November 23, 2016

Hymns of the Morning: Shenandoah -- "The provenance of the song is unclear"

Arlo Guthrie Featuring paintings by Albert Bierstadt, George Catlin, Frederick Remington, Howard Terpning, and visual arts by Spadecaller.

There are no "official" or traditional hymns of praise for Thanksgiving. This one, however, will do and do nicely.

"The lyrics tell the story of a roving trader in love with the daughter of an Indian chief; in this interpretation, the rover tells the chief of his intent to take the girl with him far to the west, across the Missouri River. Other interpretations tell of a pioneer's nostalgia for the Shenandoah River Valley in Virginia, or of a Confederate soldier in the American Civil War, dreaming of his country home in Virginia. The provenance of the song is unclear."

[There are many verses and variations.]

The Missouri, she's a mighty river
Away you rolling river
The red man's camp lies on her borders
Away, we're bound away across the wide

A white man loved an Indian maiden
Away you rolling river
With notions sweet his canoe was laden
Away, we're bound away across the wide

O Shenandoah, I love your daughter
Away you rolling river
I'll take her 'cross the rolling water
Away, we're bound away across the wide

The chief disdained the trader's dollars
Away you rolling river
My daughter never you shall follow
Away, we're bound away across the wide

At last there came a Yankee skipper
Away you rolling river
He winked his eye, and he tipped his flipper
Away, we're bound away across the wide

He sold the chief that fire-water
Away you rolling river
And 'cross the river he stole his daughter
Away, we're bound away across the wide

O Shenandoah, I long to hear you
Away you rolling river
Across the wide and rolling water
Away, we're bound away across the wide

Posted by gerardvanderleun at November 23, 2016 12:31 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Arlo Guthrie sounds like every parody ever made of his singing. Try this song on for size:

I think you probably had this here on American Digest, some time back, perhaps?

Posted by: Jewel at August 12, 2013 11:50 AM

Howard Terpning is America's greatest living artist.

Posted by: Mizz E at August 12, 2013 12:03 PM

Some truly wonderful art.

That song always reminds me of the opening of the West and Lewis and Clark. A time when men lived free and survived on their wits and toughness. (Even without a Leatherman tool.) :-)

Posted by: Jimmy J. at August 12, 2013 4:56 PM

Any voice above that of a baritone singing this song is practically sacrilegious.

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at August 12, 2013 5:12 PM

I like your idea of teaching American heritage/history through music and art. I learn a lot. Your commenters suggest even more.

The use of astronomy to reinforce Latin and Greek would be fun also. I had to look up "Perseid week end" and looked for the meteor shower Sunday.
"It's all good." as the kids say.

Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: Grace at August 12, 2013 5:25 PM

What... no "Alice's Restaurant"?

Posted by: Cletus Socrates at November 28, 2013 6:07 PM


Try this:

Posted by: Rob De Witt at November 28, 2013 8:11 PM

I'm surprised at you all. The strings are beautiful, and Guthrie's raw, wistful rendering of the tune has the honesty of something played around a frontier camp fire.
Alice's restaurant was over a decade ago, now wasn't it? Give the guy a break. ;)


Posted by: jwm at November 29, 2013 3:51 PM

Exactly so, JWM. Exactly so.

Posted by: vanderleun at November 29, 2013 6:51 PM

Very nice. Check out Van Morrison's rendition, too, from Long Journey Home.
Traditional Thanksgiving Hymns:
Come, Ye Thankful People, Come
We Gather Together
For the Beauty of the Earth
Now Thank We All Our God
All Things Bright and Beautiful
My Country, Tis of Thee (not really a hymn, but it's often sung at services)
There may be some more :)

Posted by: Bunny at November 23, 2016 10:08 AM

Two more suggestions for Bunny's "traditional Thanksgiving hymns" pile: "All Creatures of Our God and King" and "Seek Ye First." Also, while I applaud the sentiment behind reserving Shenandoah for baritones (because I am one), Peter Hollens (tenor) acquits himself well here:

Bonus: Suzy Bogguss (much-missed chanteuse who was big in the Nineties) with this version:

Posted by: Patrick O'Hannigan at November 23, 2016 11:51 AM

I do truly appreciate the male voice singing this song, but come fall in love with Sissel Kyrkjebø, as she sings Shenandoah:

I think Missouri is one of the prettiest words in our language.

Posted by: Electra at November 23, 2016 12:15 PM

I finally listened to the Arlo Guthrie version all the way through and it grew on me past the first verse. And as JWM states, the strings are lovely, the voice is honest.

Then, I clicked over to the best voice since Linda Rondstadt and heard Suzy Bogguss at the link above. So lovely!

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at November 23, 2016 7:05 PM

My favorite hymn for Thanksgiving isn't a hymn, but "All Good Gifts" from Godspell. It's amazingly apt.

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at November 23, 2016 7:16 PM

Here is a male voice that speaks to the sea-chanty theme best of all. Not accompanied by strings or sopranos...

Posted by: foodog at November 26, 2016 5:47 AM