Early American Sheet Music: Its Lure and Its Lore, 1768-1889

By Harry Dichter; Elliott Shapiro | Go to book overview
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Music of the American Revolution
(Hostilities 1775-1783)

Locating the music used during the American Revolution has been one of the most difficult researches made for this bibliography. In 1889 the late John Philip Sousa, then bandmaster of the United States Marine Band, was directed by the Navy Department to compile a collection entitled AIRS OF ALL LANDS (published 1890). In this compilation he states that the field music (fife and drum) of the Revolution consisted mainly of [MY] DOG AND GUN, ON THE ROAD TO BOSTON, RURAL FELICITY, WASHINGTON'S MARCH by Francis Hopkinson, and YANKEE DOODLE. Only the music of YANKEE DOODLEwas printed in Sousa's book.

We regret to state that there is no confirmation that any of the many compositions known as WASHINGTON'S MARCHwas actually used until 1784, or that Francis Hopkinson was the composer of such a march.

Inasmuch as the three tunes [MY] DOG AND GUN, ON THE ROAD To BOSTONand RURAL FELICITYare not available in any form, it has been deemed advisable to print the music for the benefit of those interested. Attention is called to the fact that Dr. Arne's contemporary song My DOG AND GUNis an entirely different composition than the field march.

It is worthy of note that although the tune of YANKEE DOODLEis enshrined in the hearts of the people of this great nation, the words are rarely sung. The explanation is that there are so many different lyrics that no one set of words can be called standard. We give the first couplets of five of the recognized versions in use from pre- Revolutionary days to the 1810's, but make no attempt to fix the chronological order. Note that the first set appeared in a very early broadside as YANKEE SONGand is known to musicologists as the CORN STALKS (Com Cobs) version. The fourth was written ca. 1797-1798, at the time of our impending war with France.

1. There was a man in our town
I pity his condition. . . .

We have just located the source of Sousa's information. See p. 33of Rev. Elias Nason's A MONOGRAM ON OUR NATIONAL SONG. 1869.


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Early American Sheet Music: Its Lure and Its Lore, 1768-1889
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