Archive for the 'Tragedy' Category



The Month of January


h1 Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

This traditional song [Roud Folksong Database #175] has been sung all over the world. It’s the tragic story of a young woman who became pregnant by her poor lover. Her rich parents bribe the young man to disappear. She is left to freeze in the cold with her infant.

I recorded this with the “Jetglow” Rickenbacker given to me by my friend Bill Lee, using my new Janglebox 3 for both Rickenbacker 12-string and bass.

Lyrics:
Capo 1st fret Key of D

[D] It was in the month of January, the [C] hills were clad in [D] snow
And over hills and valleys, to my true love I did [G] go
[D] It was there I met a pretty fair maid, with a salt tear in her [C] eye
[D] She had a wee baby in her arms, and [C] bitter she did [D] cry

“Oh, cruel was my father, he barred the door on me
And cruel was my mother, this fate she let me see
And cruel was my own true love, he changed his mind for gold
Cruel was that winter’s night, it pierced my heart with cold”

Oh, the higher that the palm tree grows, the sweeter is the bark
And the fairer that a young man speaks, the falser is his heart
He will kiss you and embrace you, ’til he thinks he has you won
Then he’ll go away and leave you all for another one

So come all you fair and tender maidens, a warning take by me
And never try to build your nest on top of a high tree
For the roots, they will all wither, and the branches all decay
And the beauties of a fair young man, will all soon fade away

John Hardy


h1 Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

In West Virginia, a railroad worker named John Hardy got violent during a game of craps and fatally shot Thomas Drews, a fellow player. Hardy was tried, found guilty of murder in the first degree and hanged on January 19, 1894. History records this from the Wheeling Daily Register. Judge Herndon and Walter Taylor defended Hardy. Allegedly, Hardy gave Judge Herndon his pistol as a fee.
Lyrics:
CAPO ON 1ST FRET
[F] John Hardy, was a [C] desperate little man,
[F] He carried two guns [C] every day.
[F] He shot a man on the [C] West Virginia line,
[C] You oughta seen John Hardy gettin’ away,
[C] You oughta seen John Hardy [G7] gettin’ [C] away.

John Hardy, he got to the Keystone Bridge,
He thought he would be free.
Up steps a man and takes him by his arm
Saying, “Johnny, walk along with me,”
Saying, “Johnny, walk along with me.”

John Hardy was a brave little man,
He carried two guns ev’ry day.
Killed him a man in the West Virginia land,
Oughta seen poor Johnny gettin’ away, Lord, Lord,
Oughta seen poor Johnny gettin’ away.

John Hardy was standin’ at the barroom door,
He didn’t have a hand in the game,
Up stepped his woman and threw down fifty cents,
Says, “Deal my man in the game, Lord, Lord….”

John Hardy lost that fifty cents,
It was all he had in the game,
He drew the forty-four that he carried by his side
Blowed out that poor Negro’s brains, Lord, Lord….

John Hardy had ten miles to go,
And half of that he run,
He run till he come to the broad river bank,
He fell to his breast and he swum, Lord, Lord….

He swum till he came to his mother’s house,
“My boy, what have you done?”
“I’ve killed a man in the West Virginia Land,
And I know that I have to be hung, Lord, Lord….”

He asked his mother for a fifty-cent piece,
“My son, I have no change.”
“Then hand me down my old forty-four
And I’ll blow out my agurvatin’ [sic] brains, Lord, Lord….”

John Hardy was lyin’ on the broad river bank,
As drunk as a man could be;
Up stepped the police and took him by the hand,
Sayin’ “Johnny, come and go with me, Lord, Lord….”

John Hardy had a pretty little girl,
The dress she wore was blue.
She come a-skippin’ through the old jail hall
Sayin’, “Poppy, I’ll be true to you, Lord, Lord….”

John Hardy had another little girl,
The dress that she wore was red,
She came a-skippin’ through the old jail hall
Sayin’ “Poppy, I’d rather be dead, Lord, Lord….”

They took John Hardy to the hangin’ ground,
They hung him there to die.
The very last words that poor boy said,
“My forty gun never told a lie, Lord, Lord….”

Titanic


h1 Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

When the Costa Concordia capsized last month, people described the panic and chaos during a rather unruly evacuation as reminiscent of the pandemonium on board the Titanic as it sank nearly 100 years ago. I remembered hearing this song in the Harry Smith Anthology of American Music and decided it would be fitting for the Folk Den’s February release.

There are many versions of this. I combined the two that I liked best.

