Oh, Susanna (II)
DESCRIPTION: Shanty. Swedish version has a sailor leaving his true love and (for a change) actually returning after she has pined for a while. Another (English) fragment has two verses referring to "the Sovereign of the seas." Both use the familiar Foster tune.
EARLIEST DATE: 1961 (Hugill)
KEYWORDS: foc's'le sailor shanty return derivative
FOUND IN: US Sweden
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Hugill, pp. 116-117, "Oh, Susanna," "Susannavisan (The Susanna Song)" (3 texts-Swedish & English, 1 tune)
cf. "Oh! Susanna" (tune)
NOTES [174 words]: Hugill got the Swedish version from Sang under Segel (Sternvall, 1935), which has notes claiming that this text and melody can be traced to the 1750s. If that's true it would put a rather different light on both the Stephen Foster and the gold rush connection. - SL
I have to admit that I don't buy this. I don't know what Sternvall's evidence is, but Foster exuded tunes the way a politician exudes falsehoods about what is mathematically possible. If he'd been better at writing lyrics, he'd have had probably twice as many hits. So I strongly doubt he would have had to steal a tune.
Could the dating somehow be related to The Sovereign of the Seas? There were sundry ships of that name, including an American clipper built in 1852 -- but the most famous ship of that name was Phineas Pett's great battleship of 1637. It was not a very successful ship -- it was too big for the shipbuilding techniques of the time, and as a result was very slow -- but it was so big that it established a reputation based on sheer size and gunpower. - RBW
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