Monday, March 10, 2008
Song of the Week: Erie Canal
It's understandable to think that "Erie Canal" is a folk song, as it is a solid fixture in American music. In his Spinning Wheel interview, Robert Resnik said it was the song that never got old. Some websites that have lyrics to this song will say that it's "traditional," and provide no author. However, one person did indeed write this song, and his name is Thomas S. Allen. Allen wrote "Erie Canal," also known as "Low Bridge, Everybody Down," in 1905, after mules were replaced by motors to move the barges. The song is about the mule-barges that hauled goods to different towns in the state of New York during the 1800's. Allen wrote four verses to the song, but today, we usually just sing the first two.
Here's a MIDI for the song. Lots of musicians have covered "Erie Canal" and provided their own harmonic flourishes. So far, my favorite is Susanne Vega's version off of Dan Zanes' Rocket Ship Beach. The most easily found chords on the internet are in E minor. I give them to you in A minor. If it's a challenge for you to get from A minor to D minor in that first line, then feel free to leave out the C chord. I added it because I thought it sounded good. (Think of C major and A minor as "cousins." This also goes for G major and E minor.) Note also that the chords for the word "Buffalo" are sung/played "[E] Buffa- [Am] lo [G] -o."
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