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Old Nov 14 2011, 09:40 AM   #1
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Default Real World Harper Songs

Lately I've been thinking about real world examples of Harper type songs. These would be songs that are meant to commemorate an historical event or educate, but not on a basic level.

A few examples I can think of (from my American POV) are the 'Schoolhouse Rock' segments we used to see on Saturday mornings in the 1970s. These told about American history from colonial days through the industrial revolution.

Westward Expansion Song

I remember a few about our aborted change over to the metric system, but I cannot find any examples of them.

There are also a precious few ballads about other historical events, such as the tragic loss of a freighter on one of the Great Lakes.

Edmund Fitzgerald Song

I even found a video from when Australia went to decimal coinage which has a catchy tune in it to help folks remember.

Dollars and Cents video

And finally, for the Brits, one of my favorite ballads is the tales of the Sinking of the Bismark by Johnny Horton.

I know there are a few more, but I'm curious if anyone else goes looking for examples of real world Harper songs.
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Old Nov 14 2011, 07:21 PM   #2
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The Animaniacs had quite a few...
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Old Nov 14 2011, 08:19 PM   #3
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The Animaniacs had quite a few...
Very True. While they are only barely singable by mere mortals, I think my daughter used the state/Capital song to help her in school.

I just today found a rather good one about the Titanic Disaster.

The Maiden Voyage Happily it does NOT use footage from the film, but (with perhaps one or two exceptions) uses actual photos.
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Old Nov 15 2011, 02:27 AM   #4
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I haven't got time to go searching at the moment but "The Wild Colonial Boy" is a good Aussie one - typifies the likes of Ned Kelly and other bushrangers. I will try to think of other ones as well but I'm due to go to work soon so .... not at the moment.
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Old Nov 15 2011, 11:22 AM   #5
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Default Re: Real World Harper Songs

THere are a number of songs about the Boston Tea Party (original version)
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Old Nov 15 2011, 05:12 PM   #6
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NZ Land Wars in the 19th century

This is a Maori memory of their ancestors' actions against the British in the
19th century land wars. It helped make The Howard Morrison Quartet extremely popular in the 1960s. It is a variant of The Battle of New Orleans.
It's a "teaching ballad" of the type that will interest you to research the full story


http://folksong.org.nz/battle_waikato/index.html

The sound clip is worth listening to
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Old Nov 16 2011, 09:22 AM   #7
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NZ Land Wars in the 19th century

This is a Maori memory of their ancestors' actions against the British in the
19th century land wars. It helped make The Howard Morrison Quartet extremely popular in the 1960s. It is a variant of The Battle of New Orleans.
It's a "teaching ballad" of the type that will interest you to research the full story


http://folksong.org.nz/battle_waikato/index.html

The sound clip is worth listening to
Very cool. I always love seeing how tunes get re-used for different songs. Johnny Horton did a very good rendition of The Battle of New Orleans.

He also did a parody version , putting it from the British point of view.
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Old Nov 16 2011, 09:29 AM   #8
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Very cool. I always love seeing how tunes get re-used for different songs. Johnny Horton did a very good rendition of The Battle of New Orleans.

He also did a parody version , putting it from the British point of view.
And speaking of re-used melodies. A few years ago, my pastor was telling me about this great old hymn he had found and he sang a few lines of it. The melody sounded familiar to me and I thought I must have heard it in an Esperanto version somewhere. Well, he had us sing it together and as we were several verses in, I realized where I had heard the melody. I said to my pastor, "It's worse than I thought. I remember where I heard this melody, it's not Esperanto. It's the Dragonriders of Pern." The song was to the same melody used for The Golden Egg of Faranth. Unfortunately, I do not remember the name of the hymn, but it's likely something pertaining to Advent of Easter.
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Old Nov 16 2011, 12:54 PM   #9
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Default Re: Real World Harper Songs

There is actually a really interesting article from circa 1920 that I found via Google Books about ways to help teach history using music. The author focuses on using a number of songs which, while not all are historically accurate, are apt for helping solidify the subjects as real people for her students and bring home the events they cover. The author lists a number of songs which you might enjoy looking up. You can even find at least one of the songbooks, Songs of the British Isles, on Google Books as well.

The article starts on page 388 of the publication.
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Old Nov 17 2011, 02:09 PM   #10
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Default Re: Real World Harper Songs

Some of you may remember a LOOONG time ago on Sat. mornings they had songs that taught different things.
One told how a bill became a law.
One talked about excamation !

