Blogs > Liberty and Power > Was the "World Turned Upside Down" at Yorktown?

Jan 13, 2006 11:39 am

Was the "World Turned Upside Down" at Yorktown?

One of my favorite historical anecdotes is that a British band played "The World Turned Upside Down" during the surrender ceremony at Yorktown. I regret to report that this story is probably not true.

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Jason Kuznicki - 1/14/2006

What that article says about early modern tunes and titles is certainly accurate in general.

I encountered this sort of thing all the time in my own 18th-century research, as it was very common then to take a familiar tune and give it new or newsworthy lyrics. This was done in part to spread news in a time when newspapers were rare or illegal, and when people were often illiterate.

At times, even the idea that "a" tune had "a" set of lyrics often seemed to fall by the wayside, at least in France, where I did most of my work. One tune was simply called "Now Listen to My Song," and I've seen perhaps hundreds of different verses set to this single tune, decade after decade. Each new set got a new lyrical title.

But, performed without any lyrics, a marching tune would just have its tune title to go by, so additional lyrics supplied to a tune wouldn't ever qualify. They were usually just too many to matter.