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Helen Maguire

Painting: “The Spirit of ’76” (aka Yankee Doodle Dandy) by Archibald MacNeal Willard, c1875

The first version of “Yankee Doodle” is generally attributed to a British army physician, Dr. Richard Schuckberg, during the French and Indian War. It was a satiric look at New England’s Yankees. According to one story, Shuckburgh wrote the song after seeing the appearance of Colonial troops under Colonel Thomas Fitch, V, the son of Connecticut Governor Thomas Fitch. It is believed that the tune comes from the nursery rhyme Lucy Locket.

“Brother Ephraim sold his cow
And bought him a commission
And then he went to Canada
To fight for the nation;
But when Ephraim,
he came home
He proved an arrant coward,
He wouldn’t fight the
Frenchmen there
For fear of being devoured.
Sheep’s head and vinegar
Buttermilk and tansy
Boston Is a Yankee town,
Sing “Hey, doodle dandy!”

“Yankee Doodle” is often sung patriotically in the United States today and is the state anthem of Connecticut.

The song consists of numerous verses (at least 17): here are the first two, plus the chorus:

Yankee-Doodle-Dandy, Macaroni, Wikipedia, public domain

“Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony,
Stuck a feather in his cap
And called it macaroni.”
[Chorus]
“Yankee Doodle keep it up,
Yankee Doodle dandy,
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy.”

The term Doodle first appeared in the early seventeenth century, and is thought to be derived from the Low German dudel, meaning “playing music badly” or Dödel, meaning “fool” or “simpleton.” The Macaroni wig was an extreme fashion in the 1770s and became contemporary slang for foppishness. The Macaronis were young English men who adopted feminine mannerisms and highly extravagant attire, and were deemed effeminate. They were members of the Macaroni Club in London at the height of the fashion for dandyism, so called because they wore striped silks upon their return from the Grand Tour – and a feather in their hats. They also wore two fob watches: “one to tell what time it was and the other to tell what time it was not” ran their humorous explanation. The verse implies that Yankees were so unsophisticated that they thought simply sticking a feather in a cap would make them the height of fashion.

The sheet music which accompanied the lyrics read, “The Words to be Sung through the Nose, & in the West Country drawl & dialect.”

Sources: www.allthingshistory.com; www.wikipedia.com;

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