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To Live And Die In Dixie: Songs Of The Civil War Listened To Again

To discuss 19th Century American pop music is to discuss Stephen CollinFoster, but to discuss the civil war music is a different subject entirely.

Foster, the songwriter behind "Beautiful Dreamer", "Swanee River", "Oh Susannah", and many others, gave a Southern gait to Minstrel shows in the East but was neither a writer of dance nor folk, but a pop song writer and a harbinger of the great American songbook. Not much separates George Cohan from Foster or Cohan from Gershwin from McCartney for that matter.

So in any real sense, Foster is the beginning of indigenous American POP.

But the Civil War wasn't kind kind to him, and Foster died broke in a flop house on the Lower East Side in 1864 in the middle of the war. He was 37 years old.

The Civil War began 150 years ago today (at 430am!) and continued from 4 years, and ended with the Union winning, the African population no longer forced to be slaves and the birth of the US we know today.

So why would Foster have been big during those four years? It was all fife, drums, folk, sorrow, Hymns… not the place for a populists

Civil War songs were broken up like this according to an excellent website, http://pdmusic.org/civilwar.html, sequenced by Benjamin Robert Tubb

1. Patriotic Songs

2. The Soldiering Life

3. Battlefield deaths

4. Emancipation songs

For every "Dixie Land" (you know: "I wish I was in Dixie, to live and die in Dixie") and "When Johnny Comes marching Home" there is a helluva lot of "Emancipation" -a naff English hymn re-written, the people being emancipated were writing much better about.

There is some timeless stuff among the rubble, and never more so than when they stop rah rahing and become nursery rhyme in their attack, "Jimmy Crack Corn" by Daniel Decauter Emmett, another Easterner writing for the Minstrel shows of the time. He wrote "Dixie" as well, in 1859, and was well pissed when it became a Southern anthem.

So some of this stuff is as fresh as today, and some of it calls thru the centuries back to us, and some is just as well forgotten.

I was reading where I man was walking by a black woman on a plantation and heard her singing "Old Abe Lincoln Came Out Of the Wilderness' -nobody knows who wrote the song (though whenever I read "Anon" as the composer, I am guessing that means it was a black person.

The minstrels picked up on it.

Well, they would have.

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