There were several others those are just the ones I remember off the top of my head.
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Old Nov 17 2011, 07:33 PM   #11
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Some of you may remember a LOOONG time ago on Sat. mornings they had songs that taught different things.
One told how a bill became a law.
One talked about excamation !

There were several others those are just the ones I remember off the top of my head.
Generically I knew them as Schoolhouse Rock. There were some for multiplication tables (math), grammar, history, and what I'd today call citizenship, but it fits under history. I remember one about the metric system, but can't find it on YouTube. Most of them had catchy tunes and were repetitive.
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Old Nov 18 2011, 12:06 PM   #12
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Quote:
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And speaking of re-used melodies. A few years ago, my pastor was telling me about this great old hymn he had found and he sang a few lines of it. The melody sounded familiar to me and I thought I must have heard it in an Esperanto version somewhere. Well, he had us sing it together and as we were several verses in, I realized where I had heard the melody. I said to my pastor, "It's worse than I thought. I remember where I heard this melody, it's not Esperanto. It's the Dragonriders of Pern." The song was to the same melody used for The Golden Egg of Faranth. Unfortunately, I do not remember the name of the hymn, but it's likely something pertaining to Advent of Easter.
I think I may know something similar to that. I can hear the tune of the hymn, but I'm struggling to move the words from the tip of my tongue to the outside of my mouth...

Doesn't help that Matthew has now started playing the 'Oh Susanna' demo on his keyboard, alongside catchphrases from Little Britain on an electronic pen...

Ha.

Of the father's love begotten. It's not an exact match, but that's the one that springs to mind when I hear the Opland song.
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Old Nov 18 2011, 12:20 PM   #13
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Default Re: Real World Harper Songs

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Generically I knew them as Schoolhouse Rock. There were some for multiplication tables (math), grammar, history, and what I'd today call citizenship, but it fits under history. I remember one about the metric system, but can't find it on YouTube. Most of them had catchy tunes and were repetitive.
That would be because the series was called "Schoolhouse Rock." I don't recall them ever being on TV, just shown in classrooms. (And the only one that really made an impression was "I'm just a bill, sitting on Capitol Hill...")

Hm, maybe we should send that episode to the US Senate...

Anyway, as far as "teaching" songs go, no one goes for the blindingly obvious, been-running-since-1969 or whenever? Sesame Street? Hello? They've been doing "One of These Things is Not Like the Other", "A Song of [Five, Six, Seven], etc. for more than forty years now. The Electric Company did it for slightly older kids (even recruiting Tom Lehrer to record "Silent E" and "L-Y"), and half the kids' shows on PBS followed the leaders.

Tom Lehrer and the Capitol Steps can also fall under "history" with "satire" (Lehrer also parodies ballads).

"The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" (or as Dave Barry once called it, "that fun party song!") is just a recent example of a lot of lake and sea songs. One singer performs it as a medly with a song called "The Red Iron Ore", which is a pretty accurate description of carrying ore from Escanaba down to Ohio, complete with listing navigational landmarks the boats would pass.
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Old Nov 18 2011, 01:35 PM   #14
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I think I may know something similar to that. I can hear the tune of the hymn, but I'm struggling to move the words from the tip of my tongue to the outside of my mouth...

Doesn't help that Matthew has now started playing the 'Oh Susanna' demo on his keyboard, alongside catchphrases from Little Britain on an electronic pen...

Ha.

Of the father's love begotten. It's not an exact match, but that's the one that springs to mind when I hear the Opland song.
You're right. It's not an exact match. The similarity though sure caught in my mind.
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Old Nov 18 2011, 01:57 PM   #15
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That would be because the series was called "Schoolhouse Rock." I don't recall them ever being on TV, just shown in classrooms. (And the only one that really made an impression was "I'm just a bill, sitting on Capitol Hill...")

Hm, maybe we should send that episode to the US Senate...

Anyway, as far as "teaching" songs go, no one goes for the blindingly obvious, been-running-since-1969 or whenever? Sesame Street? Hello? They've been doing "One of These Things is Not Like the Other", "A Song of [Five, Six, Seven], etc. for more than forty years now. The Electric Company did it for slightly older kids (even recruiting Tom Lehrer to record "Silent E" and "L-Y"), and half the kids' shows on PBS followed the leaders.

Tom Lehrer and the Capitol Steps can also fall under "history" with "satire" (Lehrer also parodies ballads).

