Friday, April 16, 2010

Songs of Yesterday: An Appalachian Tragedy

I wonder sometimes at the romanticizing in song and verse of some legendary figures -- it helps to look into the story behind the story. In her "Songs of Yesterday: An Appalachian Tragedy," Jean Hibben explores the back story to the legendary, "Tom Dula" or "Tom Dooley," as he is better known. While none of the characters in this story seem to have any redeeming qualities, a few of the details, after the fact, at least suggest how his life . . . and death might have stirred the imagination of songwriters.

From a genealogical perspective, the alternate pronunciation of the Dula surname strikes a chord. My own Appalachian ancestral name, "Childers," while not ending in "ee" has been altered over the years and is alternately pronounced "Childress," again, this slurring an blurring of speech that sort of flips things around. This pronunciation of the Childers name is so common, in fact, they are used almost interchangeably. In the case of my great-grandmother, even the alternate spelling of the name was used within the family. While all legal documents, including the marriage record, show my great-grandfather's surname as Childers, the headstone of his wife, my great-grandmother, reads "Mattie Childress." Which, in a way, takes us back around to some good advice in considering all things: keep an open mind.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Songs of Yesterday: Danny Boy

It wouldn't be St. Patrick's Day without hearing at least one version of the "Danny Boy," a favorite among Irish and non-Irish alike. In her article, "Songs of Yesterday: Danny Boy," Jean Hibben explores the history of the song, including the perhaps unresolvable issue of the song's age, in addition to its origin, and the supposed meaning of its lyrics. What may be surprising to some is the multi-national history of this revered Irish anthem, which does nothing to reduce its charm.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Songs of Yesterday: Glory, Hallelujah! Part 2

In her last article on "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" Jean Hibben presented lyric variations on the original melody written by William Steffe, lyrics that were often crude, prompting Julia Ward Howe to create her more inspirational tribute.  Continuing the story, "Songs of Yesterday: Glory, Hallelujah! Part 2," the author explores the variations in the Howe version, which involves mostly its verses relating to the Civil War. One variation, which changes the lyrics entirely, pays tribute to the women behind the battle lines.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Songs of Yesterday: Glory, Hallelujah! Part 1

Which came first the chicken or the egg? It's an old joke, and you might find differences of opinion as to which is the correct answer. You might also get a different opinion if you asked the same question of two very old, yet familiar songs: which came first, "John Brown's Body" or "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"? In her article, "Songs of Yesterday: Glory, Hallelujah! Part 1," Jean Hibben answers the question. Perhaps an even more intriguing question is, which John Brown was the subject of the original lyrics. We think we know, but do we? All this and the story of how the lyrics changed . . . and why, is presented, along with the author performing the song.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Songs of Yesterday: How our Ancestors Sang the Holiday, Part 1

The holiday season is the perfect time to reflect songs our ancestors and to consider their origin. This week, GenWeekly writer, Jean Hibben, known for her musical performances, introduces a new Songs of Yesterday series, with the article "Songs of Yesterday: How our Ancestors Sang the Holiday, Part 1." Full of fun and surprises, the real treat in this series is hearing the author perform the song. Many of the Songs of Yesterday, we might think to be much more dated than they actually are -- have you ever considered the origin of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"? And while many of us decry the commercialism of Christmas and the ever-present Santa Claus, this week's article suggests he may have closer ties to the original spirit of Christmas than one had imagined.

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