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date: 17 November 2019

Revolutionary War, thelocked

  • Kate Van Winkle Keller

Extract

Music played a vital part during the period of the Revolutionary War, beginning with emotional responses to the Stamp Act in 1765. In the tradition of writing new topical words to older songs, a fiery parody of a British song was posted on the gallows in Boston where effigies of the tax men were hanging. To a tune from the 1740s, it had several verses and a chorus that all the listeners could join in: “He who for a post or a base sordid pelf … sing tan-ta-ra-ra-ra, swing all, swing all.” Another from this period that enjoyed wide circulation was John Dickinson’s “Liberty Song” from 1768. A parody of a theatrical song by William Boyce, this too had a rousing chorus—a sure way to involve the listeners in the emotion of the performance. John Adams described a dinner in 1769 at which the Sons of Liberty in Boston were entertained with the singing of the “Liberty Song.” He remarked that the “whole company” joined in the chorus and he felt that the singing was “cultivating the Sensations of Freedom.” This kind of cultivation was potent. The song began “Come join hand in hand, brave Americans all … in freedom we’re born and in freedom we’ll live… .” It was quickly parodied by a Loyalist who wrote “Come shake your dull noodles, ye pumpkins and bawl … in folly you’re born… .” Just as quickly, this parody was parodied: “Come swallow your bumpers, ye Tories and roar … in freedom we’re born… .”...

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