"The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" (or as Dave Barry once called it, "that fun party song!") is just a recent example of a lot of lake and sea songs. One singer performs it as a medly with a song called "The Red Iron Ore", which is a pretty accurate description of carrying ore from Escanaba down to Ohio, complete with listing navigational landmarks the boats would pass.
Way back when I was still a pup, in the dark age called the 1970's they were on TV between cartoon shows on Saturday mornings, sort of like a non-commercial PSA. We used to sing to them all the time.
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Old Nov 18 2011, 02:20 PM   #16
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You're right. It's not an exact match. The similarity though sure caught in my mind.
Was it actually the hymn you remembered? Or is there another close match out there!
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Old Nov 18 2011, 02:30 PM   #17
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Was it actually the hymn you remembered? Or is there another close match out there!
I'm pretty sure you found the one I remember.
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Old Nov 18 2011, 02:47 PM   #18
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Ha! Pretty damn proud of myself for that, then.

Back on topic - no one has mentioned the Element song yet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYW50F42ss8
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Old Nov 18 2011, 03:51 PM   #19
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Ha! Pretty damn proud of myself for that, then.

Back on topic - no one has mentioned the Element song yet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYW50F42ss8
Some may doubt the usefulness of that one, but I know a guy who taught his daughters the order of the books of the Bible by putting it to the tune of Obla di Obla da (by the Beatles.)

Sometimes just adding a melody helps the darnedest things stay in your head.
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Old Nov 18 2011, 09:20 PM   #20
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Hi folks, got my computer back, I recall a School House Rock, about adverbs and one about conjuction with hooking up of differnt cars to make words, as for real world one, no at the moment, I might come up with some.
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Old Nov 18 2011, 10:08 PM   #21
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"Conjunction Junction, What's Your Function?"

(The things I am wasting brain cells storing...)

Lol, Tom Lehrer's The Elements was such a plot point in an NCIS episode it's included on their volume 1 soundtrack....
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Old Nov 18 2011, 10:09 PM   #22
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Trying to even things out. I found what sounds very much like a Harper Ballad about The Battle of Agen-Court.
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Old Nov 18 2011, 10:34 PM   #23
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"Conjunction Junction, What's Your Function?"

(The things I am wasting brain cells storing...) <snip>....
Thanks, that was a half remember one, I could say just not spell it, lol sourly at myself here, and I don't think you are wasting your brain cells, I've known to use a bit of a song to recall some too.
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Old Nov 19 2011, 08:13 PM   #24
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"Conjunction Junction, What's Your Function?" I love that one.

I remember hearing watching cartoons on Sat. mornings, way back in the 70s.
I never heard them in school. The bill one did a very good job of explaining how a bill became a law.
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Old Nov 23 2011, 11:26 AM   #25
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http://www.youtube.com/user/1veritasium This is the user page for one of my Physics Lecturers. He has a bunch of songs (mainly parodies) that teach physics. His version of 'Gravity' is my favourite.
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Old Dec 5 2011, 09:07 AM   #26
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To sort of wrap up this thread, I've placed a lot of the Harper songs I've found on YouTube into a playlist. I didn't go through and find every children's teaching song as I'm sure there are more than most folks would want to listen to, but there are a lot having to do with history.

History outside the states I'm not thoroughly versed in, but there are a few representations of these. Enjoy, and comments are welcome.

Real World Harper Songs
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Old Dec 8 2011, 08:40 PM   #27
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Doctor Kelly Fast... she parodies popular music by turning them into science lessons of a sort.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ie_eiv4zzxk
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Old Jan 14 2012, 02:21 PM   #28
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Surprised no one mentioned a bunch of historical videos called Horrible Histories.

A lot of them are not very singable, but funny none the less.

Here's one about Child Labor in Victorian England, and one reciting all the Monarchs.
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Old Jan 14 2012, 03:01 PM   #29
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I like the Four Georges. Goes without saying - HH is utter genius!
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Old Jan 14 2012, 03:23 PM   #30
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Surprised no one mentioned a bunch of historical videos called Horrible Histories.

A lot of them are not very singable, but funny none the less.

Here's one about Child Labor in Victorian England, and one reciting all the Monarchs.
Thanks for sharing this, I got a chuckle out of the second one
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Old Jan 16 2012, 08:27 AM   #31
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I just found yet another channel on YouTube. 'Popular music' used to tell about historical and ancient subjects.

