Popular Songs in American History

I was searching for early American fiddle tunes the other day when I came across a site called Contemplations from the Marianas Trench – Music and Deep Thought. This informative and entertaining website is the creation of Lesley Nelson-Burns (a.k.a. The Contemplator), and nestled among its many pages is one entitled: Popular Songs in American History, American Folk and Traditional Music with lyrics, midi files, tune information and history behind folk songs and ballads arranged by the following time periods: 

  • 17th Century
  • 18th Century
    • The French and Indian War
    • Revolutionary War
  • 19th Century
    • War of 1812
    • Early 1800’s to the Civil War
    • Civil War
    • Post Civil War
    • The Goldrush and Westward Journey
    • Cowboys
  • After 1900
  • Sea Shanties and Songs of the Sea

Heading the top of the index page is one of my favorite early American tunes, Over the Hills and Far Away, which dates back to 1706 and which I first heard played and sung by The Sons of Liberty.

Over the Hills and Far Away
Sequenced by Lesley Nelson-Burns

In addition to a midi recording, the individual tune page is chock full of historical information about Over the Hills and Far Away in addition to what I believe is the original version of the lyrics, but not necessarily the lyrics sung by itinerant fiddlers of the period as evidenced by the lyrics sung by The Sons of liberty, and related links regarding the tune.

With over 200 tunes with historical notes, lyrics and related links, this webpage is a treasure trove of popular songs in American history with some better known tunes, such as:

Yankee Doodle
Sequenced by Barry Taylor
Barbara Allen
Sequenced by Barry Taylor

To lesser known tunes, such as:

The Smart Schoolboy
Sequenced by Lesley Nelson-Burns
Bunker Hill
Sequenced by Lesley Nelson-Burns

To tunes you will know with a different name today!

To Anacreon in Heaven
Sequenced by John Renfro Davis
Garry Owen (a.k.a. Garryoin)
Sequenced by John Renfro Davis

I have listed this web page above in the Links section, and it is a page I’m sure I will refer back to time and time again as I learn to play early American tunes on my fiddle. If you visit Popular Songs in American History, don’t limit yourself to just this page. Around every nook and cranny of this website are some great tunes and information you’ll be sure to enjoy!

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