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The American Songbag Paperback – October 29, 1990

4.5 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

This long-established anthology, compiled by Sandburg and 'his friends from coast to coast and from the Gulf to Canada, ' contains singable words and music--complete harmonizations or piano accompaniments--to 290 songs, ballads, and ditties that people have sung in the making of America.

About the Author

CARL SANDBURG (1878–1967) was twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize, first in 1940 for his biography of Abraham Lincoln and again in 1951 for Complete Poems. Before becoming known as a poet, he worked as a milkman, an ice harvester, a dishwasher, a salesman, a fireman, and a journalist. Among his classics are the Rootabaga Stories, which he wrote for his young daughters at the beginning of his long and distinguished literary career.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; 1st edition (October 29, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 015605650X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156056502
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 1.3 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #409,218 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Compiled with difficulty and a lot of elbow grease during the years when American master Carl Sandburg was also writing 'Rootabaga Stories,' 'Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years' and poetry volume 'Slabs Of The Sunburnt West,' 'The American Songbag' is one of the many valuable gifts Sandburg produced for the American people. A collection of 290 "songs, ballads, and ditties," each entry consists of the extended lyrics and "complete harmonizations or piano accompaniments."

These folk songs are grouped under loose headings such as 'Dreams And Portraits,' 'Pioneer Memories,' 'The Big Brutal City,' 'Picnic and Hayrack Follies, Close Harmony, and Darn Fool Ditties,' 'The Great Open Spaces,' 'Hobo Songs,' and 'Tarnished Love Tales And Revolutionary Antiques,' and 'Mexican Border Songs' among others.

Many, understandably, have a British origin--'The Foggy Dew,' 'Barbara Allen,' 'As I Was Walkin' Down Wexford Street,' 'Pretty Polly,' and 'The House Carpenter'--while the origin of others, like 'The E-RI-E,' 'The Ballad Of De Boll Weevil,' and 'The Buffalo Skinners' seem to be distinctly American.

'Turkey In The Straw,' however, like "When The Curtains Of Night Are Pinned Back,' is a "classical American rural tune," and "as American as Andrew Jackson, Johnny Appleseed, and Corn-on-the-Cob."

Sandburg provides a brief introduction to each song, many of which are informative, while others are humorous and so idiosyncratic that each only muddies the waters of clarity if taken at face value.

American music lovers may believe that 'Shenandoah' is a wholly American creation, but Sandburg sensibly suggests that the original may have referred to the name of a foreign ship or an Indian chief, rather than to 'the Historic Virginia valley.
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Format: Paperback
Sandburg's American Songbag is a national treasure. I suppose the words and music of these 280 songs, ballads, and ditties that people have sung forever could be found elsewhere, but where? This important work, which breathes life back into some of the most memorable old songs, was originally published in 1927.
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Format: Paperback
An absolute classic of American arts and letters, the "Songbag" has been cited by traditional musicians including Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan. It's a primary source of American cultural heritage.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was looking forward to seeing this work by Sandburg. I just recently heard of the Songbag.
Unfortunatly, the product offered by Amazon is an amazingly poor xerox copy of the original book. ULAN Press, who ever they are produced this book. The copy is so poor that the music is not readable sitting at the piano. The text is also out of focus and barely legible. I get a headache tring to read it.
Sandburg work is amazing and I am anxious to uptain a better copy. I hope to find an old copy of an original printing.
I strongly discourage anyone from buying this Amazon/ULAN offering!
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Format: Paperback
Back in the early 1960s when I was a high schooler getting into music, I took this book out of the library and took this book out of the library, and took this book out of the library.

People trying to find great folk songs with both wit and wonder and laughter, heart ache and beauty probably have been doing this since Sandburg published this book in the 1920s. Being so familiar with this book, back in the day, and still today, I can identify different folk singers who have a repertoire of traditional songs by the ones who like myself studied this book and learned to play its songs, and those who had learned from the Lomax Collections, though in all the big Lomax books, there were credits to the inspiration and work Sanburg put into this book, as well as songs taken from this book.

Sanburg wasn't a folklorist, but a poet and someone who liked to sing these songs and play the guitar. He includes a few songs that aren't folk by any description like the very funny "Horse Named Bill" written by a friend of Sandburg's named Sinclair Lewis whom you might heard of!

The legions of folkies who once had only this book and the Lomax collections have spewed forth generations of serious scholars of folk music in this country and the world. Specialized monographs can be found on Kentucky fiddling or the musics of Mali, on down picking banjo, and Black song before the blues. With the specialization that has developed over the decades, few would even attempt to write one book and call it the American Songbag.

Especially if you like to sing and play, this book will take you back to an easier time, with some good songs. You will be surprised at how many of them you know the tune to, even if you can't read the music!
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Format: Paperback
I purchased this book partly [because of what others ere saying.] The lyrics of the obscure selections from American popular music are of some value but the arrangements of the music and the tune transcriptions are terrible. This is not a book to buy if you are looking for music.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book appears brand new but was advertised as used. It truly is an American Classic and the songs are arranged so they can be played on piano or with an orchestra. I agree with Garrison Keilior that it would have been nice to have the guitar chords, but Sandburg only used the old stand by 3 or 4 anyway. Love it
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