Recordings

The catalog below shows the list of recordings available with the Heritage Songbook, with brief historical notes and performers. The songs are listed in a sort of mix of thematic and chronological order.

All of these songs are made available to you free of charge; you may download them and share them as you see fit, as long as you do not alter them or repackage them for profit. (In other words, you may give away copies; you just can’t sell them.)

  • The Merry Golden Tree (The Golden Vanity). Text based on that collected from Rose Wilder Lane, daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder. An ancient ballad (Child #286), originally from England, thought by some to refer to Sir Walter Raleigh. Recording by RW. Not in the printed songbook; learn more here.
  • The House Carpenter. Another Child Ballad (#243), with a supernatural element in some versions (one of Child’s names for it was “The Demon Lover”). One of the best-known folk songs of all time. We have a recording by Curtis and Loretta and one by RW. Found on page 20 of the printed songbook.
  • Lord Randall. A third ancient British Ballad, Child #12. As remembered by Robert Waltz from some time in his childhood. Recorded by RW. Not in the printed songbook; learn more here.
  • Although a lot of songs originated in Britain and migrated to the U. S., they often changed along the way. The Four Maries is a strongly Scottish version of Child Ballad #173. By the time it was collected in Minnesota, from Austin Faricy, it had changed into Mary Hamilton. Both versions are by RW. Not in the printed songbook; learn more here.
  • C’est L’aviron. A song of the Voyageurs, who brought the fur trade to Minnesota. Recordings by Curtis and Loretta and RW. Found on page 6 of the printed songbook.
  • Brave Wolfe. A tale of the conquest of Quebec, which transferred much of North America from French to British hands. Sung by Curtis & Loretta. Found on page 8 of the printed songbook.
  • In Good Old Colony Days. A song that goes back to pre-revolutionary Britain, but which was updated in America. Based in part on a version recalled by Minnesota’s John Healy and recorded by RW. Found on page 21 of the printed songbook.
  • The early days of the American Revolution are the subject of Old Granny Wales, a song which was collected in Minnesota by Bessie Stanchfield. Although other texts are known, and the title derives from the Irish figure Granuaile, Stanchfield’s is the only known tune. The recording is by RW. Found on page 9 of the printed songbook; a fuller text is here.
  • Jefferson and Liberty. A campaign song for Thomas Jefferson, who brought most of the region of Minnesota into the United States via the Louisiana Purchase. Recorded by RW. Found on page 13 of the printed songbook.
  • Boney is a sea chantey about Napoleon Bonaparte, who — while fighting against most of Europe — found time to sell Louisiana to the United States. Recorded a capella (which is how most sea chanteys were performed) by RW. Found on page 12 of the printed songbook, with more information here.
  • And while we’re talking about Napoleon, here is a song about his death in exile, recorded by RW and appropriately known as “Boney on the Isle of Saint Helena.” Not in the printed songbook; learn more here.
  • The Maid of Prairie du Chien is a lost love song which is also a song of westward migration, dating perhaps from the period when settlers were first heading for Minnesota. The tune has been forgotten; the melody used here is “Green Grow the Lilacs, which was very popular at the time. Recordings by Curtis and Loretta and RW. Found on page 19 of the printed songbook.
  • M. C. Dean put the song Young Charlotte in his songbook The Flying Cloud; it was written in 1840 and recorded here by RW. Not in the printed songbook; learn more here.
  • Caroline of Edinburgh Town is another British import, and another song from Dean — a sad tale of a girl who follows an untrue lover, recorded by Brian Miller. Not in the printed songbook; learn more here.
  • Santy Anno is another sea chanty; Ivan Walton found a version sung on the Great Lakes. (Boney was also sung on the Lakes.) Recorded in a rather un-shanty-like way by RW. Not in the printed songbook; learn more here.
  • Much of the early exploration of Minnesota was done by Europeans seeking the Northwest Passage — that is, the way to sail around North America from the Atlantic to the Pacific in the regions north of Canada. Sir John Franklin led a disastrous expedition to find the Northwest Passage in the 1840s; not one man ever came back. This song, written before the fate of the expedition was known, tells part of its story. Lord Franklin is here performed by RW. Not in the printed songbook; learn more here.
  • The Flying Cloud is a tale of a young man who unsuccessfully turned pirate, and is the title song of M. C. Dean’s collection. Recorded here by RW. Not in the printed songbook; learn more here.
  • The Red River Valley is a famous song of separation, usually associated with the south and east. But the researches of Edith Fowke and John Garst have shown that it almost certainly was originally associated with the British settlements along the Red River of the North: An Indian girl became involved with a British soldier, and sang her sad, sad lament as he prepared to go home without her. Not in the printed songbook; learn more here.
