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Strange Evolution of Folk Songs

Viewed 1589 times 2014-5-11 15:05 |Personal category:Music|System category:Life| music, folk songs, America, Woody Guthrie, Gene Autry

The folk song "Red River Valley", is well-known here in the United States. It probably dates from sometime in the late nineteenth century. 
Here is a recording by famous Country/Western singer Gene Autry:,red-river-valley,xssl38.html

Now, many American folk singers used to modify existing songs when they played them. Some even used older tunes for their own work.
This song, "Can I Sleep In Your Barn Tonight Mister" uses the tune of "Red River Valley"

There is a song that I have liked for years, called "Can I Sleep in Your Arms Tonight Lady". Sorry I couldn't find a video of it to post here. Anyway, upon listening to "Can I Sleep in Your Barn Tonight Mister" I realized that both songs are related. They have some similarities in their lyrics, and both use tunes based on "Red River Valley"!

Today, I learned of potential links between two very famous American songs (or at least they are famous here in the U.S.)
It all seems to have started with a song called "Oh My Loving Brother" and "When the World's on Fire"
Here is a recording by a group called The Carter Family, who were popular in the 1930s:

They then wrote their own song, with a tune based on "When the World's on Fire". It's called "Little Darling, Pal of Mine",little-darling-pal-of-mine,xssfr8.html

In the 1940s, a singer named Woody Guthrie wrote his own set of lyrics to a tune partly based on one of those songs, and called it "This Land is Your Land". It went on to become popular in the 1960s.

Now, this is a bit of a stretch, but when I was listening to "Little Darling, Pal of Mine" this afternoon, the melody of the last line reminded me of a song I have known since I was a kid. It's also pretty famous here in the US. The connections seem fairly tenuous, but some other people think they are there (I checked online to make sure I'm not crazy).

If you have difficulty accessing any of the websites, please tell me in the comments!

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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