HistoryTeacher's Channel

Last edited by Daccio; Apr 13 2012 at 09:03 AM. Reason: I cans spell channel right on the first try.
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Old Apr 13 2012, 09:05 AM   #32
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I just noticed it was April 13th, the anniversary of when Apollo 13 had its problem. Here's a link to a filk about that mission on youtube. I felt it was quite good.
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Old Sep 24 2012, 02:42 PM   #33
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Surprised no one mentioned a bunch of historical videos called Horrible Histories.

A lot of them are not very singable, but funny none the less.

Here's one about Child Labor in Victorian England, and one reciting all the Monarchs.
I personally love the one about Henry VIII and his wives http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fadCAHjN-s as I myself could never remember what happened to which wife , and the one about Mary I http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXCIM...eature=related. But my favourite is the one about the Borgia family http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RaITtjcTy0.
Thought not many things are made in song in this song, there are a lot of history facts that are explained so well. Of those, my favourite is the one where they explain the reason for the breaout of WWI http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfxrTD-kPps and the one about the names in the Victorian era http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMp_xGeQ2v0.
Sorry if I'm jumping off topic with this one.
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Old Jun 3 2013, 04:02 PM   #34
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What about The Mary Ellen Carter?
It is a great song about overcoming adversity. Another is from John Denver, Rocky Mountain High, Wild Montana Skies, Take Me Home, Country Roads, Potter's Wheel,Eagles and Horses, and Calypso? They are all good songs.
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Old Jun 3 2013, 04:26 PM   #35
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There is a Billy Joal song that would make a good teaching song. I think it is We Didn't Start The Fire
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Old Jun 3 2013, 06:05 PM   #36
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Default Re: Real World Harper Songs

As far as I can remember the fates of Henry's wives goes:-

divorced, beheaded, died;
divorced, beheaded, survived.
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Old Jun 4 2013, 07:34 AM   #37
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Default Re: Real World Harper Songs

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Originally Posted by Journeysmith David View Post
What about The Mary Ellen Carter?
It is a great song about overcoming adversity. Another is from John Denver, Rocky Mountain High, Wild Montana Skies, Take Me Home, Country Roads, Potter's Wheel,Eagles and Horses, and Calypso? They are all good songs.
The Mary Ellen Carter is a great song, but it doesn't refer to a historical event in the real world.
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Old Jun 4 2013, 07:35 AM   #38
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There is a Billy Joal song that would make a good teaching song. I think it is We Didn't Start The Fire
Yes, I added that one just a few weeks ago. Not sure why it hadn't occurred to me earlier than that.
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Old Jun 4 2013, 02:21 PM   #39
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The Mary Ellen Carter is a great song, but it doesn't refer to a historical event in the real world.
True, but it says a lot. It is a very inspirational song. It says "Don't give up." I was going to give up on my dream of restoring a steam locomotive in my hometown to operational condition, but then I heard this song, and I decided that I would keep at it, even if it took me the rest of my life to raise the funds and get it done. She was my great-great-grandfathers engine, and I would love to see her polishing the rails once more, not slowly rusting away in a park. There is a certain romance to steam locomotives and rail travel. It can be found in the hissing of steam, the beating of air pumps, the hum of steel wheels against steel rails, and the lonesome sound of a whistle/horn echoing into the night. It was a way of travel that will never truly die. Amtrak is, in a way, not all that different to what it was like 50 years ago. (These are my words, BTW).

I was born in the wrong time period.
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Old Jun 4 2013, 02:53 PM   #40
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True, but it says a lot. It is a very inspirational song. It says "Don't give up." I was going to give up on my dream of restoring a steam locomotive in my hometown to operational condition, but then I heard this song, and I decided that I would keep at it, even if it took me the rest of my life to raise the funds and get it done. She was my great-great-grandfathers engine, and I would love to see her polishing the rails once more, not slowly rusting away in a park. There is a certain romance to steam locomotives and rail travel. It can be found in the hissing of steam, the beating of air pumps, the hum of steel wheels against steel rails, and the lonesome sound of a whistle/horn echoing into the night. It was a way of travel that will never truly die. Amtrak is, in a way, not all that different to what it was like 50 years ago. (These are my words, BTW).

I was born in the wrong time period.
I agree with all your sentiments, but inspirational songs are not teaching ballads about historical events.

I've just finished a book about one of the railroads that served Sussex County, NJ. I included in it a song I wrote which basically recounts the history of the railroad from beginning to end. One of my future projects is to create a slideshow/video with me singing my song a capella. Then I can add it to my collection of Real World Harper Songs.
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