  • Henry Sibley is best known as a Minnesota politician and general, but he did have a softer side; we are reliably told that he sang the popular drinking song Sparking and Bright, here recorded by RW, in his early days in the state. Found on page 18 of the printed songbook, with more information here.
  • The Hutchinson Family Singers, for whom Hutchinson is named, were a famous and very progressive performing group who opposed slavery and advocated for women’s rights. Some of their opinions were not so modern; they didn’t approve of drinking, either. King Alcohol, set to the old English tune “Dame Durden,” expresses their opinions on that subject. Not in the printed songbook; learn more here.
  • The Hutchinson Family also supported the idea of “homesteading” — of the government selling land cheaply to promote settlement. Their song on the subject is Uncle Sam’s Farm,, which Laura Ingalls Wilder quotes; both the Ingalls and Wilder families took advantage of the Homestead Act (passed in 1862), although neither had much luck. Recorded by Curtis & Loretta. Found on page 42 of the printed songbook.
  • The Hutchinsons also popularized the gold rush song The Banks of Sacramento, recorded by RW. Not in the printed songbook; learn more here.
  • From that same era is a song collected from Rose Wilder Lane, Sweet Bessie from Pike, properly known as “Sweet Betsy from Pike.” It is a humorous song of emigration to California, but many of the events could befall any westward migrant. The tune is the famous song “Villikins and His Dinah”; the recording is by Curtis and Loretta. Not in the printed songbook; learn more here.
  • Daniel Decatur Emmett is most famous for writing “Dixie,” but his song Dance, Boatman, Dance, about sailing on the Mississippi river system, was almost as famous and as widely parodied. Found on page 27 of the printed songbook.
  • Stephen Foster, the most famous songwriter of the nineteenth century, had his own river song, The Glendy Burk. Found on pate 28 of the printed songbook.
  • A later river song is The Bayou Sara, recorded by RW; it concerns the City of Bayou Sara, which exploded and burned at New Madrid in 1885. Not in the printed songbook; learn more here.
  • Another of M. C. Dean’s songs is Darling Nelly Gray, by B. R. Hanby, a quietly powerful anti-slavery song about a woman “sold south”; it is recorded here by Curtis & Loretta. Found on page 30 of the printed songbook.
  • Many Norwegians came from Norway to Minnesota via the colony of Oleana, founded by the overly optimistic fiddler Ole Bull. Ross Sutter sings the English version of a Norwegian song which spoofs the exaggerated claims made for the town (in Pennsylvania). Found on page 45 of the printed songbook.
  • Irish emigrants came to America in droves following the potato famines of the late 1840s, and many of them brought their bitter memories. Some of these are reflected in Skibbereen, recorded by Laura Mackenzie and found on page 44 of the printed songbook. An even more explicit tale of an Irish rebel is The Croppy Boy, recorded by RW. Not in the printed songbook; learn more here.
  • Minnesota became a state in 1858, and cast its first Presidential ballot in 1860. The state gave its electoral votes to Abraham Lincoln. His most famous campaign song was Lincoln and Liberty, sung here by Curtis and Loretta. Found on page 31 of the printed songbook.
  • Soon after Lincoln’s election, the southern states seceded, and the Civil War shortly followed. General Scott and the Veteran, also known as “Billy Johnson of Lundy’s Lane,” was written before the war turned serious; it tells of how a veteran of the War of 1812 tried to volunteer in the new war. Recording by RW. Found on page 14 of the printed songbook.
  • The First Minnesota Infantry proudly boasted of being “The First Volunteers” to fight in the Civil War. Someone in Company G of the regiment wrote a poem about the company in the early days of the war. Stephen Osman discovered what seems to be the only surviving copy, and Robert Waltz fitted a tune; RW recorded the result as the First Minnesota Song. Found on page 34 of the printed songbook.
  • The First Minnesota did not participate in the Battle of Hampton Roads — it took place at sea, after all — but they were among the soldiers who could watch it from the shore. The tale of the gallant U. S. S. Cumberland was remembered by M. C. Dean in The Cumberland’s Crew, recorded by RW. Not in the printed songbook; learn more here.
  • Many, many popular songs were written about the Civil War. It is believed that the most popular of all was When This Cruel War Is Over, with words by Charles Carroll Sawyer and music by Henry Tucker. It proved popular with our performers, too; we have recordings (with a different tune) by Curtis and Loretta and RW. Found on page 36 of the printed songbook.
  • At the end of the war, General Sherman made his famous “March to the Sea,” which the North celebrated and the South reviled. Henry Clay Work, who also wrote “My Grandfather’s Clock,” celebrated the event with Marching through Georgia, which was recalled by M. C. Dean and recorded by RW. Found on page 35 of the printed songbook.
