“Know the songs of a country and you will know its history for the true feeling of a people speaks through what they sing.”
Preface to The Songs of Henry Clay Work (1884)
Today is an exciting day at the Library of Congress! The long-awaited Song of America project officially debuts. The collection features over 80,000 items detailing America’s great musical tradition. As you can imagine, in this great collection of American creativity there’s a lot of poetry.
I encourage you to explore this great resource yourself, but here I’ve outlined a couple of my favorites. The African-American musical heritage feature in the collection is simply outstanding. As you can see, so much of the African-American musical experience had its roots in poetry and the oral storytelling tradition. This experience is similar to Hispanic tradition. I’m sure you’re familiar with the great rock n’ roll song, “La Bamba,” popularized by Ritchie Valens (1941-1959). But did you know this pop hit has strong roots in the son jarocho style of Hispanic performance poetry?
Many of the Library’s treasures are on display. Click around, explore, have a listen, or watch a performance. And, of course, share with your friends this fantastic bringing together of Americas musical heritage!