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A Treasury of Civil War Songs Sung by Tom Glazer

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Album Review

The Civil War ushered in the 19th century in so many ways, transforming America and the world into the industrial age and everything that came with it, which included the rise of photography and music publishing, themselves the nascent beginnings of the pop music industry. Thousands of songs were written during the war, and thanks to the publishers, they proliferated — hundreds of songs of valor, of sadness, of joy, of missing the girl back home, as well as songs describing the geography of battle across the full scale of human emotion. It wasn’t pop music exactly, but it was popular, and along with photography and a rapidly evolving print media, it all combined to make the Civil War the most fully documented war to date in history — it was, in essence, the first modern war. This set features folksinger Tom Glazer (best known for his 1963 novelty song "On Top of Spaghetti”) singing some of these Civil War tunes in his clear, measured everyman voice over light guitar, banjo, and autoharp accompaniment. It’s nothing fancy as far as studio production goes, but it’s probably close to how some of these songs were sung during the war. There’s a little bit of everything included here, from songs that work like travel diaries (“Marching Through Georgia” and “Cumberland Gap”) to stark and poignant expressions of the casualties of war (“Somebody’s Darling”), to reminders of what was at stake (“The Year of Jubilo [Kingdom Coming]”), to offbeat but easily sung songs that simply lifted the spirit (“Goober Peas”). This is an album full of history highlighted by song notes from University of Maryland musicologist Patrick Warfield, who places each song in cultural context, all of which makes A Treasury of Civil War Songs the audio equivalent of a well-documented PBS special.

Customer Reviews

Rich collection of mid-nineteenth century American songs

In remembrance of the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, Smithsonian Folkways has reissued Tom Glazer’s 1973 collection of wartime songs. Many of these compositions are so deeply ingrained into the American musical lexicon that listeners have all but stopped thinking about their origins. So while it’s unsurprising that “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Dixie” were each canonized amid the War Between the States, it’s surprising to find that “The Yellow Rose of Texas” (whose period lyrics will make twenty-first century sensibilities wince) and “Goober Peas” were also created amid the songwriting boom of the nineteenth century. The rise of song publishing was fueled not only by a growing American appetite for music making, but the development of war reporting in all manner of written form. Topical songwriting became a way of recording events, defining sides and rallying support. The folk tradition (and loosely-formed nineteenth-century sense of intellectual property) is heard in the sharing of melodies between “John Brown’s Body” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” as well as “Maryland, My Maryland” borrowing its tune from “O Tannenbaum.” Glazer and a backing chorus sing mostly to a solo guitar, reflecting an era when music lovers were more likely to engage in making music than listen to it. The reissue’s booklet includes period photos of soldiers, musicians and most interestingly, soldier musicians, as well as extensive historical and song notes from University of Maryland musicologist Patrick Warfield. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]


Born: September 3, 1914 in Philadelphia, PA

Genre: Children's Music

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s

Best-known for authoring the children's classic "On Top of Spaghetti," folksinger and songwriter Tom Glazer was born in Philadelphia on September 2, 1914. After the death of his carpenter father four years later, he and his siblings were raised by their mother and assorted relatives, sometimes living in an orphanage. At school, Glazer studied a variety of musical traditions and instruments (among them guitar, bass, and tuba) before relocating at 17 to New York City, where he worked at Macy's department...
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