Tag Archives: music scores

Music of the Whiskey Rebellion

Folk, country, and rock music have lots of songs about whiskey.  But unlike other events in U.S. History, there are not a lot of music or films specifically about the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s.  Here is a list to get you started:

  • The public television series The Appalachians contains a segment on the Whiskey Rebellion.  (During the segment, you’ll hear the traditional song “Boozefighters,” performed by Gandydancer and also on the companion CD.  But this song is more likely about Prohibition in the 1920s and not the taxing of whiskey in the 1790s.)
  • The book Two Hundred Years of Pittsburgh-Region Folksongs contains a song “A ‘Canny’ Word to the Democrats o’ the West” (1799) which includes references to the Whiskey Rebellion in heavy Scotch-Irish dialect such as this: “When, ance, about Whiskey, / Ye a’ gat sae crusty, / An’ swore ye’d na pay for a drap.”
  • The same lyricist, David Bruce, also wrote “A New Song for the Jacobins” circa 1798 and also found in Two Hundred Years of Pittsburgh-Region Folksongs.  According to the notes accompanying the song, American Jacobin Clubs were radical agrarians inspired by the French Revolution and “furnished the leadership and organization for the Whiskey Insurrection.”
  • In 1953, Albert F. Beddoe published a song “Copper Kettle (The Pale Moonlight)” which became somewhat well-known amongst 60s folk revivalists.  It contains the lines: “My daddy he made whiskey, and my granddaddy too, / We ain’t paid a whiskey-tax since seventeen-ninety-two.”  Local group NewLanders, who specialize in songs about the region’s history, perform this song on their Where the Allegheny Flows album.
  • Another song called “Copper Kettle” also appears in folk song collections and tells the story of a jailed Patrick McCrory.  It contains the lyrics: “But Patrick paid no taxes / On any stuff he sold, / That’s why he went to prison,  / So the tale is told.”

— Tim

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“Someone left the cake out in the rain…”

In the mid-90s, when columnist Dave Barry wrote about bad songs, the number one reader submission was Jimmy Webb’s “MacArthur Park.” I love this song in all its 7+ minutes of bloviated glory (especially when its lyrics speak of when we “were pressed in love’s hot fevered iron like a striped pair of pants.”) And I’m proud that the library owns it on CD in many different versions, but definitely start with the original with Richard Harris, star of Camelot.

So, in general, if you’re looking for specific songs to listen to, use the Advanced Keyword search in the Catalog, put the song title in quotes (e.g. “MacArthur Park”), and limit it to the material type that you want (e.g. “Music CD”).

If you want to sing this hit with piano accompaniment, do another Advanced Keyword search, but this time use the material type of “Music Score.” You’ll find it in Classic Songs of the 70s. When you’ve practiced it and it’s ready to perform, please let me know. I’ll come listen.

— Tim

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