What is the Oldest American Folksong?

What’s the oldest English-language American folksong? If you heard it sung today, would it still be meaningful? I don’t mean a song that was sung in another land before it came to North America. And I don’t mean a song composed by the Indians who lived in North America for the last fifteen or twenty thousand years. What’s the oldest song we know about today, that was made up by English-speaking colonists in the British colonies in eastern North America? “Yankee Doodle” would be a good guess; its familiar melody had been popular in a number of Western European countries for centuries. At a time in history when people made their own music, songs were one of many ways American colonists could express their dissatisfaction with their British rulers across the Atlantic. British soldiers responded with songs ridiculing the colonists as country bumpkins, one of which told of a Yankee Continue Reading

Categories: Performing.

The Father of American Music

“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.” –Mark Twain It was Tuesday, July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and only two of the signers of that document were still alive: former Presidents Thomas Jefferson of Virginia and John Adams of Massachusetts. Jefferson and Adams had once been close friends, personally and professionally. Later in life, they became professional adversaries and even enemies, representing diametrically opposing political ideologies. In their final year, these old friends – both widowers – overcame their differences and embarked on a friendly exchange of letters, a correspondence that continued for fourteen years. They were the last surviving members of a generation of American patriots who had, against all odds, fought a war with the mighty British Empire and won. Now, half a century later, American democracy had mutated Continue Reading

Categories: Libraries.