Exploring the Origin of the Song, Yankee Doodle

Yankee Doodle Although it was one of the most famous and popular songs in the American colonies, “Yankee Doodle’s” original author and words are not known. Some trace this melody to a song of French vineyard workers; some to a German harvest tune, some to a Spanish sword dance, some to a Dutch peasant song. However, the most likely source is an English nursery rhyme ‘Lucy Locket’ (American Popular Songs 451). It Is said that In 1755 while attending to a wounded prisoner of the French and Indian war at the home of the Van Renewals family, Dry.

Richard Shagbark composed these years.The song is about a little boy and his father visiting one of the army camps of the brigade during the American Revolution. When there, the boy saw the men dancing with the ladles. He saw Captain Washington giving out orders to his men , and various other things which include the swamping gun which uses a horn of powder to be loaded.

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In stanza 8 the barrel being talked about with the clubs is a drum which was used to call everyone together. The boy also saw men with red ribbons around their waists playing corn stalk fiddles, and also troopers on their horses shooting their rifles.The colonists probably got the song during the French and Indian war, when Richard Shagbark, a British army physician, was so amused at the sight of the ragged and disheveled troops under General Bradford that he decided to mock them.

He improvised a set of nonsense lyrics to an English tune with which he had long been familiar; he palmed off this concoction on the colonial troops as the latest English song. The nonsense song of Doctor Richard Shagbark was “Yankee Doodle. ” As stated directly from Our Familiar Songs and Those Who Made Them, Dry.Richard Shagbark was a regimental surgeon, afterwards appointed Secretary of Indian affairs by Sir William Johnson. This piece-up of broken humanity was a wit and musical genius, and the patchwork appearance of these new subjects amused him mightily. As they marched into the handsome and orderly British lines, the traditional picture of Cromwell, an American colonial General on the Kenneth pony, with a macaroni to hold his single plume, came into mind in contrast with the extravagant elegance of Charles and his Cavaliers.He planned a Joke upon the Instant.

He set down the notes of ‘Yankee Doodle,’ and wrote along them the travesty upon Cromwell. Dry. Shagbark gave the tune to the uncouth musicians as the latest martial music of England. The land quickly caught the simple and contagious air, and soon it sounded through the camp amid the laughter of the British soldiers. (583) It grew so popular with British troops in the colonies that they used it to taunt the services (American Popular Songs 452).It was a prophetic piece of fun, and its significance became apparent twenty-five years later when, to the tune of “Yankee Doodle,” Lord Cornwallis of the British army, marched unto the lines of these same old continentals to surrender his army and his sword (Our Familiar Songs and Those Who Made Them 584). In 1776 the song was interpolated in an early American comic Opera, “The Disappointment of Andrew Barton.

” One year later the song received attention in the press for the first time by the Journal of the Times’.At the outbreak of the revolution, the colonials appropriated “Yankee Doodle. ” It was heard at every battle, and became a favorite in every camp, both in defeat and in victory. At the final surrender in 1781, on April 19, General Cornwallis pleading illness, did not appear. His substitute General O’Hara; prepared to give up his sword to General Washington, but was referred to General Lincoln. General Lincoln, when receiving the sword handed it back at once . As the British soldiers lay down their arms, their band played an old English melody entitled, “The World Turned Upside Down.

With equal suitability the continental army band played “Yankee Doodle. ” Washington’s statement to his troops before the surrender was a great conclusion. “My brave fellows, let no shouting, no clamorous hazing increase their mortification. It is sufficient to us that we witness heir humiliation. Posterity will huzzah for us” (The Burl Eve’s Song Book 79). After the Revolution “Yankee Doodle” still retained its popularity. Benjamin Carr used it in an orchestral medley, “Federal Overture,” written in 1794 (American Popular Song 452).

