Tune of the Day: Shenandoah
This enchanting song seems to have originated in the early nineteenth century as a land ballad in the areas of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, with a story of a trader who fell in love with the daughter of the Indian chief Shenandoah. The song was taken up by sailors plying these rivers, and thus made its way down the Mississippi to the open ocean. The song had great appeal for American deep-sea sailors, and its rolling melody made it ideal as a capstan shanty, where a group of sailors push the massive capstan bars around and around in order to lift the heavy anchor.
The song reached its first height of popularity perhaps a little before the 1840s, the beginning of the fast clipper ship era that added so much to American growth. The song was traditional with the U.S. Army cavalry, who called it “The Wild Mizzourye”. In fact, “Shenandoah” was known by countless names, including: “Shennydore”, “The Wide Missouri”, “The Wild Mizzourye”, “The Oceanida” and “Rolling River”.