Music and Songs Americans Have Loved      
 
Frameworks for America's Past



On the YouTube screen, select "480p" or higher if it is available for best quality. 


Music from America's past,
listed with oldest at top:



1600s - 1880s:

Scarborough Fair  This very old song is about a love that seems hopelessly lost.  Early versions trace back to England in the 1600s.  It remains well known even today.

Oh Shenandoah  This traditional folk song dates to the early 1800s.  It takes its title from the beautiful Shenandoah River in Virginia.

Simple Gifts  One of the best known old songs in America.  It was composed by an elder of the Shaker religious movement in 1848.  It is still popular with school chorus groups and recording artists today.


Swing Low, Sweet Chariot  This old song of African American heritage is a type called a spiritual because of its religious references. 
It is one of many famous spirituals and hymns that can be traced back to the 1800s.  Lyrics about crossing over the Jordan River represent dying or going to Heaven.  "Canaan's land" means the Promised Land told of in the Bible.  Another example I'm On My Way, from a film set in the 1920s.

Days of '49  An old folk song about the California Gold Rush of 1849, with some good photos.  A "bummer" is slang for a man who drifts from town to town, without work.  The "bummer's shore" was the West Coast of the Gold Rush era.  A "gin sot" is slang for a drunk.

When Johnny Comes Marching Home  A popular song of the Civil War era.  On both sides, families tried their best to keep up hope that their sons would return alive.  The first half of this video is instrumental, with singing in the last half.


1880s to 1920:

Spanish Lady  This is one of many old Irish songs that came to America along with the immigrants in the 1800s.  

Washington Post  From 1889, music of John Philip Sousa on an organ.  This was music to dance to in the 1880s and 1890s, and is still heard in parades, at festivals, and on merry-go-rounds.

The Entertainer  The 1902 ragtime piano hit written by Scott Joplin, an African American who became a famous composer of ragtime and jazz.

Waltzing Matilda  A famous tune often sung by soldiers from Australia (one of the Allies) during World War I.  It became popular with Americans as well.  (A swagman / swaggie is a wandering farm worker, a billabong is a pond, a billy is a pot of water, a jumbuck is a sheep.)


1920s, 1930s, 1940s:

Yes, We Have No Bananas  A fun song from the 1920s.  This is played on a very old Edison cylinder phonograph.  The song  captures the optimistic spirit of an immigrant grocery store owner who wants to answer "Yes!" to everything.

Honky Tonk Train Blues  This old-time boogie woogie piano hit from the 1920s is still played today.

I've Got Plenty of Nothing  A famous song with music by George Gershwin, from the 1935 Broadway hit musical Porgy and Bess.

Over the Rainbow  The song Dorothy (Judy Garland) sings in the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz.

Jumpin' Jive features swing music of the famous jazz band leader Cab Calloway.  The clip is from a 1943 movie - don't miss the tap-dancing scene that starts about 1:30!


Swing Fever shows the swing dance style and music of the 1940s in this high-energy clip from the film.


Appalachian Spring  Aaron Copland's famous 1944 composition.  This link jumps to 20:30 for the best known part of this music.  Click here for a selection from Copland's music for the modern ballet titled Rodeo.

Look to the Rainbow  A well-known song with a father's advice to his daughter about finding the right man.  It's from the 1947 Broadway musical Finian's Rainbow. This clip is from the movie based on the show.


1950s, 1960s:

Rock Around the Clock  Bill Haley plays this high energy 1954 song that helped launch the start of the rock and roll style.

Tammy  Actress Debbie Reynolds sings this song in the 1957 film Tammy and the Bachelor.  It hit #1 on the charts that year.  What a different world it was.

If I Had A Hammer  Peter, Paul and Mary perform this song from the early 1960s that reflects the rising social conscience of that era.

Heatwave  Martha and the Vandellas bring the Motown music style alive in this performance of their 1963 hit.  Another Motown hit: My Girl, by the Temptations.

