Russell gives historical serenade

Wantage. Linda Russell, a balladeer and folklorist, visited the Sussex-Wantage Library and sang her way through American history, beginning with the Revolutionary War and ending with songs from World War II.

17 Feb 2020 | 01:17

The Friends of the Sussex-Wantage Library sponsored a Saturday afternoon Feb. 15 presentation featuring balladeer and folklorist Linda Russell.

A native of Wisconsin, Russell attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and served as a folklorist at the National Park Service in New York City for 16 years.

“The park service on Wall Street was the location where George Washington’s inauguration took place,” Russell stated.

Russell began the program by playing a Revolutionary War marching tune on a pennywhistle. Historic songs presented time-lined from the Revolutionary War up until the 1950s.

“During that war, songs called Broadside songs were written and sung to convey the news of the day, namely, British taxes, lack of freedom and a rallying to the cause,” Russell said.

The 1800s saw the emergence of songwriters Robert Burns and Thomas Moore, also Stephen Foster in 1848 who wrote Oh Susannah and other light and hearty songs.

The Civil War reflected songs about recruiting soldiers, soldiers going off to war and leaving young loves behind. The song Love Me Tender was one of those star-crossed love songs written during the Civil War, yet made popular by Elvis Presley almost 100 years later.

Woman songwriter Julia Ward Howe wrote the Battle Hymn of the Republic during the 1860s. After the war, former black slaves sang of their supposed new freedom and their disenchantment.

World Wars I and II produced more rally songs like Over There, Grand Old Flag and God Bless America by Irving Berlin.

Russell concluded the history of songs by ending the mini concert with Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land.