Auld Layng Syne performed by the Band of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.
there have occasionally been other songs that made feeble attempts to displace
it, New Year’s Eve belongs
firmly to Auld Lang Syne and it promises to remain supreme in defiance
of any and all changes in musical tastes
of us know that the song comes from a poem
by the revered Ploughman Poet and Scottish national icon Robert Burns. But you may not know the whole
The Scottish Ploughman Poet Robert Burns.
his first blush of fame with the publication of his Kilarnock Poems in 1786,
Burns began his fruitful relationship with the editor and publisher James
Johnson who was preparing to publish his Scots Musical Museum. He collected and often rewrote
scores the songs of this great collection, which preserved traditional Scottish
music when it could have easily vanished. One of the songs he sent was Auld Lang Synewith the notation “The following song, an old song, of the olden
times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took
it down from an old man.”
was not quite true on a couple of accounts. Other collectors had recorded variants and in 1711 James Watson publisheda version that showed considerable
similarity in the first verse and the chorus to Burns’ later poem and is almost
certainly derived from the same old song. Burns changed it from a romantic song about old lovers to a nostalgic drinking song of old
friends. Most of the words in Scotts we now sing were written by
John Masey Wright's and John Rogers' illustration of Auld Lang Syne in 1841.
his early death in 1796 at the age of only 37, the song took on a
special significance as a legacy
of the beloved poet.
tune was we now sing it may or may not have been the one that Burns originally
heard but became standard in the early years of the 19th Century.It
is pentatonic—based on a five note scale—Scots folk melody, originally a sprightly dance in a much quicker tempo.
when the song became associated with
New Year’s is unknown. It is possible
the earlier folk versions were already sung at that time. But was incorporated in Hogmanay—the last day of the old year and the first
of the new—celebrations by the mid-19th Century.
in the world celebrates New Years with zest
and ritual like the Scots. You can thank those dour old Calvinists of the National Kirkof Scotland—the
Presbyterians—for more completely scouring Christmas from the
calendar than Oliver Cromwell and
his Puritans ever dreamed in England. If Scottish Catholics kept Christmas in their hearts, the kept their mouths
shut about it and the practice faded even in their communities. After the celebration of Christmas was no
longer outright banned it was still shunned
as being “too English” and did not
become a legal holiday in Scotland
until 1958 and only then because so many English were moving into the border
areas and were employed at firms in the big cities.
The Hogmanay circle singing of Auld Lang Syne at the stroke of midnight.
has many quaint customs, but they
center on the stroke of midnight. Then the central
room of a home hosting the celebration was cleared of furniture and guests
join hands with the person next to them to form a great circle around the dance floor. At the beginning of the last
verse, everyone crosses their arms across their breast,
so that the right hand reaches out to the neighbor on the left
and vice versa. When the tune ends, everyone rushes to the middle, while
still holding hands. When the circle is re-established, everyone turns
under the arms to end up facing outwards with hands still joined.
song spread rapidly around the globe thanks to the Scottish diaspora to British
Empire nations—especially Canada—and to the United States. Scottish regiments spread the song even wider
and it was adapted for use by British
troops generally from India, to Africa, to the Middle East.
wasn’t until the 1890’s, however, that there was printed mention of the song being used publicly at New
Year’s in the United States, although it undoubtedly was sung in Scottish
communities. When the first illuminated ball was dropped in New York City’s Times Square in 1907
the song was so firmly identified with New Year’s that the crowd sang it
after the ball touched down.
Guy Lombardo leading His Royal Canadians during a New Year's Eve broadcast in the 1960s.
But Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians
really cemented Auld Lang Syne as the
New Year’s Eve song. Lombardo first broadcast a New Year’s Eve program
on CBS Radio on December 31,
1928. He continued broadcasting from the Roosevelt Room until 1959, and then
moved his base to the larger Waldorf
Astoria. In 1959 the New Year’s Eve
program was first aired on CBS
Television and continued on that network for 21 years.After
Lombardo’s death the song was still played in all of the airings of the Times
The Pipers lead the Band of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards on parade in Edinburgh.
we fittingly turn to an instrumental version by the Band of the Royal
Scots Dragoon Guards. Regimental musicians
like these help spread Auld Lang Syne across the British Empire and
English speaking world.
in the day everyone who was not a misanthrope
or a shut-in went out on New Year’s Eve.The toffs
wore their white ties and tails and
elegant evening gowns and furs to don paper hats and dance the
night way to orchestras in sprawling
Art Deco ballrooms.At least that is what all of the old movies taught the rest of the Depression and war weary populous.But
those average Joes and Jills also went out and celebrated with
their own funny hats and noise makers in
urban ballrooms, lodge halls, piano
bars, and neighborhood saloons.And it was not just attractive young
people.Period photographs reveal that revelers
include many middle aged and older couples.
