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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in May songs

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
American May Song

Called the “father of American music,” Pittsburgh-born songwriter Stephen Foster (1826-1864) wrote more than 200 popular songs, including such classics as Camptown Races, Way Down Upon the Swanee River, and Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair.

Sharing both a name and a hometown with him, I grew up with Foster's music: I sang his songs at school, and on road-trips with my parents and grandparents. I learned to play the piano from a book of his music.

Much of Foster's repertoire sang of life in the Old South, which makes it an uncomfortable fit today. Much of it, frankly, makes for difficult listening. To his credit, one must at least acknowledge that, in his songs, Foster again and again sympathetically depicts the humanity, dignity and deep sorrow of the enslaved.

In The Merry, Merry Month of May we see Foster in age looking back nostalgically at his youth. It's not his best song, but it is, nonetheless, an American May song.

And you gotta love that “May/gay” thing.

 

The Merry, Merry Month of May

(published by Daughaday & Hammond, Philadelphia, 1862)

 

We roamed the fields and river-sides

when we were young and gay;

we chased the bees and plucked the flowers,

in the merry, merry month of May.

 

Oh yes, with ever-changing sport

we whiled the hours away;

the skies were bright, our hearts were light

in the merry, merry month of May.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Gently Johnny

Gently Johnny is a Beltane classic. (You can hear Paul Giovanni's setting from The Wicker Man here.) What follows is my male-male version, singable (of course) to the same tune. If we're true to the Old Ways, we will invariably find that the Lore can expand to include the entire range of human experience.

 

Gently Johnny

 

I put my hand upon his shoulder,

and he said: Be a little bolder.

I put my hand upon his knee,

and he said: Do you want to see?

 

Gently, gently, gently Johnny,

gently Johnny, my jingolo;

gently, gently, gently Johnny,

gently Johnny, my jingolo.

 

I put my hand upon his chest,

and he said: Do you want the rest?

I put my hand upon his waist,

and he said: Do you want a taste?

 

Gently, gently, gently Johnny,

gently Johnny, my jingolo;

gently, gently, gently Johnny,

gently Johnny, my jingolo.

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Beltane's Flower: In Appreciation of Ian Anderson's 'Cup of Wonder'

If the modern Beltane has an anthem, it must surely be Ian (“Jethro Tull”) Anderson's Cup of Wonder.

When I first heard the song in 1977, it came as something of a revelation, managing (in what is surely the cultural and aesthetic touchstone of the New Paganisms) to sound both ancient and modern simultaneously. Of course, at the time we took it entirely for granted. Youthful arrogance has a beauty all its own.

If you haven't heard Cup of Wonder before, it's well worth a listen. If—like me—you haven't heard it recently, let me recommend a revisit. While very much of its own time, Anderson's sight remains true, his vision crisp, and his truth as deep as it ever was.

Wishing you joy of Beltane and a Merry May.

 

Cup of Wonder

 


May I make my fond excuses for the lateness of the hour,

but we accept your invitation, and would bring you Beltane's flower;

for the May Day is the great day, sung along the old straight track,

and those who ancient lines did "ley" will heed the song that calls them back:

 


Pass the cup, and pass the Lady,

pass the plate to all who hunger;

pass the wit of ancient wisdom,

pass the Cup of Crimson Wonder.

 

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Hail! Hail! The First of May-O

Inspired by the May traditions of Padstow, Cornwall, Dave Webber's May Song is a fine modern Beltane song in traditional idiom, heard here in a rousing performance by Magpie Lane.

The traditional May Day Hobby Horse's dance of sex, death, and resurrection has no known historical connection with the widespread and deeply sacred horse-sacrifices of the ancient Indo-European world.

None whatsoever.

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