Lyrics:
Riff in A

On a Monday morning, just about nine o’clock
Great Titanic began to reel and rock
Children weep and cry, yes I’m going to die
Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down

Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down
Husbands and wives little children lost their lives
Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down

When that ship left England, making for the shore
The rich had declared they would not ride with the poor
They put the poor below they were the first to go
Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down

Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down
Husbands and wives, children lost their lives
Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down

They threw the life boats over, in the dark and stormy seas
The band began to play “O Give Thy Soul To Thee”
Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down

Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down
Little children wept and cried as they left their mother’s side
Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down

Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down
Husbands and wives, children lost their lives
Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down

People on that ship, a long long way from home
Friends all around, didn’t know their time had come
Death come riding by, sixteen hundred had to die
Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down

Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down
Husbands and wives, children lost their lives
Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down

Polly Vaughn


h1 Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Polly Vaughn is an old Irish folk song about a hunter who mistakenly shoots his true love thinking her to be a swan. Click HERE for more details.
Lyrics:
I will tell of a hunter whose life was undone,
By the cruel hand of evil at the setting of the sun,
His arrow was loosed and it flew through the dark,
And his true love was slain as the shaft found its mark;

She’d her apron wrapped about her,
And he took her for a swan,
And it’s oh and alas it was she, Polly Vaughn;

He ran up beside her and found that it was she,
He turned away his face for he could not bear to see,
He lifted her up and he found she was dead,
A fountain of tears for his true love he shed;

She’d her apron wrapped about her,
And he took her for a swan,
And it’s oh and alas it was she, Polly Vaughn;

He carried her off to his home by the sea,
Crying’ “Father, oh Father, I’ve murdered poor Polly!
I’ve killed my fair love in the flower of her life,
I’d always intended that she be my wife;”

“But she’d her apron wrapped about her
And I took her for a swan,
And it’s oh and alas it was she, Polly Vaughn;”

He roamed near the place where his true love was slain,
And wept bitter tears, but his cries were all in vain,
As he looked on the lake, a swan glided by,
And the sun slowly set in the grey of the sky;

“But she’d her apron wrapped about her
And I took her for a swan,
And it’s oh and alas it was she, Polly Vaughn;”

“She’d her apron wrapped about her
And I took her for a swan,
And it’s oh and alas it was she, Polly Vaughn.”

Henry Martin


h1 Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

I remember seeing Joan Baez sing “Henry Martin” at Club 47 in Cambridge MA in 1960. She looked and sounded just like she does in this clip: CLICK HERE
This ballad is sometimes confused with Andrew Barton, because they are similar both in story and sometimes in tune. According to Sharp Henry Martin is probably the older ballad and was recomposed during the reign of James I. However, some scholars feel it is the other way around. Whichever is the case, Henry Martin dates to at least the 1700s.

In the many versions the hero is variously Henry Martin (Martyn), Robin Hood, Sir Andrew Barton, Andrew Bodee, Andrew Bartin, Henry Burin and Roberton. Sharp feels Henry Martin is probably a corruption of the name Andrew Barton.

The ballad is based on a family that lived during the reign of Henry VIII. A Scottish officer, Sir Andrew Barton, was attacked by the Portuguese. Letters of marque were then issued to two of his sons. The brothers, not finding sufficient Portuguese ships, began harassing English merchants. King Henry VIII commissioned the Earl of Surrey to end their piracy. He was given two vessels which he put under the command of his sons, Sir Thomas and Sir Edward Howard. They attacked Barton’s ships, The Lion and the Union, and captured them. They returned triumphant on August 2, 1511.

Child Ballad #250

Click Here for another strong performance of “Henry Martin” by actor Chris Leidenfrost-Wilson

Lyrics:
There were three brothers in merry Scotland,
In merry Scotland there were three,
And they did cast lots which of them should go,
should go, should go,
And turn robber all on the salt sea.

The lot it fell first upon Henry Martin,
The youngest of all three;
That he should turn robber all on the salt sea,
Salt sea, salt sea.
For to maintain his two brothers and he.

He had not been sailing but a long winter’s night
And a part of a short winter’s day,
Before he espied a stout lofty ship,
lofty ship, lofty ship,
Come abibing down on him straight way.

Hullo! Hullo! cried Henry Martin,
What makes you sail so nigh?
I’m a rich merchant bound for fair London town,
London Town, London Town
Will you please for to let me pass by?

Oh no! Oh no! cried Henry Martin,
That thing it never could be,
For I am turned robber all on the salt sea
Salt sea, salt sea.
For to maintain my brothers and me.

Come lower your topsail and brail up your mizz’n
And bring your ship under my lee,
Or I will give you a full flowing ball,
flowing ball, flowing ball,
And your dear bodies drown in the salt sea.

