Copernicus and Springsteen

On Sunday Ned Deily and I returned to shapenote singing (with the Palo Alto Sacred Harp group), after six months away (a long story, mostly having to do with my respiratory travails). At one point Ned chose #112, The Last Words of Copernicus, for its music and its words. The yesterday Ned discovered that #112 puts in an appearance on Bruce Springsteen’s latest album, Wrecking Ball. Here’s the song, in the 1991 edition of the Denson Sacred Harp:

A singing of Copernicus at the 2nd Ireland Sacred Harp Convention, Cork, March 2012:

On the Springsteen connection, from the Original Sacred Harp website:

Sightings: Bruce Springsteen’s Sacred Harp Sample
Posted on March 28, 2012 by John Plunkett and Jesse Pearlman Karlsberg
Bruce Springsteen’s new song “Death to My Hometown” samples “The Last Words of Copernicus” from the 1869 Sacred Harp, by Sarah Lancaster of Buena Vista, Georgia. The source for the sample is Alan Lomax’s recording of the 1959 United convention at Corinth Baptist Church in Fyffe, Alabama, which was reissued in 1997 by Rounder Records and is now available online through the Association for Cultural Equity Online Archive.

This site gives the full text of Doddridge’s hymn — based on Isaiah 60:20, with the title “God the everlasting Light of the Saints above” — including four stanzas not in SH (which uses only the first two, one for the verse and the other for the fugue):

Ye stars are but the shining dust
Of my divine abode,
The pavements of those heavenly courts,
Where I shall see my God.

The Father of eternal light
Shall there his beams display;
Nor shall one moment’s darkness mix
With that unvaried day.

No more the drops of piercing grief
Shall swell into my eyes;
Nor the meridian sun decline
Amidst those brighter skies.

There all the millions of his saints
Shall in one song unite,
And each the bliss of all shall view
With infinite delight.

On Wrecking Ball, from Wikipedia:

Wrecking Ball is the seventeenth studio album by American recording artist Bruce Springsteen, released March 5, 2012, on Columbia Records. The album’s first single, “We Take Care of Our Own”, was released on January 19, 2012. Another song, “Rocky Ground” will be released to select record shops on 7-inch as a Record Store Day exclusive on April 21, 2012. On April 13, 2012, a music video for the album’s third single, “Death to My Hometown” was released.

The video:

The (very angry) text:

Oh no cannonballs did fly
No rifles cut us down
No bombs fell from the sky
No blood soaked the ground
No powder flash blinded the eye
No deafening thunder sounded
But just as sure as the hand of god
They brought death to my hometown
They brought death to my hometown, boys

No shells ripped the evening sky
No cities burning down
No armies stormed the shores for which we’d die
No dictators were crowned
High off on a quiet night
I never heard a sound
The marauders raided in the dark and brought death to my hometown, boys
Death to my hometown

They destroyed our families’ factories and they took our homes
They left our bodies on the plains
The vultures picked our bones

So listen up, my Sonny boy
Be ready for when they come
For they’ll be returning sure as the rising sun

Now get yourself a song to sing and sing it ’til you’re done
Yeah, sing it hard and sing it well
Send the robber barons straight to hell
The greedy thieves who came around
And ate the flesh of everything they’ve found
Whose crimes have gone unpunished now
Walk the streets as free men now

And they brought death to our hometown, boys
Death to our hometown, boys
Death to our hometown, boys
Death to our hometown

One Response to “Copernicus and Springsteen”

  1. Murillo’s, or Morelli’s, Lesson « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Arnold Zwicky's Blog A blog mostly about language « Copernicus and Springsteen […]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: