Saturday, October 1, 2016

Born Today (Not So Silent Edition) October 1: Henry Clay Work


American composer Henry Clay Work was born in Middleton, Connecticut to an abolitionist family.  The family's property actually became a stop on the Underground Railway.  Naturally talented in music, he was a completely self taught musician and songwriter.  During his lifetime, he worked in many aspects of the music profession.  By the time he was in his early 20's, he had found work as printer in a shop that specialized in setting musical type.  As it turns out, the sound of the machinery as it worked away, helped him keep time to musical compositions that he wrote in his head and committed to memory.  He also had an ear for dialectical speech, using many negro wordings and terms that he over-heard from slaves passing through he parents property--he also had a fondness for Irish speech of the English language.  This wound up being the reason that many of his songs became popular with late 19th century minstrels--and later became associated with the disgraced black face song and dance routine.  There is not a shred of evidence that he was even slightly racist, however; he did grow up at stop for the smuggling of slaves from the south to help them to Canada and freedom.  Most of his compositions were intended to bolster the Union.  He was also known for penning at least one composition that became an anthem of the temperance movement. One of his compositions made it into an early all sound musical short film in 1929.  "Kingdom Coming" was featured in Paul Tremaine and His Aristocrats, a 9 minute film featuring the jazz group playing several popular tunes of the time (sound by Vitaphone).  Later in 1929, that same song was featured in a black and white Mickey Mouse cartoon entitled When The Cat's Away (sound here provided by the little known Powers Cinephone Sound System).  He is most well known for being a songwriter that sold a million copies of a song in 19th century--quite the feat at the time.  Most recently his "Marchin Through Georgia" was featured in the 2013 film Saving Lincoln.  Work passed away on the 8th of June in Hartford, Conn. at the age of 51.  He is buried at Spring Grove Cemetery in Hartford.  Read more about his musical career at Wikipedia (listed below).

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