Rosin the Beau and recycling melodies for new songs

Lois Sprengnether Keel
Lois Sprengnether Keel
@lois-sprengnether-keel
one month ago
189 posts

<Chuckle!>  I've always figured it was a pun on rosining the bow from the start.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
one month ago
1,458 posts

Hi @lois-sprengnether-keel.  Well you've demonstrate how you can do good history lesson using folks music.

The words we know to Old Rosin the Beau certainly makes it a drinking song, but I wonder if the song was not originally an instrumental simply called Rosin the Bow, and someone put some tongue-in-cheek lyrics to it, creating a song better known than the original.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
Lois Sprengnether Keel
Lois Sprengnether Keel
@lois-sprengnether-keel
one month ago
189 posts

I do a program using the abolition song "Roll on the Liberty Ball" that was sung at the planting of the enormous cedar that was the marker (seen for miles) of the Underground Railroad Station operated by the family of the woman I portray (Liberetta Lerich Green).  Later when Civil War years near and I talk about the family's involvement in that & Lincoln's election, I use "Lincoln & Liberty, Too" -- his campaign song.  Both sets of lyrics to "Old Rosin the Beau" were by the abolitionist music group, The Hutchinson Family Singers.  I have 3 blog articles about them and Civil War music at  http://www.storytellingresearchlois.com/search/label/Hutchinson%20Family%20Singers .  The most recent (therefore the first shown) has a video of ex-Weaver, Ronnie Gilbert singing "Lincoln and Liberty, Too."  Personally I always found it funny singing to the tune of "Old Rosin the Beau" as the family's father was staunchly anti-alcohol, even salting the corn crop he sold to pay their part in an Underground Railroad fine paid by all members of the network.

I use the songs to tie together Liberetta's life story, fitting some incidents to verses, since a normal life, unlike fiction doesn't have an easy outline.  The song also has predictable repetition, encouraging audience participation.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
one month ago
1,458 posts

Thanks, @ken-longfield and @ken-hulme. I should have know you two would be the first to join the conversation!

Having grown up in Boston, I've know the Charlie and the MTA song about as long as I've known the Longfellow poem about Paul Revere ("Listen my children and you shall hear . . . ").  Both were required material in elementary schools.

There are lots of one-offs, I assume.  I heard an old Scottish tune called "The Bold Princess Royal" that must have been the source of the melody for Sweet Betsy from Pike.

But so far you guys have confirmed my sense that Rosin the Beau has been used more than any other melody.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
one month ago
1,836 posts

The tunes we know for Slane/Be Thou My Vision/Banks Of The Bann;   The Riddle Song/12th of Never; Twinkle,Twinkle/Baa Baa Black Sheep/Alphabet Song/A Vous Dirai-je Maman;  and Aura Lee/Love Me Tender come to mind; but none with more iterations than Rosin The Beau

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
one month ago
790 posts

This is an interesting question. I thought of the "The Ship that Never Returned" which is the basis for "The Wreck Old 97" which is the basis of "The Municipal Train Protest Song" (MTA), which is the basis of "Super Skier." Not quite as many as Rosin the Beau.

With regard to Rosin the Beau, the Limeliters did a parody called "Acres of Limeliters." Randy Sparks and the New Christy Minstrels did  a song entitled "Denver" to that tune. I believe it was also the basis for a campaign song,"The Hero of Tippecanoe," for William Henry Harrison. I'm sure there are others, but those are ones that come to mind.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
one month ago
1,458 posts

We know how common it has been in the folklore tradition to add new lyrics to an old melody.  Poets such as Robert Burns did so incessantly, it seems.  Woody Guthrie did so, too.  I have two questions for you to contemplate: 1) What melodies seem to have been used more than others for new songs; and 2) Have any melodies been used more than Rosin the Beau?

To provide context for the second question, let me point you to the following:

1) Roll on Liberty Ball

2) Lincoln and Liberty

3) Acres of Clams

4) Mary of the Wild Moor

5) Lament of the Old Sourdough  

If you have more to add, please do so.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie

updated by @dusty-turtle: 05/11/21 10:47:05PM