Celebrating in the U.K. in the 1930s--a night to forget the Depression.
Drunk driving enforcement and cozy stay-at-home TV extravaganzas have been
eating away at New Year’s Eve revelry for years.Last year the Coronavirus precautions left the crystal ball to drop in
an empty Times Square and in most
places clubs and nightspots are shuttered or open to extremely limited
capacity.This year a raging resurgence of the Omicron variant is scaring many folks away from re-scheduled public hoopla and causing some clubs and venues to shut down either as a precaution or because performers and staff have been infected. Dancing and smoochingstrangers at midnight will be discouraged in all but
New Year's Eve--the romantic dream.
way back when for those who were not married
or already romantically involved the
question what are you doing New
Year’s Eve? was of vital importance.Nobody wanted to be alone on New Year’s and
everyone wanted someone to kissat the stroke of midnight.That is what songwriter Frank Loesser had in mind in 1947 when he made the
question into a song—What are You Doing New Year’s Eve. Margaret Whiting, barely out of
her teens recorded it for Capitol Records that year without
much note taken of it.
it was performed on radio shows that
often featured the popular composer’s work,
it didn’t become a real hit until 1949 when the early doo-wop group The Orioles hit
#9 on Billboard’sRhythm &
that success, the song did not become an instant standard or holiday
favorite.In fact, it languished seldom
recorded until Nancy Wilson hit #17
Christmas Singles chart in 1965.Two
years later the same recording returned to the Holiday Chart.Wilson’s silky
and sexy, take helped make the
song a something of a jazz standard sung
by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole.
New Year's revelry for ordinary folks--somewhere in a lodge hall, bar back room, or neighborhood venue.
the song still didn’t register as a pop
standard until the new century and
streaming video from YouTube made it go viral.In 2011 an utterly
charming impromptu duet with Zooey Deschanel and actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt made a splash
ultimately attracting more than 20 million hits.And in 2017 Scott Bradlee’s Post Modern Juke Box covered the song featuring vocalists Rayvon Owen and Olivia Kuper Harris and has registered
more than a million views.
Many consider the Orioles from Baltimore the first successful doo-wop recording artists and the first vocal group of post-War Rhythm & Blues. Four voices in harmony accompanied only by guitar and up right bass.
today we are featuring the earliest
recording of Loesser’s song by the original hit-makers.The Orioles are generally acknowledged
as post-World War II R&B’s first vocal group. Baltimore
natives, they blended rhythm with group harmonies and named
themselves after Maryland’s state bird.Members included lead tenor Sonny Til, high tenor
Alexander Sharp, baritone George Nelson, bass vocals and standup
bass player Johnny Reed, and guitarist Tommy Gaither.
week CBS broadcast the Kennedy Center Honors.First up for recognition was Joni
Mitchell, who now stands and walks with difficulty since recovering
from a devastating 2015 brain aneurysm rupture but was in good spirits
as the story of her life unfolded on stage along with many of her
finest songs.Among them was River
from her 1971 album Blue sung by Brandi Carlile.It was a breathtaking, wounded,and personal song off the most highly regarded album of her
long career.It is also a Christmas
song like none you ever heard before or since.
of course, is the iconic Canadian singer/songwriter, who emerged from
the mid-Sixtiesfolk coffee house scene to become one of the
major composers and musical innovators of her generation. Childhood polio weakened her left
hand making some traditional guitar chording difficult,so
she developed a unique open tuning style that liberated her from many
first success came as songwriter.Tom
Rush recorded Urge for Goingwhich was also covered
by George Hamilton IV as a #5 hit on the Country Music Buffy Sainte-Marie
came out withThe Circle Game. Judy Collins covered Both Sides
Now before Joni could record it.
Like most of her albums Clouds featured original artwork by Mitchell herself.
first album released in 1968 Joni Mitchell or Song to a
Seagull was a deceptively simple solo with just Joni and her
guitar and was produced by David Crosby.It
featured Michael from Mountains but none of her original songs
covered by others.Not a huge seller,
it became a folk cult hit, and led to bookings across the U.S.
and Canada that built a following.The follow-up, Clouds, which was released in April
1969 and contained Mitchell’s own versions of some of her songs already
recorded and performed by other artists. The covers of both LPs were designed
and painted by Mitchell a blending of her painting and music that
she continued throughout her career. Clouds won her first Grammy
Award in 1970 as Best Folk Performance.
did not make it to the Woodstock Festival where her friend Crosby and
her current love interest Graham Nashdebuted the powerhouse
super trio Crosby, Stills and Nash.On her agent’s advise she honored a commitment to appear on the Dick
Cavett Show instead.Viewing TV coverage
of the festival in her New York City hotel room, she dashed off Woodstock
which became a generational anthem and catapulted her to superstardom.Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young recorded
it first and the song was played under the closing credits of the documentary
filmWoodstock released March 1970.
