Pip and Liv’s curriculum has them learning a new hymn and folksong every month. I make a Spotify playlist out of their songs and we keep building it over the year. We’ve learned “Cockles and Mussels” and “Green Grass Grows All Around” before switching to Christmas music for November and December.

But I continue to run into a dilemma. The amount of folksongs around the topic of death. “Cockles and Mussels” caught me off guard. It was recommended by their curriculum so, in a complete mom fail moment, I didn’t pre-listen.

Trust me.

I have not made that mistake again. But every month I am having to search for our own songs, as the curriculum list continues to discuss death! For example…

October: Freight Train by Elizabeth Cotten (1905)

When I’m dead and in my grave,
No more good times here I crave,
Place the stones at my head and feet,
Tell them all that I’ve gone to sleep.
Freight train, freight train, run so fast,
Freight train, freight train, run so fast,
Please don’t tell what train I’m on,
So they won’t know what route I’ve gone.

When I die, Lord, bury me deep,
Way down on old Chestnut street
Then I can hear old Number Nine
As she comes rolling by.
Freight train, freight train, run so fast,
Freight train, freight train, run so fast,
Please don’t tell what train I’m on,
So they won’t know what route I’ve gone.

Err… ummm… Pass.

January: Minstrel Boy

The minstrel boy to the war is gone
In the ranks of death you’ll find him
His father’s sword he hath girded on
And his wild harp slung behind him
“Land of Song!” cried the warrior bard
“Tho’ all the world betrays thee
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard
One faithful harp shall praise thee!”

The Minstrel fell! But the foeman’s chains
Could not bring that proud soul under
The harp he lov’d ne’er spoke again
For he tore its chords asunder
And said “No chains shall sully thee
Thou soul of love and brav’ry!
Thy songs were made for the pure and free
They shall never sound in slavery!

Seriously. No. Let’s skip ahead to February?

February: Walk That Lonesome Valley by Mississippi John Hurt (1924)

You got to walk, that lonesome valley.
Well, you got to walk it for yourself.
Ain’t nobody here, can walk it for you.
You got to walk that valley for yourself.

My mother had to walk that lonesome valley.
Well, she had to walk it for herself.
Cause nobody here could walk it for her.
Yeah she had to walk that valley for herself.

Oh yes, you got to walk that lonesome valley.
Well, you got to walk it for yourself.
Cause nobody here can walk it for you.
You got walk that valley for yourself.

My father had to walk that lonesome valley.
He had to walk it for his-self.
Cause nobody here could walk it for him.
He had to walk it for his-self.

Oh, Jesus had to walk that lonesome valley.
He had to walk it for his-self.
Cause nobody here could walk it for him.
He had to walk that valley for his-self.

Oh yes you got to walk that lonesome valley.
Well, you got to walk it for yourself.
Yes nobody here can walk it for you.
You got to walk that valley for yourself.

Oh my word. I. Just. Can’t.

So we’ll be learning An Acre of Land for January. I can explain that one clearly!

I am totally open to Folksong recommendations… without macabre themes, please!

 Tara

3 Comments on A Folksong Dilemma

  1. Oh my goodness this is my genre! Anything by the new Christie minstrels Or the Kingston trio. Or Peter Paul and Mary. Here’s a few you may know.
    This land is your land
    She’ll be comin round the mountain
    They call the wind Mariah
    The sloop John bee
    It takes a worried man to sing a worried song ( actually upbeat)
    The MTA ( ok not really for kids but one of my favs)
    500 miles
    If I had a hammer ( good one for kids)
    Go tell it on the mountain

    Others. That are good for kids (these are all considered folk songs per Smithsonian Folkways))
    The ballad of Davey crocket
    She’ll be comin round the mountain
    Froggy went a courtin
    Shenendoah
    Yankee Doodle
    Green grass grows all around
    Oh Susannah
    Home on the range
    I’ve been working on the railroad

    Call me and I’ll sing them to you

    • You’ve saved me! This is such a fantastic list – my heart is exploding!! There are so many here I had forgotten or never heard of but I’m sure the kids will lllooovvvveeee!

      • I’ve got an ol mule and her name is Sal
        15 miles on the Erie Canal.

        Can’t remember the title.

        Down by the Station is also a good one.

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