern votes.

The incumbent Martin Van Buren had reaped the whirlwind sown by Jackson’s economic policies and the country was ready for change.  However, serious discussion of the issues of the day was largely absent from the campaign.  The Democrats then, as now, posed as the champion of the common man..  Van Buren came across as something of a stuffed shirt.  When a Democrat paper made the mistake of sneering, completely inaccurately, as a backwoodsman, who would be content to live in his log cabin if awarded a pension of 2000 a year and a barrel of hard cider, the Whigs seized upon it gleefully.  Usually accused as being the party of the rich, the Whigs ran a “hard cider and log cabin” campaign decrying Martin Van Buren as a New York aristocrat who wore frilly shirts, used perfume and ate off of gold plate.  The tenor of the campaign is illustrated by this little ditty that Whig partisans would chant:

Old Tip he wore a homespun coat, he had no ruffled shirt: wirt-wirt,
But Matt he has the golden plate, and he’s a little squirt: wirt-wirt! Continue Reading

The Radetzky March

 

Something for the weekend.  The Radetzky March.  Written in 1848 by Johann Strauss Senior, the march celebrated Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz, the bright light of the Austrian Army in the first half of the nineteenth century.  Radetzky served seventy years in the Austrian Army and was winning battles into his eighties.  A perhaps apocryphal story tells that the Austrian Emperor would frequently settle Radetzky’s debts.  When some courtiers asked the Emperor why he did this, the Emperor shrugged and said it was cheaper than losing a war!  The sprightly march has been a favorite in America and around the globe since its debut.

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Sambre et Meuse

 

Something for the weekend.  Le Régiment de Sambre et Meuse.  The poem on which the march is based was written in the wake of the French devastating battlefield defeats in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 by Paul Cezano.  Music for the poem was composed by Robert Planquette in 1871.  In 1879 the familiar military march arrangement was written by Joseph François Rauski.  The march proved very popular in the United States as any fans of Ohio State football can attest.

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633 Squadron

Squadron Leader Adams: Well, at least the rockets won’t happen.
Air Vice Marshal Davis: Of course they’ll happen. But they won’t start tomorrow, or this month or on D-Day, and that’s important.
Squadron Leader Adams: Then what’s it all add up to? All their sacrifice?
Air Vice Marshal Davis: A successful operation.
Squadron Leader Adams: But they’re probably all dead. All 633 Squadron.
Air Vice Marshal Davis: You can’t kill a squadron.

Ending, 633 Squadron (1964)


 

 

Something for the weekend.  The theme song from 633 Squadron.  In my misspent youth I spent endless hours watching old war movies on TV.  One of my favorites was the British flick 633 Squadron (1964) which recounted the fictional tale of a British Mosquito bomber squadron and their self sacrificial attempt to take out a well-defended Nazi V2 rocket fuel plant in occupied Norway.  The film won praise for its aerial sequences, cutting edge in 1964, and George Lucas has cited the squadron’s attack on the plant as influencing the trench run sequence attack on the Death Star in Star Wars. Continue Reading

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You’re A Grand Old Flag

 

 

Something for the weekend.  You’re A Grand Old Flag sung by James Cagney in the film biopic of George M. Cohan Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942).  Cohan wrote the song in 1906 after an encounter with a Union veteran of Gettysburg who was carrying a torn American battle flag.  The old soldier smiled at Cohan and said the flag was “A grand old rag!”

 

I cannot have a post that mentions the film Yankee Doodle Dandy without showing the scene of Cagney as Cohan tap dancing down the White House steps.  Cagney did the scene completely impromptu. Continue Reading

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Stalin Wasn’t Stallin’

 

Something for the weekend.  Stalin Wasn’t Stallin’.  A historical curiosity of 1943.  The only gospel song that I am aware of that praises Joseph Stalin, it was inspired by this remark in a speech by FDR:

The world has never seen greater devotion, determination, and self sacrifice, that have been displayed by the Russian people and their armies under the leadership of Marshall Joseph Stalin.  The song was performed a cappella by the gospel group Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet.  The song was a moderate success in 1943 and has mercifully been largely forgotten since that.  A tribute to war time tunnel vision and the delusional view of Stalin firmly embraced by President Roosevelt and many other liberal Americans, inside and outside of his administration, at the time.

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1812 Overture

 

Something for the weekend.  Tchaikovsky’s  1812 Overture.  Written in 1880 to commemorate the victory of Russia over Napoleon, its composition was due to the fact that the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, commissioned by Tsar Alexander I in thanksgiving for the victory, was nearing completion.  As it happens, Tchaikovsky did not think much of what would become his most famous piece, writing that it was noisy and lacked all artistic merit and was written by him without love.  Oddly enough, it has become associated in this country with the Fourth of July, as I have heard it performed on several Independence Day celebrations.

Although it has been endlessly parodied, “the cereal that’s shot from guns”, I have always liked it.  Listening to a great piece of music like this, I wonder if the below humor piece does not possess a rare insight: Continue Reading

Glory Music

We bide our chance,
Unhappy, and make terms with Fate
A little more to let us wait;
He leads for aye the advance,
Hope’s forlorn-hopes that plant the desperate good
For nobler Earths and days of manlier mood;

James Russell Lowell, Memoriae Positum

Selections from the score of the movie Glory (1989), the story of the 54th Massachusetts, one of the first Union black regiments, up to their valiant assault on Fort Wagner in 1863.  A prime example of historical movies should be made, Glory performs the epic feat of bringing to life again the days of the Civil War when the fate of the nation was decided.

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Happy New Year 1958

Something for the weekend.  Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians playing Auld Lang Syne.  The first year I spent on this globe was in 1957.  The above is the New Year’s Eve broadcast on CBS by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians on December 31, 1957.  Born in Canada, Lombardo became a naturalized American citizen in 1938.  For 48 years, until his death in 1977, Guy Lombardo and his band ushered in the New Year with broadcasts, first on CBS radio and then on CBS television.  The first televised broadcast was in 1956.  Guy Lombardo and his band managed the feat of remaining popular, and highly profitable, for half a century, a difficult feat in as fickle an enterprise as the entertainment industry.  Lombardo was the heart and soul of the operation, his band surviving his death only by two years.

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Handel’s Advent Messiah: For Unto Us A Son Is Given

The culmination of the Advent portions of Handel’s Advent Messiah.  Go here to listen to the earlier portions.

 

Handel heralds the coming of Christ with the immortal words of Isaiah Chapter 9, verse 6:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.