Oh no! we won’t lower our lofty topsail,
Nor bow ourselves under your lee,
And you shan’t take from us our rich merchant goods,
merchant goods, merchant goods
Nor point our bold guns to the sea.

With broadside and broadside and at it they went
For fully two hours or three,
Till Henry Martin gave to her the deathshot,
the deathshot, the deathshot,
And straight to the bottom went she.

Bad news, bad news, to old England came,
Bad news to fair London Town,
There’s been a rich vessel and she’s cast away,
cast away, cast away,
And all of the merry men drown’d.

Barbara Allen


h1 Saturday, January 1st, 2011

I remember seeing Joan Baez sing this at Club 47 in Cambridge MA in 1960. She looked and sounded just like she does in this clip: CLICK HERE

Source of the following: Mudcat Cafe
Samuel Pepys in his “Diary” under the date of January 2nd 1665, speaks of the singing of “Barbara Allen.” The English and Scottish both claim the original ballad in different versions, and both versions were brought over to the US by the earliest settlers. Since then there have been countless variations (some 98 are found in Virginia alone). The version used here is the English one. The tune is traditional.

Child Ballad #84

Lyrics:
[D] In Scarlet town where I was born,
There was a [G] fair maid [A] dwellin’
[G] Made every youth cry [Bm] Well-a-day,
[A] Her name was Barb’ra [D] Allen.

All in the merry month of May,
When green buds they were swellin’
Young Willie Grove on his death-bed lay,
For love of Barb’ra Allen.

He sent his man unto her then
To the town where she was dwellin’
You must come to my master, dear,
If your name be be Barb’ra Allen.

So slowly, slowly she came up,
And slowly she came nigh him,
And all she said when there she came:
“Young man, I think you’re dying!”

He turned his face unto the wall
And death was drawing nigh him.
Adieu, adieu, my dear friends all,
Be kind to Bar’bra Allen

As she was walking o’er the fields,
She heard the death bell knellin’,
And ev’ry stroke did seem to say,
Unworthy Barb’ra Allen.

When he was dead and laid in grave,
Her heart was struck with sorrow.
“Oh mother, mother, make my bed
For I shall die tomorrow.”

And on her deathbed she lay,
She begged to be buried by him,
And sore repented of the day
That she did e’er deny him.

“Farewell,” she said, “ye virgins all,
And shun the fault I fell in,
Henceforth take warning by the fall
Of cruel Barb’ra Allen.”

Erie Canal


h1 Monday, August 1st, 2005

Erie.gif

This is a comic story about a tragic boat ride down the Erie Canal. I decided to sing this in the style of the late 50s – early 60s college folk groups. I can see the audience sitting an a large hall, the men wearing three button jackets and skinny ties and the ladies in pretty dresses.

The Erie Canal opened in 1825. The Ohio and Erie Canal, joining Cleveland and Portsmouth, was completed in 1845. For 25 years these canals were busy trade routes, piloted by burly, aggressive boatmen on long narrow craft. These keelboats were sharp at both ends, built on a keel and ribs.

Gradually the railroads replaced the keelboat as a form of commercial transportation and the canal traffic was greatly reduced.

Lyrics:
E-RI-E CANAL

[A] We were forty miles from Albany
Forget it I [E] never [A] shall.
[A] What a terrible [E] storm we [A] had one [D] night
[A] On the E-ri-e [E] – [A] Canal.

chorus:
O the E-ri-e was a-rising
And the gin was a-getting low.
And I scarcely think we'll get a drink
Till we get to Buff-a-lo-o-o
Till we get to Buffalo.

We were loaded down with barley
We were chock-full up on rye.
The captain he looked down at me
With his gol-durned wicked eye.

Two days out from Syracuse
The vessel struck a shoal;
We like to all be foundered
On a chunk o' Lackawanna coal.

We hollered to the captain
On the towpath, treadin' dirt
He jumped on board and stopped the leak
With his old red flannel shirt.

The cook she was a grand old gal
Stood six foot in her socks.
Had a foot just like an elephant
And her breath would open locks.

The wind begins to whistle
The waves begin to roll
We had to reef our royals
On that ragin' canal.

The cook came to our rescue
She had a ragged dress;
We h'isted her upon the pole
As a signal of distress.

When we got to Syracuse
Off-mule, he was dead;
The nigh mule got blind staggers
We cracked him on the head.

The cook is in the Police Gazette
The captain went to jail;
And I'm the only son-of-a-sea-cook
That's left to tell the tale.