Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Auld Lang Syne' Few Americans Know Origin of Favorite New Year's Song

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Auld Lang Syne' Few Americans Know Origin of Favorite New Year's Song

Article excerpt

When the clock strikes 12 on Dec. 31 and the ball drops in New York's Times Square, crowds across the country will instinctively break into the familiar refrain: "Should old acquaintance be forgot . . ."

The strange thing about "Auld Lang Syne" is that hardly anyone - from the most musically educated to the most musically illiterate - knows what the song means or why singing it has become practically mandatory for New Year's Eve celebrants.

Even "American Bandstand's" Dick Clark, the famed host of New Year's Eve in Times Square, admits he is lost when it comes to the song's history.

"What does `Auld Lang Syne' mean?" Clark asked recently. "All I remember is `drink a cup of kindness' and `old acquaintances.' "

Like most interviewed, Clark, who prides himself on being a master of music trivia, said he did not know what the ballad meant or why people sing it annually.

"The fact that it's living as a `hot hit' in the '90s is fun," Clark said, offering to research the song's genesis and popularity.

At the music library at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., librarian Maurice Saylor could only guess "Auld Lang Syne's" meaning.

"Maybe it has to do with New Year's resolutions or something," he said. "A lot of people don't question what it means."

Interviews with tourists outside the White House proved Saylor right.

"I just sing that dumb song. I don't know what it means," said Glenn Moritz, 60, of Centerville, Iowa. His wife, Dana, 56, reminded her husband, "You sing it when there's a moment of nostalgia."

Lisa Willoughby, 28, of Mt. Laurel, N.J., said she sings the song "because it's tradition. You're toasting the past and hoping for a better future."

For the official word on the song's meaning and origin, inquiries were made at Hal Leonard Corp., the Milwaukee-based company that publishes "Auld Lang Syne" sheet music. …

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