In the Year 2525  This strange song hit the #1 spot in 1969.  The twists and turns of the decade had left many people wondering just where the human race was headed.      


Class favorites
& bonus tracks:



What a Wonderful World  This is the fantastic shadow puppet performance, done with Louis Armstrong's well known song.  Still the top class favorite!

I'm On My Way  An old spiritual of African American heritage, from a scene in the film Elmer Gantry.  Lyrics about crossing over the Jordan River mean dying or going to Heaven.  "Canaan's land" means the Promised Land told of in the Bible.

Spanish Lady is an old song originally from Ireland.  Scarborough Fair is even older, and is originally from England.  Both are still performed today.

Titanic Theme: My Heart Will Go On  A young man stops by a music store, sits down at a Steinway grand piano, and plays this music from the famous movie.

Jumpin' Jive features swing music of the famous jazz band leader Cab Calloway.  The clip is from a 1943 movie - don't miss the tap-dancing scene that starts about 1:30!

Swing Fever shows the swing dance style and music of the 1940s in this high-energy clip from the film.


The Entertainer  The 1902 ragtime piano hit written by Scott Joplin, an African American who became a famous composer of ragtime and jazz.

Heatwave  Martha and the Vandellas bring the Motown music style alive in this performance of their 1963 hit.  Another Motown hit: My Girl, by the Temptations.


More class favorites!
Especially popular with chorus, band,
orchestra, and drama
students 

Summertime  A 12 year old girl with a puppet performs the famous 1935 song from the Broadway musical Porgy and Bess.  Her talent as a ventriloquist won a standing ovation on the TV show America's Got Talent.

Story of My Life  A tree, a boy, and a girl.  A swing, and a new friend.  A marriage and a child.  Sketches of the memories that give life meaning.  The music is a Piano Guys cover of the 2013 hit by One Direction.

Beauty and the Beast  The famous Broadway-style song from the 1991 Disney film based on an old French fairy tale.  This performance features a talented 14 year old girl from California singing with a college chorus.

Colors of the Wind and Jurassic Park - Taylor Davis has built a huge YouTube following with her violin covers of popular movie and video game music.  See how her videos are made here

Homeward Bound  This powerful song draws on traditional American folk and choral styles.  Over 300 choral students joined Peter Hollens for this recent performance.

It Won't Be Like This For Long  African American country music singer Darius Rucker put this at the top of the charts.

River Flows in You  Does anyone still play a harp?  Watch this beautiful version of the well-known piano music.

Fight Song / Amazing Grace / Scotland the Brave   The music of a recent popular song is combined with the music of two much older songs.  The Piano Guys went to Scotland to get just the right setting and sound for this video.  

Ode to Joy / Beethoven's 9th Symphony "flash mob"  A city in Portugal celebrated it's 130th birthday by arranging this performance in the city square.  The famous music from 1824 celebrates the joy of life and the brotherhood of all mankind.

Yes, We Have No Bananas  A fun song from the 1920s.  This is played on a very old Edison cylinder phonograph.  The song  captures the spirit of an immigrant grocery store owner who wants to answer "Yes!" to everything.  An old player piano version is here.

Appalachian Spring  Aaron Copland's famous 1944 composition.  This link jumps to 20:30 for the best known part of this music.  Click here for a selection from Copland's music for the modern ballet titled Rodeo.

Music for the Royal Fireworks  Watch full screen and listen with good speakers or headphones.  The music was composed in England in 1749.

Theme from The Mission  This is from the music by a modern Italian composer for the 1986 movie The Mission.  You need to be in a quiet place and in the right mood to experience it.

Willow's Waltz  Violin and guitar students are always impressed by this music video!  These three young women are from the U.S., but their music often draws on Celtic traditions.

Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus  Quiet but powerful orchestra music, based on a traditional English tune that is best known today from the old Irish song "Star of County Down."

Pachelbel's Canon in D Major  This music, with its expressive dignity, is often played at weddings.



Holiday Season Music
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