The American Revolution
Opening with the stirring broadside song, What a Court Hath Old England, set to the beating of a drum, Bill plunges into the driving and somewhat naive optimism that ultimately confounded and defeated the British Army during the American Revolution. Broadside songs were powerful newscasts before radio and television. They were sung.
Bill uses broadsides, folk songs, letters, and folk tales to weave a captivating tapestry of our founding fathers as they saw themselves. Patriots moon British warships and the raw cunning of a hero (soon to be a traitor) turns an overwhelmingly superior force to rout without firing a shot. Naked Yankee farm boys manage to take disciplined soldiers because the enemy is incapacitated with laughter. The results are sometimes unsettling, often humorous, exciting, and once in a while, poignant. The plaintive Tory song Buttermilk Hill can be a real heart tugger, as well as the British occupational army song, The Banks Of The Dee.
The unofficial marching song of a hungry, exhausted Continental Army gives quiet voice to despair and resignation. "Oh that I were where I would be; Then would I be where I am not; But here I am where I must be; Where I would be I cannot." English dandies pick at the lice in their elaborate hairdos while singing the praises of wine, women and song (To Anachreon in Heaven, also known later as the Star Spangled Banner). These same dandies are nick-named for their love of the latest fad food from the Continent, pasta, or "macaroni". A Patriot sea captain returns stolen silverware to an English Nobleman and a deck hand of his writes one of the great sailing songs of all time. (John Paul Jones and The Yankee Man Of War.)
It's all good fun. And yet one is left with the feeling that something very special happened back there in "the Days of '76". A closing song, My Days Have Been So Wondrous Free is a hymn to freedom. It was written by Francis Hopkinson, our first secretary of the Navy and dedicated to his good friend, General George Washington after the climatic Battle of Saratoga.