Mitchel with her lover Graham Nash.
own version was included in her next album Ladies of the Canyon which
waslargely inspired by her move to Malibu Canyon in
California and the close, almost incestuouscommunity
of musicians and artists there, including Nash and Crosby.The album also included the environmental anthem
Big Yellow Taxi. The LP was an instant smash on FM
radio and became Mitchell’s first certified Gold Album.
at the crest of her popularity, Joni decided to take a break from
touring and recordingto go to Europe to concentrate on painting,
composing, and finding herself.Her relationshipwith Nash was already shaky and while she
was gone he sent her a telegram ending it.She had a short but intense relationship
with an American named Cary Raditz, who was the “redneck on a
Grecian Isle” during her stay on Crete.Later, she entered a passionate affair with James Taylor who she
has said could have been “the love of my life” that ended due to his own rise
to stardom and his heroin addiction.
James Taylor performing with Joni Mitchell. He could have been the love of her life but his heroine addiction got in the way.
Adelle have specialized in sometimes wrenching self-confession
about their love lives in their music.Mitchel did it first.The album Blue
plumbed all of those failed relationships.River was inspired by the break-up with Nash.In a 1979 interview she recalled.
The Blue album,
there’s hardly a dishonest note in the vocals. At that period of my life, I had
no personal defenses. I felt like a cellophane wrapper on a pack of cigarettes.
I felt like I had absolutely no secrets from the world and I couldn’t pretend
in my life to be strong. Or to be happy. But the advantage of it in the music
was that there were no defenses there either.
Blue was Mitchell's most critically acclaimed album and also her most raw and revelatory.
continued to have a remarkable, productive career.She went on to explore new genres
including jazz, R&B, Rock & Roll, classical
and non-western forms.She has
received many accolades, including nine Grammy Awards and induction
into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. Rolling Stone called her “one of
the greatest songwriters ever” and AllMusic said, “When the dust
settles, Joni Mitchell may stand as the most important and influential female
recording artist of the late 20th century.”
is the third day of Kwanzaa which
was created in 1966 during the blossoming of a period of Black Nationalism by Maulana
Karenga, a Black studies scholar and a leading Los Angeles militant.
on December 26 and running through January 1, candles are lit representing
values.Each of the values is
given a Swahili name.Today is day three— Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) “To
build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’
problems our problems, and to solve them together.”
A Kwanzaa button from the collection of theNational Museum of African American History and Culture.
was born Ron Everett in Parsonsburg, Maryland on July 14,1941 into the very large family—14 children of
a sharecropperand Baptist preacher, he came to Los
Angeles in 1959 where he studied at Los
Angeles City College (LACC) and the University
of Southern California (UCLA).As an
undergraduate he was active in the Congress
of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student
Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNICC) and was the first Black President of the Student Body.
was during this period he took the title Maulana,Swahili-Arabic for master
teacher and the name Karenga, Swahili for keeper
the Watts Riots of 1965 the young graduate
student was influenced by Malcom X in
developing African-American Unity, cultural
pride, and a separatist militancy.He was involved in many activities and
organizations and was regarded as a rising intellectual leader.
was designed in instill those values in a community he feared was still too dominated
by “alien” and white ideology
and religion.It was to “give
Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to
celebrate themselves and their history, rather than simply imitate the practice
of the dominant society.” The name is derived from the Swahili for first fruit celebration, matunda
Dr, Maulana Karenga, seated second from the left, at the Newark Black Power Conference circa 1967.
used Swahili as the ritual language of its operations because it is a pan-African language, the most widely
spoken of Sub-Saharan African tongues.But it is an East African language as are the customs on which the celebration
was based.The vast majority of African-Americans trace their lineage
to the trans-Atlantic slave trade and
West Africa, very culturally
and linguistically distinct from the east.Critics
in the Black community charged that he could have taken inspiration from
instead from the West African empires and kingdoms.But Karenga was a student of Swahili and the
east, and not of the slave trade or origins of his own people.
celebration, centered around lighting candles in the home over seven
days, obviously is borrowed from Jewish
Chanukah traditions, but Karenga has barely acknowledged that obvious
at first frankly hoped that his new celebration would supplant Christmas and New Years, both in his opinion instruments of White oppression.But the deep
connection of the Black community to the Church and to its celebrations stood in the way of the spread of
his new observance.Also, his allies in
nationalism among Muslims, both followers
of Malcom X’s traditional Islam and
the Nation of Islam—the Black Muslims—also objected to Karenga’s non-theism and hostility to religion.
