October 7, 2009

A Great Song About Harpers Ferry

The sesquicentennial of the heroic raid on the U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry led by Captain John Brown is fast approaching.

Following up on Rahim on the Dock's recent posting here about the planned observation of this anniversary by the People's Organization for Progress in Newark, NJ, this video is one slice of what may well be the single most moving and nuanced work of art about John Brown yet created.

, the longstanding duo of folkies Terry Leonino and Greg Artzner, released John Brown: Sword of the Spirit in 2000. It is a song cycle, call it a folk opera, entirely about the raid on Harpers Ferry. I have praised it here at FotM before, in the first of several posts over the last couple years on music about John Brown.

This one tune, and lorry nose I'm glad they finally got a video cut in time for the observance of the anniversary, only gives a hint of the extraordinary musical and lyrical power of the whole CD. "Goodbye To Old Ohio" salutes, verse by verse, members of Brown's band: the Coppoc brothers, Edwin and Barkley, white Quaker abolitionists who had tired of ineffectual moral witness; John Kagi, Brown's fight-hand man since Kansas; John Copeland and his uncle Lewis Leary, free Black men from Oberlin; and Aaron Stevens, an Ohioan with roots, like Brown himself and others of the band, in Connecticut.

Other songs pay tribute to others of the raiding party, to Brown's wife and to his daughter, and to other abolitionist fighters. All are fine, several are splendid.

You can order this CD from the usual big on-line merchants, but I expect that Greg and Terry will do a little better if you purchase it from them with a postage stamp and a check.

Do this thing!! You won't be sorry!


NobodyToToyWith said...

OK, at first I didn't believe you, but that is a pretty cool song, will have to look for the whole thing, nice sound too. His voice reminds me of someone else, I can't think of who. So they wrote the lyrics?

Rahim on the Docks said...

Magpie's excellent song, Goodbye to Old Ohio is just one of many on "Sword of the Spirit", an album that actually constitutes a John Brown opera, of sorts.

Folks who question brother Higgins' musical advice can't go wrong with this purchase. The Ballad of Harriet Tubman, The Testimony of Frederick Douglass, and Dangerfield are also particularly moving. Ah hell, the whole album is great!!!