Tag Archives: death

Demon of the Seas

TITLE: Demon of the Sea AUTHOR: Unknown, possibly an anonymous London street author, identified only by the initials J.H. CATEGORY: Public Domain, Parlor Song KEYWORDS: Death, Fight, Navy, Pirate EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1847 (Journal of William Histed of the Cortes) About fourteen years ago [1833] I tried to make a shilling or two by selling read more »

Springfield Mountain

TITLE: Springfield Mountain AUTHOR: Unknown CATEGORY: Public Domain, Traditional KEYWORDS: death, animal, lover, injury, 19th Century, US History, Massachusetts EARLIEST DATE: 1836 HISTORICAL REFERENCES: Aug 7, 1761 – Death by snakebite of Timothy Myrick, often considered the inspiration for this song. There are many versions of this songs ranging from serious to comic. I first learned this read more »

Calvary (On a Hill Lone and Gray)

TITLE: Calvary (On a Hill Lone and Grey) AUTHOR: Words: Beverly F. Carradine, Music: Unknown, possibly Dock Boggs CATEGORY: Public Domain, Author Known KEYWORDS: grief, punishment, resurrection, death, dying, Bible, religious, Jesus EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: © 1895, R. M. McIntosh Co., Charles M. Alexander, Owner. HISTORICAL REFERENCES: It would appear that this song generally follows read more »

John Brown’s Body

TITLE: John Brown’s Body AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: Civil War, Black(s), death, execution, memorial, burial, rebellion, slavery EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1861 (Huntington) HISTORICAL REFERENCES: The song, as we know it today, is about John Brown, the Baptist preacher and radical abolitionist who, with 20 others (fifteen of them, including Brown’s three sons, read more »

John Henry (Pete Seeger Version)

TITLE: John Henry (Blankenship Version) AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: train, work, death, technology, railroading, worker EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1909 Journal of American Folklore HISTORICAL REFERENCES: Researchers are still trying to pin down the REAL John Henry, from Guy B. Johnson, , 1929 to Scott Nelson’s book 2006 book

Red Wing

TITLE: Red Wing AUTHOR: Kerry Mills and Thurland Chattaway CATEGORY: Author Known, Public Domain KEYWORDS: American Indians, death, battle EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: copyrighted in 1907, now in public domain SOME CONSIDER THIS SONG OFFENSIVE: See below. Frederick Allen (Kerry) Mills and Thurland Chattaway wrote this tune in  1907. Mills spent twenty years trying to keep up read more »

Billy Magee Magaw

TITLE: Billy Magee Magaw AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: death, bird, food EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1611 (Thomas Ravenscroft). Ravenscroft (c. 1588 – 1635) was an English musician, theorist and editor, notable as a composer of rounds and catches, and especially for compiling collections of British folk music. This is a minstrel show version of The read more »

Railroad Bill

TITLE: Railroad Bill AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: rambling, robbery, crime, death, train EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1911 (Odum, according to Cohen) HISTORICAL REFERENCES: There is a legend in south Alabama, associated with the spirit of a man known as, “Railroad Bill”. This story, from slave cultures, during the post-Civil War era, during the read more »

Old Blue

TITLE: Old Blue AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: dog, death, burial, hunting EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1913 Alan Lomax states in his Folk Songs of North America that “the backwoods folk of the south lived off game, and they thought more of a good hunting dog than they did of most people.In the read more »

Molly Malone

TITLE: Molly Malone AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: death, food, worker, ghost, disease, commerce EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: The famous cockles and mussels version was first published in the United States in 1883, attributed to James Yorkston. The Dublin wits who dubbed the statue of Molly Malone, “the tart with the cart”, as soon as read more »

John Henry (Blankenship Version)

TITLE: John Henry (Blankenship Version) AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: train, work, death, technology, railroading, worker EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1909 Journal of American Folklore HISTORICAL REFERENCES: Researchers are still trying to pin down the REAL John Henry, from Guy B. Johnson, , 1929 to Scott Nelson’s book 2006 book  SOME CONSIDER THIS SONG OFFENSIVE: Many versions over read more »

Lord Franklin

TITLE: Lord Franklin AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: sailor, wife, death, exploration, Eskimo (Inuit) EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1878 (Faulkner, Eighteen Months on a Greenland Whaler); broadside versions probably date from the period 1850-1853 HISTORICAL REFERENCES: Franklin’s fourth expedition to the Arctic in 1845 was the one this song is about. See more about Sir read more »

Young Charlotte

TITLE: Young Charlotte AUTHOR: unknown, (poem by Seba Smith) CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain, Author Debated KEYWORDS: courting, death, beauty EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: The poem “A Corpse Going to a Ball” was published by Seba Smith in “The Rover” in 1843. HISTORICAL REFERENCES: From a story in the New York Observer….”A young woman…was frozen to death read more »

Greenland Wale Fisheries

TITLE: Greenland Whale Fisheries AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: ship, whale, whaler, death EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: From the Traditional Ballad Index—1820 (The Mavis, according to Greig); before 1825 (broadside, Bodleian 2806 c.17(160)) Greenland Whale Fishery “is the oldest—and many think the best—of surviving songs of the whaling trade. It had already appeared on read more »

Clementine (In a Cavern)

TITLE: Clementine (In a Cavern) AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: death, drowning, love EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: The words were first published in 1863 under the title “Down by the River Lived a Maiden,” credited to H. S. Thompson The 1863 printing had a melody, but it was not the “standard” melody. The text read more »

