New Year, Old Song

This is the first of a few posts by Henry Locke, ARC’s intern from Bennington, working remotely on contacting labels for us and doing some blogs – here’s his first…  We’ve added the above, a related 45 from ARC’s collection.

At the stroke of midnight the familiar sound of Auld Lang Syne can be heard usually with the lyrics drunkenly butchered and hummed as we welcome in the New Year. Auld Lang Syne is one of those songs that comes around every year, so ingrained in our culture despite us being mostly unaware of its history. 

John Wright’s (segment) illustration of the Burns’ poem, c. 1841

The tune finds its origins in Scotland, with elements of the poem tracing back to the 16th century. Written in the scots language, the title “Auld Lang Syne” roughly translates to be “for old times sake,” with the song touching on the themes of preserving old friendships and reflection. Scottish poet Robert Burns is the most associated with the creation of Auld Lang Syne, having submitted the song to the Scots Musical Museum in 1788, describing it as an ancient song. Despite claiming to be the first to have written it down, the poem shares the phrase “Auld Lang Syne” with a few thematically similar poems, predating Burns, by Robert Ayton, Allan Ramsay and James Watson, as well as being found in old folk songs

The melody of Auld Lang Syne is probably it’s most iconic and memorable aspect. However when it was originally printed, the song was paired with a different melody. It was later published with the well known melody a few years later in George Thompson’s Select Songs of Scotland, in 1799. This melody derived from a popular Scottish dance tune. 

In many ways, the simple pentatonic melody has allowed the song to become so widely popular, allowing it to be reinterpreted into a variety of styles throughout the world. 

Here’s some notable versions

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