I compiled this for a friend of mine (
) trying to understand American mindset... I owed her for several Portuguese songs. You think this is a good overview of American songs?
(I should have ordered these better.)
Mindsets do dictate our values.The more I look at our american myths, the more I realize how much hyperbole we have. You all have Viriathus, William Tell, that sort of thing... "ordinary" people who rose with courage to an oppressor.
We didn't have an oppressor that couldn't be killed with smallpox; what we had was a land too big to tame, and we thought big.
Size seems to be a common feature of our legends... we like them big!
So we had stories like Paul Bunyan, the Minnesota Lumberjack, so big it took five storks to carry him; with his companion Babe, the big blue ox, for whose thirst's sake he carved the great lakes. His lumberjack camp only accepted men who were 'At least ten feet tall and could pop six buttons off their shirts with one breath;" a camp so big it took a week to pass the salt from one end of the table to the other. When he arrived in the arid southwest only to find there were no trees to chop down, he dragged his axe behind him as he sadly shuffled back...and created the Grand Canyon.
Pecos Bill, who allegedly invented the Cattle drive, king of the cowboys... raised by coyotes, his horse was "Widow-maker" and his lasso a rattlesnake, his favorite food was dynamite. He met his glorious match by lassoing a tornado, held on for a year and a half, and squeezed the tornado so hard it cried the Great Salt Lake, and was never seen again.
Casey Jones, the railroad engineer who never missed a shipment; who heroically died in his railcar, pushing down the brakes so hard the passengers never felt the collision that killed him - his hands still clenched on the brakes and his whistle cord.
Alfred Bulltop Stormalong; a thirty-foot tall sailor; who started the tradition of signing "A.B." (Able-bodied) after his sailor name. He would eat six sharks for breakfast; his ship was so large it had hinged masts so it wouldn't snag on the moon. It once got stuck at the mouth of the English channel, so he slathered thirty tons of soap on the sides so it'd pop through; and bleached the Cliffs of Dover white. He wrestled the Kraken on several occasions. When he died, Davy Jones himself opened his locker for his coffin.
John Henry, the steel-driver for the great American railroads. One day, the overseer brought a steam drill to drive the steel into the railroads, and the furious handyman raced the drill through a mountain. In the end, he drove fifteen miles of rail in one day, beating the steam drill's nine; and, satisfied, died right there on the spot, as he prophecied in his childhood, with his hammer in his hand. Good folk-song came out of that, too. www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6vcvY…
This is everywhere you look. people.hofstra.edu/alan_j_sing… An excerpt from Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," of riverboat men on the Mississippi bragging about themselves to each other. "WHEN I'M THIRSTY, I REACH UP, GRAB A CLOUD AND SUCK IT DRY LIKE A SPONGE!" That sort of thing. It influences us. We like powerful things. Hollywood. Factories. Big cars. Big houses. It never occurs to us that a large or powerful government can be nice. Because power is related to the other part of the American dream - being powerful/ rich enough to do whatever the fuck you want! And a government who does that... whoo boy.
Anyway! Some songs, to reciprocate...
(A lot of our songs have onomatopoeia and random words, so don't worry if your translator fucks up. You can probably find a good translation someplace.)
www.youtube.com/watch?v=arL3Qz… "Oh my darling, Clementine" - Clementine, the Miner's daughter, as her lover sings of how she drowned in the river, he lost her because he couldn't swim to her rescue, and how her father killed himself in grief. Surprisingly bouncy.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQmO-W… "Dixie," the unofficial anthem of the Confederate States of America (the South) during our last civil war. The narrator recounts his childhood home and love in 'the land of cotton.' "Away, away, away down south in Dixie."
www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5mmFP… The corresponding song of the North, "Battle Hymn of the Republic." A bit more of the 'Righteous Jesus' flavor. "My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the lord."
www.youtube.com/watch?v=kP9PHA… The nursery rhyme of the "Farmer in the Dell," and the various additions to his family. It's one of the only nursery rhymes we have that I don't think started in Britain. Along with the other Farmer nursery rhyme, "Old Macdonald." www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_mol6… And its child-favorite refrain "E-I-E-I-O."
www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXhO0f… "Frog went a-courting," the tale of when Frog married Miss Mouse, and the wedding party. Rather fun if you're a folk song person.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArgMK2… "Home on the Range," where the narrator recalls his titular home on the plains of the wild west, 'where the deer and the antelope play.'
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rr4jea… "Jimmy Crack Corn," a southern slave recounting his master's accidental death with glee. He can't be ordered around like his master used to do, "my master's gone away." No one really agrees on what the title phrase means.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYRmsb… "Oh! Susanna," the singer talks of his journey from Alabama to Louisiana, 'with a banjo on my knee,' to see his love Susanna.
(Several of these folk songs were really written by en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_… an impoverished melodic genius named Stephen Foster. His songs are pretty easily recognizable as American. He wrote many of them for Blackface minstrel shows... damn, I never thought about how racist my heritage kinda is.)
www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPv3Kq… "Revolutionary Tea," a patriotic song from the American Revolution, about the "Old lady" (England), her "daughter" over the sea (America), and her refusal to pay a tax on her tea, culminating in the Boston Tea Party en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_t… . It's, like, our most famous political protest.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9CDQc… "Sweet Betsy from Pike," about a woman and her husband Ike, who seek their fortunes out west, and almost starve to death and are almost killed by indians, but promise to stick by each other until they strike it rich at the very end in bounteous California. (The melody is Irish.)
www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Qvoqv… "Shenandoah," a wistful song river boat men would sing about their lost loves. "I love your daughter... away, we're bound away, across the wide Missouri."
www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXDW-J… "Simple Gifts," a hymn from the Shaker sect, about how it's a gift from God to labor and achieve true simplicity. Incidentally, it's my father's least favorite song of all time, but he had to listen to Catholic choirs mauling it. It's beautiful in moderation.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzRhFH… "Yankee Doodle," a song the British wrote to mock us yankees in the revolution, but we turned into a patriotic march.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=P18MKh… This song is usually given with its new lyrics as "Turkey in the Straw," whose lyrics are more unintelligible than anything else. It was originally a racist minstrel song about pompous blacks and possums up gum trees... and it's no more intelligible in that form.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSL6mT… "Old Dan Tucker," a comedy song about a rather punch-drunk boaster.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Sce9L… "Rise and Shine," a song about Noah's ark, told in really child-friendly phrases.
A lot of our best songs were slaves, keeping their hopes up...
www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3OjHI… "Go Down Moses," an allegorical plea for Moses to free them like he did the Israelites.
A song I can't find a decent copy of, "I got shoes," www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXWVFQ… this'll have to do, a gospel song about the glories that await them in heaven - you'll get shoes, a robe, wings, a harp, and you'll use them all over God's heaven.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=gIlbZA… "Wayfarin' stranger," about how the toils of this life will be no more in Heaven.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=pw6N_e… "Follow the Drinking Gourd," a song circulated among escaping slaves. Following the stars in the Big Dipper constellation, "The Drinking Gourd," would point you north, to freedom.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9Y_GL… "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," a hymn for death. "Come closer to me, chariot of god, that comes to carry me home."
That should hold you over well!