Blue-Tail Fly (Jimmie Crack Corn)

TITLE: Blue-Tail Fly AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: bug, servant, death EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1844; a sheet music version was published by F. D. Benteen of Baltimore in 1846 Although blackface minstrel shows relied heavily on negative racial characterizations, this minstrel song has an abolitionist attitude. It is usually associated with Dan Emmett, read more »

Brave Wolfe

TITLE: Brave Wolfe AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: traditional, public domain KEYWORDS: death, war, courting, battle, separation, Canada EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1759 (broadside) HISTORICAL REFERENCES: 1727-1759 – Life of General James Wolfe, British commander at the Battle of Quebec; 1754-1763 – French and Indian War (in Europe, the Seven Years’ War, fought 1756-1763); Sept 13, 1759 – Battle of Quebec. read more »

Abdul, the Bulbul Amir

TITLE: Abdul, the Bulbul Amir AUTHOR: Percy French CATEGORY: Author Known, Public Domain KEYWORDS: humorous, death, foreigner EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1877 (copyright under the title “Abdulla Bulbul Ameer”) HISTORICAL REFERENCES: 1853-1854 – Crimean War William Percy French was the son of a landlord and a clergyman’s daughter. He studied engineering at Trinity College, where he spent read more »

Water is Wide, The

TITLE: The Water is Wide AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: traditional, public domain KEYWORDS:  love, rejection, lyric, lover, death EARLIEST DATE: 1714 (Ritson, Scotish Song) The Water Is Wide is a folk song of English origin, based on lyrics which partly date to the 1600s. It has seen considerable popularity through to the 21st century. Cecil Sharp published the song in Folk Songs read more »

Streets of Laredo, The

TITLE: The Streets of Laredo AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Debated, Public Domain KEYWORDS: cowboy, death, lament, burial, dying, funeral, disease, violence, homicide EARLIEST DATE: 1886 One of the large group of ballads (“The Bard of Armagh,” “Saint James Hospital,” “The Streets of Laredo”) ultimately derived from “The Unfortunate Rake.” All use the same tune and metre, and read more »

Golden Vanity, The

TITLE: The Golden Vanity AUTHOR: unknown EARLIEST DATE: c. 1685 (broadside) KEYWORDS: sea, battle, death, promise, lie, abandonment HISTORICAL REFERENCES: c. 1552-1618 – Life of Sir Walter Raleigh (one of whose ships was named “The Sweet Trinity”) Song collector Cecil James Sharp (22 November 1859 – 23 June 1924) was the founding father of the folklore revival in read more »

Poor Wayfaring Stranger

TITLE: Poor Wayfaring Stranger AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: traditional, public domain KEYWORDS: religious, death EARLIEST DATE: 1816 (Kentucky Harmony, as “Judgement”) Poor Wayfaring Stranger apparently had its origin in the traditions of shape-note hymnals, sings, and singing schools. Since musical instruments were scarce in early American life, the concept of geometrically shaped musical notes representing relative pitches read more »

All Through the Night

TITLE: All Through the Night AUTHOR: music: unknown, lyrics: John Ceiriog Hughes CATEGORY: unknown, public domain KEYWORDS: lullaby death love EARLIEST DATE: 1784 (tune: Edward Jones, “Musical and Poetical Relicks of the Welsh Bards”) “Ar Hyd y Nos” (“All through the Night”) is a Welsh folksong sung to a tune which was first noted in Edward read more »

Go Tell Aunt Rhody

TITLE: Go Tell Aunt Rhody AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: traditional, public domain KEYWORDS: bird, death, mourning EARLIEST DATE: 1918 (Cecil Sharp collection) Go Tell Aunt Rhody is a for the most part considered a children’s song. But the simple lyric and tune has an extremely complicated history. “The tune is thought by some to have been read more »

In Good Old Colony Days

TITLE: In Good Old Colony Days AUTHOR: unknown EARLIEST DATE: 1804 (broadside, Bodleian Johnson Ballads fol. 84) CATEGORY: Public Domain. Traditional KEYWORDS: robbery, punishment, death, In Old Colony Times, also known as Good Old Colony Days, When We Were Under the King and Jolly Rogues of Linn, originated in the early 1800s. It was popular throughout the nineteenth century.” This information is read more »

Aiken Drum

TITLE: Aiken Drum AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: traditional, public domain KEYWORDS: clothes, death, food, humorous, talltale, children EARLIEST DATE: 1828 (Lyle-Crawfurd2) A fun children’s song. Many versions exist updating the verses but I love the original with the haggis-bag legs. 

I’m Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table

TITLE: I’m Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: hymn, religious, rejection, death, resurrection, God, Jesus EARLIEST DATE: 1922 Florida Normal Quartet, “The Welcome Table” (OKeh 40079, 1924; rec. 1922)—Amazon MP3 HISTORICAL REFERENCES: Negro or African-American Spiritual. The “welcome table” refers to the marriage feast of the Lamb referred read more »

Titanic, The

AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain EARLIEST DATE: 1924 (recording, Ernest V. Stoneman) Amazon MP3 KEYWORDS: sea, wreck, family, disaster, death, world history, US history, 20th century HISTORICAL REFERENCES: April 14/15, 1912 – Shortly before midnight, ship’s time, the Titanic strikes an iceberg and begins to sink. Only 711 survivors are found of 2224 people read more »