2/4/17: This is a beautiful, touching, a cappella version of Oh Shenandoah, sung by Peter Hollens. The song comes from a fascinating early American tradition. Here’s Wikipedia for more information (that may or may not be true).
“Until the 19th century, only adventurers who sought their fortunes as trappers and traders of beaver fur ventured as far west as the Missouri River. Most of these Canadian and American “voyageurs” in the fur trade era were loners who became friendly with, and sometimes married, Native Americans.
“The canoe-going fur-trading voyageurs were great singers, and songs were an important part of their culture. Also in the early 19th century, flat-boatmen who plied the Missouri River were known for their shanties, including “Oh Shenandoah”. Sailors heading down the Mississippi River picked up the song and made it a capstan shanty that they sang while hauling in the anchor. This boatmen’s song found its way down the Mississippi River to American clipper ships, and thus around the world.”
I think it would have been lovely to see canoes full of men floating down the Missouri singing romantic songs. Unless you were a beaver. Then you were pretty much fucked.