Familiar Songs - Their Authors & Histories

300 traditional songs, inc sheet music with full piano accompaniment & lyrics.

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The air of "Yankee Doodle" is claimed by several nations. It is said to be an old vintage-song of the south of France. In Holland, when the laborers received for wages " as much buttermilk as they could drink, and a tenth of the grain," they used to sing as they reaped, to the tune of " Yankee Doodle," the words:
" Yanker, dudel, doodle down,
Diddle, dudel, lanther,
Yanke viver, voover vown,
Botermilk und tanther."
A letter from the American Secretary of Legation, dated Madrid, June 3, 1858, says i "The tune of 'Yankee Doodle/ from the first of my showing it here, has been acknow­ledged, by persons acquainted with music, to bear a strong resemblance to the popular airs of Biscay; and yesterday a professor from the north recognized it as being much like the ancient sword-dance played on solemn occasions by the people of San Sebastian. He says the tune varies in those provinces. Our national air certainly has its origin in the music of the free Pyrenees; the first strains are identically those of the heroic Danza Esparta of brave old Biscay."
The tune was sung in England in the reign of Charles I., to a rhyme which is stlU alive in our nurseries:
" Lucy Locket lost her pocket, Kitty Fisher found it — Nothing in it, nothing on it, But the binding round it."
After the uprising of Cromwell against Charles, the air was sung by the cavaliers in ridicule of Cromwell, who was said to have ridden into Oxford on a small horse, with his single plume fastened into a sort of knot, which was derisively called a " macaroni." The words were:
" Yankee Doodle came to town, Upon a Kentish pony; He stuck a feather in his cap, Upon a macaroni."
The tune first appeared in this country in June, 1755. The British general, Braddock, was assembling the colonists near Albany, for an attack on the French and Indians al forts Niagara and Frontenac. In marched
The old Continentals,
In their ragged regimentals,
or in no regimentals at all; but wearing all the fashions of two hundred years, and with arms as quaint. The martial baud to which they took their uneven steps played music that the British soldiers might have heard their great-grandfathers speak of. For generations the swords of our noble ancestors had been turned to pruning-hooks, and they had for-gotten war and the fashion of it.
There was in the British camp a Dr. W shard Shuckburg, regimental surgeon, afterward appointed Secretary of Indian affairs by Sir William Johnson. This piecer-up of broken humanity was a wit and a musical genius, and the patchwork appearance of these new subjects amused him mightily. As they marched into the handsome ami orderly British lines the traditional picture of Cromwell on the Kentish pony, with a macaroni to hold his single plume, came into mind in contrast with the extravagant elegance of Charles and his cavaliers, and he planned a joke upon the instant. He set down the notes of " Yankee Doodle," wrote along them the lively travesty upon Cromwell, and gave them to the uncouth musicians as the latest martial music of England. The baud quickly caught the simple and contagious air, and soon it sounded through the camp amid the laughter of the British soldiers.

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III