Saturday, September 28, 2013
Music on My Mind
The Band, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down". This fictional tale of "Virgil Caine", who barely out of boyhood had served in the Confederate Army in the last days of the Civil War, is often considered one of the best expressions ever written of what it is like to face inevitable and crushing defeat, and justly, I think; nothing quite hits like the lines talking about the death of his older brother, or the sad comment that the Army should never have taken the very best.
Here's a good site on the Fall of Richmond, when, as the song notes, it was literally the case that women and children were starving in the streets because of the combination of the devastating Union advance and the greed of Confederate war profiteers -- and that was only the beginning, and not the worst of it.
Joan Baez did a famous cover of this song. When Baez first started performing the song, she had never seen the lyrics -- she just performed it by ear and memory -- and so you can notice several lines in her (earlier) versions that have shifted to very different but similar-sounding lines, although a few changes, like the shift from "I will work the land" to "I'm a working man" could possibly be deliberate. The tune was also used for a big German hit, Am Tag als Conny Kramer starb, but not the words; the German song is an anti-drug song.