Wednesday, February 12, 2014

6 songs about Abraham Lincoln for Lincoln's Birthday

Today is Abraham Lincoln's birthday, so Music Weird presents six songs about Lincoln that apparently are so obscure that most of them can't be found on YouTube. Nevertheless, these songs are all too real, and a couple of them were even chart hits! 

Johnny Horton - "Young Abe Lincoln (Make a Tall, Tall Man)"

Johnny Horton became the king of the so-called historical folk song after he hit #1 with "The Battle of New Orleans" in 1959. Producer Don Law* reportedly was so overcome by the awesomeness of Horton's performance in the studio that he cried. Law wasn't alone in his opinion; the record wasn't just a #1 hit—it was the smash record of the year. To this day, it's the biggest crossover country hit in the history of the pop chart. 

Afterward, Horton recorded a number of other songs in a similar vein, none of which was nearly as successful. "Young Abe Lincoln" is one of them. 

*Or maybe it was Horton's manager, Tillman Franks. I can't remember. This anecdote is from the book that comes with Bear Family's Johnny Horton box set, 1956-1960

Don Cornell – "Young Abe Lincoln"

Same title, different song. Don Cornell doesn't seem to be particularly well-remembered these days, but maybe that's just my perception. He had a lot of hits, though, and was a musical chameleon, sort of like Bobby Darin but earlier. He recorded traditional pop, folk, rock 'n' roll, etc. 

Cornell's "Young Abe Lincoln" on Coral was a moderate hit and is a rousing number in the "Glory, Glory Hallelujah" style. Hugo & Luigi also recorded this song for Mercury and saw a little chart action. 

Fess Parker – "Abraham Lincoln"

Fess Parker, known to an entire generation as television's Davy Crockett, and later as TV's Daniel Boone, recorded an album of songs about figures from American history. His song for Lincoln includes timeless couplets such as "honest Abe Lincoln / he set the world to thinkin'." 

Bear Family Records reissued this album on CD (with a different title and cover), and it's a fun album if not always historically accurate. 

Carl Mann – "Burning Holes in the Eyes of Abraham Lincoln"

Here's an unusual song. The first time I saw this title, I didn't know what to expect. "Burning Holes in the Eyes of Abraham Lincoln" is a late-career flop single by Carl Mann, who's remembered for his 1959 hit "Mona Lisa." 

"Burnin' Holes," a Carl Mann original, is about a heartbroken man's conversation with a five-dollar bill as he dejectedly burns out Lincoln's eyes with a cigarette. 

"Old Abe Lincoln Came Out of the Wilderness"

In 1964, LIFE magazine released an interesting album of presidential campaign songs that was titled Sing Along with Millard Fillmore. (A jokey reference to those Mitch Miller Sing Along with Mitch albums.) 

The artists were anonymous, but the production values were high and the songs were fun. The style is somewhere between historical folk (like Johnny Horton) and commercial folk (like the New Christy Minstrels). Lincoln's entry on the album is "Old Abe Lincoln Came Out of the Wilderness," a song that was also featured in the 1940 film Abe Lincoln in Illinois

Dion – "Abraham, Martin and John"

A million-selling Top 5 hit in 1968. Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, and Moms Mabley also recorded hit versions.



No comments:

Post a Comment