Something for a Fourth of July weekend: Yankee Doodle.
Originally sung by British officers to disparage American troops who fought beside them in the French and Indian War, it was seized upon by Patriots, given endless lyrics, and cheered the patriot troops and civilians during the eight long years of the Revolution. After Lexington and Concord it was reported by Massachusetts newspapers that the British were suddenly not as fond of the song:
“Upon their return to Boston [pursued by the Minutemen], one [Briton] asked his brother officer how he liked the tune now, — ‘Dang them,’ returned he, ‘they made us dance it till we were tired’ — since which Yankee Doodle sounds less sweet to their ears.”
James Cagney did an immortal riff on Yankee Doodle in the musical biopic of composer and actor George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942):
Yankee Doodle plays in the background as Cagney at the end of the film, entirely impromptu, dances down the White House staircase:
Something for the weekend. Well, after a February of frequent below zero temps and constant snow and ice, the snow has finally melted where I live, with just a few remnant patches. Time for some classical music for Spring courtesy of Vivaldi, Strauss and Schumann.
Your Highnesses have an Other World here, by which our holy faith can be so greatly advanced and from which such great wealth can be drawn.
Christopher Columbus, letter to Ferdinand and Isabella, 1498
Something for the weekend. With Christopher Columbus day coming up, a trilogy of pieces on Christopher Columbus. From 1936 Fats Waller belting out Christopher Columbus. A jaunty tune whose cheerful historical illiteracy is set forth early in the song with the claim that Columbus did not have a compass:
Mister Christopher Columbus
Sailed the sea without a compass
When his men began a-rumpus,
Up spoke Christopher Columbus!
There’s land somewhere
‘Til we get there
We will not go wrong,
If we sail with a song.
Since the world is round-o
We’ll be safe and sound-o
‘Til our goal is found-o
We’ll just keep rhythm-bound-o
Since the crew was making merry,
Mary got up and went home.
There came a yell for Isabel
And they brought on the rum and Isabel.
No more mutiny, no.
What a time at sea!
Christopher made history.
Mister Christopher Columbus
He used rhythm as a compass.
Music ended all the rumpus,
wise old Christopher Columbus.
(Latch on Christy, yeah! Uh huh! Yes, yes, yes!)
(Well, looky there!
Christy’s grabbed the Santa Maria and he’s going back!
Yeah, ahhh looky-there!
In the year 1492,
Columbus sailed the ocean blue… what’d I say?)
From 1949 the musical score from the technicolor movie Christoher Columbus. The film is forgotten today, which is a pity. While containing a plenitude of the usual historical howlers that period films are ere too, Fredric March gives us a powerful, albeit irascible, portrayal of the Admiral of the Ocean Sea. Definitely worth watching. Continue reading
Something for a weekend. What Shall we Do With a Drunken Sailor? sung by the Irish Rovers. Anonymous like most sea shanties as to its authorship, it was first heard on American whaler ships circa 1839.
Here is a rendition by the Clancy Brothers: Continue reading
Something for the weekend. In 1963 the Robert Shaw Chorale released an album This Is My Country that had songs from American history. The above is the Civil War medley for the South and below is the Civil War medley for the North:
Something for a Veteran’s Day weekend. The Army of the Free, one of the more rousing of the Civil War songs, set to the tune of The Wearing of the Green. It is sung by the immortal Tennessee Ernie Ford, who, like so many natives of The Volunteer State, had ancestors who fought on both sides of the War.
And here is another rendition, sung by Bobby Horton, who has waged a one man crusade to bring the music of the Civil War to modern audiences.
Something for the weekend. That’s What’s the Matter by Stephen Foster. The Civil War probably killed Stephen Foster. The most notable American composer of his time, in a day when copyright enforcement was nil, Foster always just managed to scratch out a precarious living. As the beginning of the song indicates with the coming of the War many of the songs he had written in peace were no longer in demand.
Broke and suffering from a persistent fever, deserted by his wife who had taken their daughter to live in Pittsburgh in 1861, Foster fell in his hotel room in New York City on January 10, 1864 and gashed his head on a wash basin. He was admitted to Bellevue and died three days later, at age 37. Ironically his most successful song, Beautiful Dreamer, was published a few months after his death: Continue reading
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have proclaimed a second Fortnight for Freedom from June 21-July 4th, and, as last year, The American Catholic will participate with special blog posts each day.
Something for the Weekend. Liberty Song. Written by Founding Father John Dickinson in 1768, the song was sung by patriots in America to the tune of Heart of Oak. The video above 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, 2013.
The gentlemen killed and the gentlemen died,
But she was the South’s incarnate pride
That mended the broken gentlemen
And sent them out to the war again,
That kept the house with the men away
And baked the bricks where there was no clay,
Made courage from terror and bread from bran
And propped the South on a swansdown fan
Through four long years of ruin and stress,
The pride–and the deadly bitterness.
Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body
Something for the weekend. Written in 1863 by Captain G. W. Alexander, The Southern Soldier Boy is a fitting tribute to the ragged warriors of the Confederacy who maintained an unequal struggle for four years and the women who loved and sustained them. During the War it was popularized by actress Sally Partington, the toast of Richmond, who would sing the song as part of the play The Virginia Cavalier. The above version is by Bobby Horton, who has waged a one man crusade to bring Civil War music to modern audiences. Continue reading
Something for the weekend. Give Me That Old Time Religion. This sequence from Sergeant York (1941) demonstrates the power of this traditional hymn first published in 1873. It was originally a hymn sung by Black congregations, and was introduced to White congregations in 1891 by Charles Davis Tillman. It began the convergence of Black gospel singing with White gospel singing to form Southern Gospel singing.
Here is a version sung by The Caravans in 1954.
“And Thou knowest O Lord, when Thou didst decide that the Confederacy should not succeed, Thou hadst first to remove thy servant, Stonewall Jackson.”
Father D. Hubert, Chaplain, Hay’s Louisiana Brigade, upon the dedication of the statue of Stonewall Jackson on May 10, 1881 in New Orleans
Something for the weekend. After the 150th anniversary of Chancellorsville only Stonewall Jackson’s Way, sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford, seems appropriate. The song is a fitting evocation of the man, who, if he had not been mortally wounded at Chancellorsville, might well have with Lee brought about a war ending victory for the Confederacy at Gettysburg. I fully agree with Father Hubert that the death of General Jackson was probably a necessary factor in the defeat of the Confederacy. As a military team he and Lee were able to accomplish military miracles and with his death the Confederacy could still rely upon the endless courage of their ragged warriors and the brilliance of Lee, but the age of military miracles in the Civil War ended with the passing of Jackson.
The song was taken from a poem found on the body of a dead Confederate sergeant after the First Battle of Winchester, May 25, 1862: Continue reading
Something for the Weekend. We Three Kings of Orient Are. If ever our nation needed the hope and love brought into the world by Christ, it was in the midst of the Civil War in 1863 when this great hymn first appeared in print. Written by John Henry Hopkins, Jr., a deacon of the Episcopal Church in 1875, this song captures well the longing of all Christians during Advent for Christmas, the commemoration of the birth of the Alpha and the Omega. Continue reading
I wish to live under no other government, & there is no sacrifice I am not ready to make for the preservation of the Union save that of honour. If a disruption takes place, I shall go back in sorrow to my people & share the misery of my native state, & save in her defence there will be one soldier less in the world than now. I wish for no other flag than the “Star Spangled banner” & no other air than “Hail Columbia.” I still hope that the wisdom & patriotism of the nation will yet save it.
Robert E. Lee, January 22, 1861
Something for the weekend. Hail Columbia. Composed in 1789 by Philip Phile for Washington’s first inaugural, and originally entitled The President’s March, lyrics were supplied by Joseph Hopkinson in 1798. Hail Columbia functioned as the unofficial national anthem of the United States up until the 1890s. Here is a scene from the John Adams miniseries where it is sung: Continue reading
Something for the weekend. It is a political season and so we take a look at If The Johnnies Get Into Power, a campaign song of the James Garfield campaign in the election of 1880. For a generation Republicans would “wave the bloody shirt” against Democrats, conjuring up the bogeyman of the terrible things that would happen if the Democrats, Confederate loving traitors!, elected a President. In the South Democrats would return the favor, using hatreds born of the Civil War and Reconstruction to keep the South a one party section of the nation. Not the most edifying period in the political history of our nation.
Here is a video of the great Johnny Cash singing a song about the assassination of James Garfield: Continue reading
Say to your Son that I am His.
Through Him all my sins are lost:
Forgive me, as Mary Egypt was,
Or, so they say, Theophilus,
Who by your grace was still blameless,
Though he vowed the Devil a guest.
Protect me always from like excess,
Virgin, who bore, without a cry,
Christ whom we celebrate at Mass.
In this faith let me live and die.
Something for the weekend. Song of the Vagabonds sung by the Robert Shaw chorale. Song of the Vagabonds is the showstopper song in the 1925 operetta The Vagabond King by Rudolph Friml. The operetta is an imaginative fantasy set in 15th Century Paris where Louis XI, the Spider King, makes Francois Villon, brilliant poet and petty thief, Marshal of France for a day after he criticizes Louis. Villon must defeat the Burgundian Army besieging Paris or be hanged. Villon rallies the Paris rabble, his people, and defeats the Burgundians. He wins the woman he loves and goes into exile for her. Alas, not a syllable is true to history. Continue reading
Something for the weekend. I feel in the mood for a little Irish rebel music, and nothing fits the bill better than The Rising of the Moon sung by the Clancy Brothers. The song, written around 1865, celebrates the Irish rising of 1798, when Protestant and Catholic Irishmen, with the help of a small French invasion force, launched a rebellion, probably the largest and most hard fought revolt against English rule in the history of Ireland. Like all such Irish revolts, except for the last one, it was defeated and drowned in blood. However, the Irish have ever celebrated their defeats even more than their victories, and the Rising of the Moon is a fitting tribute. Continue reading
Something for the weekend. It rather astonishes me how time has flown, but in October The American Catholic will be celebrating its third anniversary which puts me in a nostalgic mood. This is one of the first of the music videos that I run on Saturdays, from October 18, 2008. Two versions of Franz Waxman’s immortal Ride to Dubno, aka Ride of the Cossacks: dueling pianists and the full Hollywood treatment in the 1962 movie Taras Bulba for which the song was composed. Great to listen to if you need an energy boost.