“Folk lore tells of giants and long-lived men. On far travels they saw and heard much… Also hoary legends have dealt with the Champion Liar… We have in this instance a vest pocket encyclopedia, an outline of history with numerous references to picturesque peronages… It packs a wicked lot of biography.”
— Carl Sandburg, from The American Songbag
You could call Carl Sandburg a polymath, the American sort: poet, historian, musician, ethnomusicologist, folklorist. Really, an American in the tradition of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. He did it all (at least more than most). And in all of his undertakings, Sandburg was moved by his love of country. From America the beautiful–of amber waves of grain, purple mountain majesties, and fruited plains–to America the underbelly–of slaughterhouses, workdays that just didn’t quit, and smoke and dust.
So, in 1927, when Sandburg published The American Songbag, it was a collection of American traditionals from the America he saw: for better and for worse. Sandburg said: “The American Songbag comes from the hearts and voices of thousands of men and women. They made new songs, they changed old songs, they carried songs from place to place, they resurrected and kept alive dying and forgotten songs.”
These were songs Sandburg collected traveling a country that was as pretty as it was hard.
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In a playlist curated by AMERICAN MASTERS, sit right down and hear Sandburg sing his America.
A note to the user, you’ll have to sign up for a Spotify account to listen. But, you’re in luck: it’s a free service.