Kwanzaa was meant to be a family
centered celebration of African culture and values but father figures in
private and men in public celebrations dominated the lessons. Black
women are now more assertive in claiming a central place in the
1970 Karenga changed his tune
and now emphasizes that it is a secular
observation that does not conflict with or contradict religious
celebrations.“Kwanzaa was not
created to give people an alternative to their own religion or religious
holiday,” he wrote in 1994.
that adaptation, Kwanzaa began to spread rapidly.It was easy for families to adopt for
private observation.Most of those
families also have a Christmas tree in
the corner.Public observations came to
include many at major Black Churches.
Kwanza candles and associated symbols and books.
are lit every night for the seven values.Materials are available for study and reflection.Songs and poems have been written.The values are:
·Umoja(Unity): To strive for and to maintain
unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
·Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create
for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses
and to profit from them together.
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in
order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our
community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
·Imani(Faith): To believe with all our hearts
in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness
and victory of our struggle.
final night concludes with a feast
and gift giving.
of the observance was aided, ironically, in no small part to the
attention given it in the mainstream, white dominated media, especially local television
news coverage in major urban centers.The attention always made the celebration seem
much more pervasive than it ever was.
claims to tens of millions of participants across the globe made every
year by Karenga on his official Kwanzaa
web site, at its height in the mid-70’s it was actively observed by a small
fraction of the Black community.Exact
figures are hard to come by and wildly exaggerated claims are made not only
Karenga, but by sympathetic scholars.With the decline of Black Nationalism as a movement and the
founder’s many troubles—more on that in a bit—participation has declined
and leveled off.Estimates range
from 12 to as low as 2 million participants in the early the 21st Century.Market research by the National Retail Foundation in 2004 found
that 1.6% of those surveyed planned to celebrate Kwanzaa. Generalized to the US
population as a whole, that would mean that around 4.7 million people
planned to celebrate Kwanzaa in that year.
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has encouraged observation and education about Kwanzaa in it predominately white congregations with special worship materials like this.
of them would be White.Introduction of
Kwanzaa into school curricula as
part of the general holiday observances has brought it to many White
children.In my own, overwhelmingly
White faith tradition, Unitarian Universalism,
which embraces diversity and often poaches traditions, Kwanzaa is
often integratedwith other winter holiday celebrations.
lot of other White folk, however, turn purplein the face every
time they hear about Kwanzaa.For them
it is an affront, and more than that a direct threat.Black Nationalism and cultural pride evokes
for them all of the old nightmares of slave rebellions,rampaging Mau Maus, and violent civil episodes associated with some Black Lives Matter demonstration and anti-police violence protests.It
is also confabulated with the alleged war
on Christmas by a shadowy Commie/liberal/Black
conspiracy.Every year the Right Wing talking heads froth at the mouth over the
observation.Which probably delights
Karenga who remains a separatist at heart.
Maulana Karenga ,founder and leader of US/Organization, a
rival to the Black Panthers for leadership of the Black Nationalist
he promoted the holiday, Karenga also got involvedin one of the nastiest and most violent of feuds within
the Black militant community.The group
that he founded in 1965 and led—US
Organization—became a rival of the emerging Black Panther Party for leadership of the nationalist movement on
the West Coast.Egged on by an FBI COINTELPROdis-information
program, members of the two groups engaged in a gun fight on the
UCLA campus in 1969 resulting in the death of two Panthers and the wounding
of on US member.Retaliatory
shootings occurred across the country for months resulting in two more
deaths and the delight of J. Edgar
Panther Party had better press and more adherents.Its members and supporters naturally withdrew
from any Kwanzaa celebrations.
the worst was yet to come.In 1971
Karenga was convicted of kidnapping
and sexually torturingDeborah Jones and Gail Davis.Karenga’s estranged
wife, Brenda Lorraine Karenga,
testified that she had participated in the abuse.Karenga claimed that the women were plotting
against him and were part of the COINTELPRO harassment.He denied claims of abuse.
was sentenced to ten years in prison and held at the California Men’s Colony until he was released with the support of high
profile Black state politicians and office holders.While he was in prison US fell apart and the
reputation of Kwanzaa was damaged.Karenga seldom speaks about the conviction, except to note that
he was once a political prisoner.The episode is left out of his autobiography
and on the Kwanzaa web page.