One of the arguments of the origin of “Yankee Doodle” is that of JAW Leo Lemma (“The American Origins of Yankee Doodle”). Lemma argues that “Yankee Doodle” is said to be written by an English army officer to ridicule the colonial American militia who were gathered at Albany, New York, in 1758, preparing for an attack on Fort Ticonderoga. It is usually claimed that the English soldiers in America first popularized the tune and that they played, sang, and danced to it from at least the occupation of Boston in 1768 to the close of the Revolution. The American took up the song after the Revolution.But Lemma went on to say, because of critical analysis this was found to be the opposite, “Yankee Doodle” is an American folk song, reflecting American humorous tradition and American self characterization. It probably dates from the late 1740 and it is true that the English soldiers adopted it in the pre-revolutionary decade and use it to ridicule the Americans, but the English soldiers learned during the course of the Revolution to appreciate the true spirit of the song. (436) According to Leo Lemma, the English troops under Lord Percy played it when they marched out of Boston on April 19,1775, going to relief Cool.

Francis Smith’s regiment, which was been cut to pieces by the American militia, as Smith retreated from Lexington and Concord. Even after Perry’s brigade Joined Smith’s, the retreating troops were relentlessly attacked until they reached the protection of the British The question is still open of the earliest print of ” Yankee Doodle. In Moor’s ‘ Song and Ballads of the American Revolution’ (1855), it is claimed that the Recess appeared with this air as a music sheet in 1779, but no such musical broadside has been found. The history of music printing in America renders this doubtful. Yankee Doodle” found its way into print before forming an ingredient in Benjamin Car’s medley “Federal Overture” composed in 1794 and published 1795. After this “Yankee Doodle” became frequently printed; but curiously enough, all versions differed slightly for decades, and they differed also more or less from two early American manuscript versions, one dated 1790, the other possibly written as early as 1775, at the Boston Public Library (Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians). “Yankee Doodle” is one of the queer tunes existing in several slightly different versions.

It can be taken 6-8, in 2-4, and in common time with equal authority, for it is to be found printed with each of these time signatures and to the ordinary person, there is no difference, one is as good as the other (International Encyclopedia of Music and Musician 2495). At first there were sixteen stanzas to “Yankee Doodle. ” But the early colonials and Americans ever since have delighted in adding more. Today, few people know any of the original stanzas, except the first one and the chorus (Stories of Our American Patriotic Songs 21).According to the International Encyclopedia of Music and Musician, “Yankee Doodle” is characterized as “a popular American tune eminently fitted for humorous or burlesque utterance, to which in the course of 1 50 years doggerel verses in great variety have been sung” (2495). “Yankee Doodle” it has been well said, began and ended the American Revolution. The origin of the song is a mystery to the solution of which many musical antiquaries eave devoted much time and research, but finding the inquiry has been unrewarding.

And the mystery of the tune carries with it the mystery of the word “Yankee” and “Doodle” (International Encyclopedia of music and Musicianship). As stated by Encyclopedia Britannica, “Yankee” is a slang or colloquial name given to citizens of the New England states in America, and less correctly applied in familiar European usage, to any citizen of the United States. It was used by the British soldiers for their opponents during the War of Independence, and during the Civil War by the confederates and the Federal troops. The origin of the name has given rise to much speculation.It is considered to represent the Indian’s pronouncing “English” or “Angles,” and was applied by the Massachusetts Indians to the English colonists. On the other hand, the Scots “Yankee,” sharp or clever would seem more probable as the origin of the sense represented in the Cambridge expression. Dutch origination are other suggestion for the word “Yankee.

” Thus it may be a corruption of “Join” diminutive “Jon,” John, and applied to the English of Connecticut as a nick name by the Dutch (903). American air, but none of them have been convincing.Yankee Doodle” has caused more quarrels among historians and students of music than any other American song. Nobody knows exactly where the tunes came from (Stories of Our American Patriotic Songs 17). There are also many stories to account for “Yankee Doodle” usefulness as an American colonial song. One is that during the war of 1812, “Yankee Doodle” came in handy, serving another important purpose. Aaron Bates kept a light house upon the lonely shores near Situate, Massachusetts, about twenty five miles from Boston.

One day when working Mr..Bates and his daughters saw a boat of sailors making their ay toward land, no doubt to raid the country. The two girls acted quickly and played “Yankee Doodle” with the fife and drum their grandfather used during the Revolution, and the British soldiers quickly turned back their ships fearing that the American soldiers were on the shore waiting and they would be out numbered (Stories of Our American Patriotic Songs 21). Despite the many arguments and stories, since “Yankee Doodle” was written, many other Patriotic songs have been added to our ever growing store.

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