Old Rosin the Beau

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2nd South Carolina String Band
Published at : 27 Oct 2020
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First published in Philadelphia in 1838, “Old Rosin the Beau” likely comes to us from the British Isles. The words and melody are ‘traditional’, meaning there is no known lyricist or composer on record. For the longest time, we naturally thought the title referred to the “bow” that is “rosined” to make it grab the strings of the violin. As it turns out, a version that circulated prior to 1838, actually was titled, “Old Rosin the Bow,” and the lyrics speak of a well-traveled and popular fiddler, now grown old and reflecting upon his approaching death.

However, the 1838 version, arranged and published by one J.C. Beckell, is the more familiar and often raucous drinking song. Because of its catchy melody and swinging waltz-time rhythm, the tune has been borrowed for many other uses: several 19th century political campaigns, among them notably Abraham Lincoln (“Lincoln and Liberty”); various folk songs (e.g., “Denver”, by the 1963 New Christy Minstrels; and more recently by our friend, David Kincaid, who applied it to a rebel treatment of “Kelly’s Irish Brigade”, on his “The Irish-American’s Song” album.

Not surprisingly, we learned the raucous drinking version and that’s the one presented here. Sing along if you like !
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