Songs and singing are very cool. I enjoy both. And I have found out over the years, sometimes on purpose, sometimes because I knew it already, and sometimes by stumbling upon stuff, that a lot of songs are actually other songs. And now I keep my eyes open for those instances and here are a bunch of them.
One example, and this is an example of “I knew it already” is the song Elvis did, “Love Me Tender“, which is an awesome cool song. And Elvis? He was the king. Love Me Tender is actually an English folk song called “Aura Lee“; and it’s awesome cool as well. Words in songs are crucially mega-important, and sometimes even super-beautiful. Here’s a Verse and Chorus from Love Me Tender:
Love me tender,
Love me sweet,
Never let me go.
You have made my life complete
And I love you so.
CHORUS (doubled up!)
Love me tender,
Love me true,
All my dreams fulfilled.
For my darlin’ I love you,
And I always will.
Love me tender,
Love me long,
Take me to your heart.
For it’s there that I belong,
And will never part.
Copyright 1956 Elvis Presley Music
Doubling up the chorus with two stanzas was an act of genius – I sing this song and doubling up the chorus just takes the song to a really great level. If Elvis thought that up, he was a smart guy.
Aura Lee Words:
As the blackbird in the spring
‘neath the willow tree
Sat an piped I heard him sing
Praising Aura Lee
Aura Lee! Aura Lee!
Maid of golden hair,
Sunshine came along with thee
And swallows in the air
Take my heart and take my ring
I give my all to thee
Take me for eternity
Dearest Aura Lee
Aura Lee must have been hot. But see what I mean how Love Me Tender takes it up a notch by pasting two chorus stanzas back-to-back?
You might ask how I knew Aura Lee and Love Me Tender were the same song. When I was a boy, our family got a little toy Hammond Organ – the thing couldn’t have had an octave and a half. It was just a little thing you set it on a table to play. Besides the keyboard on the left side, it had little buttons that would play chords. You would plug this thing in, and it had a little rotating switch on/off – I can’t remember which side it was on, I want to say the right hand side. You would twist the knob and it would power up – you could hear a little fan spin up. Push a key. It sounded sort of like an accordion, but worse than an accordion. Much worse. Then you could play melodies with your left hand, and press the chord buttons with your right hand for accompaniment. It was such a ghastly instrument you have no idea. I so wish I still had it! What a treasure!
An astute reader of this blog clued me to the details of the fine musical instrument referenced above. It was a Hammond Magnus Chord organ – and I had the positions of the buttons and keyboard reversed, and it has two full octaves of keys. Here’s one:
I used to play “Aura Lee” on it. Over and over. I loved that song. I mean I really loved it.
There are a lot of cross-overs in folk music to pop music and naturally, there are plenty of popular western folk-like songs having roots in older songs. Here’s a couple of great western oldies that are based on even older songs. The Streets of Laredo and Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie.
Commercially The Streets of Laredo was made into a hit song with radio air-play and albums and everything by many country artists – I particularly like Mary Robbins’ version.
The Streets of Laredo is a ballad so it is just a bunch of verses strung together – I think that is the general form of a sung-ballad of the 19th and 20th centuries; but in any case, it has no chorus, just a string of verses, in this song, telling the story of a reckless youth recalling contritely the error of his ways as he dies – from events that had occurred directly as a result of said reckless behavior; in this case “shot in the chest in a card-room in back of a barroom“.
It is a very pretty, and musical song with the words and music really working nicely together. I sing this one too, but only to myself – I can’t recall ever performing it live. I’d like to do an arrangement with strings but right now it’s not a priority – I’m working on plenty of other stuff right now. But, I know it well enough to like particular verses. Here’s my version of one of my favorite verses:
Get six of my buddies to carry my coffin
And six pretty women to sing me a song.
Take me to the valley
And lay the sod o’er me,
For I’m a young cowboy
Who played the game wrong.
The origins of this song is a British / Irish song called The Unfortunate Rake and instead of dying of a gunshot wound sustained as a result of his recklessness, the protagonist, who is also singing the song while dying, is dying of syphilis from a different sort of youthful recklessness not involving playing cards. There are over 20 know variants of this song; soldiers, sailors, maids, cowboys, you name it; all “cut down in their prime“. A beautiful, strong melody and solid harmony – necessary elements to sustain the repetition of the Ballad form. I’ve written a contemporary version myself.
Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie is a beloved song of the “singing around the campfire” genre. This You Tube is quite possibly the worst mating of a song with a video in the history of the internet. But Roy Rodgers rocks, so deal with it!
The origins of this song come from the 1839 poem, The Ocean Burial by Rev. Edwin H. Chapin. Here’s a link to the poem: http://www.folklorist.org/song/The_Ocean_Burial
Please, please hit the link. Read the entire poem. A couple of times. It is touching and beautiful. It will make you more human to read this poem a couple of times. Do it. I particularly like this verse:
And there is another; he rears would be shed, For him who lay far in an ocean bed; In hours that it pains me to think of now, She hath twined these locks, and hath kissed this brow, In the hair she hath wreathed, shall the sea snake hiss! And the brow she had pressed, shall the cold wave kiss! For the sake of that bright one that waiteth for me, O! bury me not in the deep, deep sea.
A decade or so later, it was set to music; became popular, and, found its way out west (just like me – after all my wanderings I’ve ended up in Arizona!) and the words were adapted to the expanse of the western prairie. I discovered this connection from a book I have of songs called, Cowboy Songs – 62 Classic Saddle Songs published by Hal Leonard and while perusing Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie the book very kindly and generously referenced the poem by Rev. Edwin H. Chapin. So I stumbled upon it.
Connections between folk and other folk and pop and folk could go on for a book-length exposistion (!) so I’ll stop for now but probably return at a later date. I’ve got a bunch of them! I’ll close with a different kind of song that turned into another totally different kind of song.
I play various musical instruments with varying degrees of expertise. At one time, I played saxophone and as saxophonists sometimes do, I studied American popular songs with the intent of altering them by means of variation and jazz improvisation. I was young back then, and at that time, other young musicians were not that interested in studying the kinds of stuff I was studying because I am and always have been interested in stuff that no one else is interested in; even though the stuff I’m interested in is interesting. But I can assure you, in the late ’70s and early ’80s no one young and playing saxophone was interested in studying the first hit Bing Crosby ever made and developing it into a swingin’ boppin’ solo, but I was.
It can be done very jazzy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yx0Ep4fkAis
It has very interesting harmonic chord-changes, and though it is quite sappy as a tune, it has inner musical interest due to it’s interesting chords. These chord changes have spawned a number of other tunes, including the theme to the original Star Trek TV Series! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Out_of_Nowhere_%28Johnny_Green_song%29
So now you know!