Karenga at a 2004 public Kwanzaa observance.
being released, Karenga tried unsuccessfully to resurrect US, and then devoted
himself to an organization promoting Kwanzaa.He finished one PhD. at United
States International University (now Alliant
International University) and a second at UCLA.He is now the Chair of the Africana Studies Department at California State University,
Long Beach, the Director of the Kawaida Institute for Pan African Studies, and the author
of several books.
its ups and downs, Kwanzaa remains meaningful and is an inspiration
for many in the Black Community.And there
is nothing wrong with that.
Sweet Honey and the Rock in performance.
songs have been written for Kwanzaa, many of them for children to teach them
the values represented by the candles.Today, however, we are sharing Seven Principles, a song
for all ages by Sweet Honey and the Rock, an all-woman, African-American a cappellaensemble founded by Bernice Johnson Reagon in
1973 at All Souls Church,
Unitarian in Washington, D.C.They
have recorded many successful and admired gospel songs, feminist anthems, and blues/jazz/rock
arrangements.Reagon and other founding members have retired, but the group has continued with several other members over the years.
we feature one of the oldest English carols, The Holly and the Ivy.Its origins are shrouded
in the mist of time.Pagan
greenery was anointed with Christian symbolism.
familiar melody of several that have
been set to the is very old and resembles the songs of the Tudor era 1485–1602 which is why it is
a favorite of Madrigal Singers.
earliest surviving mention of the song in print occurred in the
early 19th Century when collecting folk music became fashionable. The earliest recorded version of the lyrics was in a broadside published by H.
Wadsworth in Birmingham between
1814 and ’18. Later Victorian sources claimed that it was on a now lost broadside
published about 1710. Variations of the
words were reproduced and the form in which they are most usually sung
now first appeared inCecil Sharp’s 1911 collection English
Folk-Carols. Sharp also married
the words to the melody we now know.
holly’s bright red berries were
identified with the Blood of Christ
and its sharp leaves with the Crown
of Thorns and the Ivy was said to represent the purity of the Virgin Mary.Versions of the song were sung during the
Advent hanging of the greens in country parishes
and were also popular with carolers and wassailers during the Twelve
Days of Christmas.
An early broadside of The Holly & Ivy.
custom of decorating homes with greens around the Winter Solstice pre-dates Christianity.The Druids
apparently used the ever-green holly
and in Roman Britain greens were
hung for Saturnalia.The Christian references in the
song as we now sing it may have been grafted onto earlier pagan or rural versions that orally preserved the old
The Holly King whose effigy was burned at Winter Solstice to be replaced by the Oak King or Green Man, the ruler of the growing light.
earliest recording of the song was
collected by Cecil Sharp from Mrs. Mary
Clayton, at Chipping Camden, Gloucestershire and can be found in the
British Museum.Sir Henry Walford Davies wrote a popular choral arrangement that is often
performed at the Festival of Nine
Lessons and Carols and by choirs around
addition to choral presentations, many artists have recorded versions of
the song.None are lovelier than the
rendition of Anne Lennox, the classically trainedcontralto
who gained fame as one half of Eurhythmics.Until
Adelle she was the “the most successful female British artist in UK music history.” As of
2008, including her work with Eurythmics, Lennox had sold over 80 million records
worldwide. She has been named the Greatest
White Soul Singer Alive by VH1 and one of the 100
Greatest Singers of All Time by Rolling Stone. In
2012, she was rated #22 on VH1’s 100
Greatest Women in Music. At the
2015 Ivor Novello Awards, Lennox was made a fellow of the British Academy of
Songwriters, Composers and Authors,
the first woman to receive the honor.
In addition to her career as a musician, Lennox is
also a political and social activist, notable for raising money and awareness for HIV/AIDS as it affects women and children in Africa. She founded the SING Campaign in 2007 and founded a women’s
empowerment charityThe Circle in 2008. In 2011, Lennox was appointed a member of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II for her “tireless charity campaigns and
championing of humanitarian causes.”
Annie Lennox's 2010 album A Christmas Cornucopia is a modern classic and one of the greatest holiday recordings of all time.
Lennox considers herself an agnostic and became a vegetarian at age 29. Her work, especially on her 2010 album A
which included The Holly and the Ivy
shows, distinctly pagan influences, a common
tendency of feminists interested in the environment, justice, and the divine feminine.