American Ballads and Songs

Complete Text & Lyrics - online book

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order & Order Info Support Search Voucher Codes

Share page  Visit Us On FB

Previous Contents Next
INTRODUCTION                        xxiii
type have little interest and fade early. Many senti­mental songs from the middle decades of the nineteenth century are still current, notably Mrs. Norton's Juanita and H. D. L. Webster's Lorena. These are favorite songs among ranchmen, cowboys, and others, who are utterly unconscious of their provenience. But the great legacy for American song from the period of the Civil War is the legacy of negro song, plantation songs, and the pseudo-negro songs of composers like Stephen C. Foster, Henry C. Work, Will S. Hays. Owing to their distinctive qualities and peculiar appeal, a striking number of these pieces remain in popular currency, and they constitute an attractive portion of our song. Some of the comic negro songs, like Jim Crow, Zip Coon, Seltin' on a Rail, which are still alive in traditional circulation, date from a period earlier than the Civil War; but all types of negro songs gained impetus during the war period and they owe to the feeling and the interests which were bound up with it much of their diffusion and persistence. The Cuban War, later in the century, bequeathed There'll Be a Hoi Time in the Old Town Tonight to folk-song, and the recent European war will probably leave its quota of favorites, though it is yet too early to predict which of them will find longest life.
VI. Traditional songs differ in their origin, history, and the impetus for their diffusion. To some pieces dates can be affixed and their development followed. Others come from an uncertain past. They seem to issue from nowhere in particular and to roam unac­countably from region to region. The chances of time have made it impossible to determine the year or the locality of their emergence, or to be certain of their original form. To most lovers of traditional verse, however, the source of a song seems a negligible matter.