  • Minnesota’s largest ethnic community is German, and Ross Sutter found Grün Grün Grün among them. Not in the printed songbook; learn more here.
  • Many Danish immigrants seem to have known The Little Ole, sung here by Ross Sutter. Found on page 48 of the printed songbook.
  • Emigrants from all the Scandinavian countries — especially Swedes — got nostalgic when reminded to “Greet the Folks at Home,” as told in Ross Sutter’s recording of Hälsa dem Därhemma and found on page 46 of the printed songbook. Ross also sings Vem Kan Segla Förutan Vind?, about separated friends, found on page 72 of the printed songbook.
  • The largest of all ethnic folk song collections in Minnesota is Marjorie Edgar’s collection of Finnish songs. Two of its representatives are the lullaby Pium Paum, found on page 71 of the printed songbook, and the game song Rosvo, Rosvo. A Finnish version of the former is sung by John Berquist, with an English version by RW; RW also records an English version of Rosvo, Rosvo (Robber, Robber). The latter is not in the printed songbook; learn more here.
  • There were game songs in English, too. Laura Ingalls Wilder recalled playing Uncle John Is Sick Abed in Minnesota; Curtis and Loretta record it here. Found on page 42 of the printed songbook.
  • Another game song from Laura’s books is Weevily Wheat, recorded by RW. Not in the printed songbook; learn more here.
  • Still another “Laura Song” is Pull for the Shore, by Philip Paul Bliss, recorded bere by RW. Not in the printed songbook; learn more here.
  • Minnesota is famous for three great industries, farming, logging, and mining. All three left their songs. A widely known song compared loggers and farmers. Brian Miller records The Shanty-Boy and the Farmer’s Son. Not in the printed songbook; learn more here.
  • Another lumberman’s song is Jack Haggerty, which was written as a joke by a Michigan logger, but which has become famous as a lost love song; the version here is by RW. Found on page 73 of the printed songbook.
  • Logging brought tragedies even worse than Jack Haggerty’s tale. The Pinery Boy was originally a British ballad, “The Sailor Boy,” but as the recording by RW shows, it was quite thoroughly updated to fit the midwestern logging trade. Found on page 55 of the printed songbook.
  • Also telling of a logging tragedy is the beautiful ballad of James Whalen, recorded by Brian Miller. Not in the printed songbook; learn more here.
  • But the most famous of all logging songs, known all over the United States and beyond, is (The Jam on) Gerry’s Rocks, recorded here by Curtis and Loretta. It is ironic to note that this famous song is not based on any known historical event; neither Gerry’s Rock(s) nor Young Monroe nor Miss Clara Dennison has ever been located. Found on page 54 of the printed songbook.
  • The loggers did have some happy songs. One, which also helped them remember their letters, is The Lumberman’s Alphabet, recorded by Brian Miller. Not in the printed songbook; learn more here.
  • Probably the most famous of all Great Lakes songs, and certainly the most famous tale of the iron mines, is Red Iron Ore, recorded here by RW. Found on page 53 of the printed songbook.
  • The farmers had their own songs, including this one associated with the Grange movement. The Farmer is the Man is recorded by Curtis and Loretta. Found on page 59 of the printed songbook.
  • Every society seems to have its outlaw heroes. Britain had first Robin Hood and then Dick Turpin. In America, there were many names, but none as famous as the James/Younger Gang which tried to rob Northfield in 1876. Curtis and Loretta record Jesse James; RW gives us Cole Younger. The former is on page 67 of the printed songbook, the latter on page 68.
  • Financial panics were the hallmark of the late nineteenth century. Last Winter Was a Hard One, with words by Jim O’Neil and music: Jack Conroy, probably dates from one of them. Although it seems to describe events on the east coast, M. C. Dean knew a version; it was recorded by Walking on Air. Found on pate 49 of the printed songbook.
  • Today, students have iPads and notebooks to help them in school. It used to be that they might have to make due with a song, such as The Presidents in Rhyme, here recorded by RW. Found on page 65 of the printed songbook.
  • Fast food may be new; Mrs. Fogarty’s Cake, sung by Laura MacKenzie, shows that careful preparation doesn’t always make for a better meal….Not in the printed songbook; learn more here.
  • Swedish-Americans had their own humorous songs, such as The Swede from North Dakota, sung by Elisabeth Skoglund. Found on page 76 of the printed songbook, with more information here.
  • Perhaps the most famous folk song ever collected in Minnesota is The Colorado Trail, printed by Carl Sandburg in The American Songbag and sung here by RW. Found on page 77 of the printed songbook.

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