Thanks for posting that song Nora. A lot of history to it. It originated in the early 1800s as a river shanty, those were songs sung by boatmen who pulled, pushed, rowed and sailed keelboats on the Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri Rivers before the age of steamboats. The Shenandoah valley was were a lot of the Conestoga wagons were made that carried immigrants to the American West, hence the line "Ah-way, we're bound to go, 'cross th' wide Missouri!"
Thanks for the historic background, 'gator! Yes, it's a shanty, isn't it? It's so obvious, even if one doesn't know the background and the lyrics.Listen to that. It's the arguably most famous one of the many German shanties. Have a look at the lyrics, a mixture of "Plattdeutsch" and English. It's more upbeat than Shenandoah, not wistful, even funny, but the similarites of the tunes are obvious.Btw, I was a bit wryly amused by the "spiritual" bit. It seems that German think that if it's American YET soulful, it MUST be a spiritual and obviously nobody bothered to understand the text.
Some of the sea shanties sung by pirates in the 18th century could be very mournful and melancholy. However, they were anything but "spiritual". Drunken sailors and Spanish ladies anyone? :)
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