I’m working on a podcast for work, and I needed to find some royalty-free music. During my search, I was referred by a reliable source to the not-very-promising-sounding PublicDomain4U, which in spite of its unimpressive name offers all kinds of wonderful historical music from the teens through the fifties for no charge. The music offered includes pieces by greats like Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Jackson, and Scott Joplin, to name a few. A lot of the recordings were captured from either Edison discs or original 78s, and they have all the wonderful pops and scratches I have found myself missing once I stopped listening to music on vinyl.
One of the first gems I stumbled across is the original version of “Popeye the Sailor Man.” It’s very, very different from the version we grew up with. Here’s my favorite lyric: “When he kisses Olive’s cheek, she stays black and blue for a week.” Yike. No wonder they changed it.
You can download anything on their site by just right clicking the title and selecting “save link as,” or you can play it directly from the site. The extra benefit of listening on the site is that it will continue playing music until you stop it. Here’s one track I discovered that way. It’s Ida Cox (which would make a great drag name) with “Mojo Hand Blues.” And don’t miss the crystal-clear recording Bessie Smith’s “I’m Wild About That Thing.” And next time you spot me bouncing down the street, there’s a good chance it’s because I’m listening to Helen Humes’ “Song of the Wanderer.”
There’s a pretty eclectic range of genres on the site from classical to jug music to country to big band and even Hawaiian music! Something for nearly everyone. Hope you have as much fun exploring as I did. (By the way, don’t get confused and click on the red buttons. They’re advertising and don’t take you anywhere useful.)