Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafemuddy

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home


Lyr Add: Tune the Old Cow Died On

Related thread:
Tune Req: Tune the Cow died of (3) (closed)


In Mudcat MIDIs:
The Tune the Old Cow Died On (from New Music Horizons 5, Silver Burdett)


Bruce O. 22 Apr 99 - 12:30 PM
MMario 09 Apr 02 - 07:39 PM
GUEST,budandcathy@msn.com 14 Sep 03 - 12:12 AM
masato sakurai 14 Sep 03 - 12:51 AM
masato sakurai 14 Sep 03 - 01:08 AM
Joe Offer 14 Sep 03 - 01:57 AM
Bat Goddess 26 Jun 04 - 06:47 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 26 Jun 04 - 09:04 PM
Bat Goddess 27 Jun 04 - 08:39 AM
MoorleyMan 27 Jun 04 - 05:34 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 27 Jun 04 - 06:30 PM
Joe_F 27 Jun 04 - 07:03 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 27 Jun 04 - 07:47 PM
Jeri 27 Jun 04 - 11:24 PM
Bat Goddess 28 Jun 04 - 08:57 AM
Joe Offer 03 Oct 04 - 07:25 PM
Bat Goddess 04 Oct 04 - 07:00 AM
GUEST,sunburst 02 Sep 09 - 05:19 PM
Jim Dixon 04 Sep 09 - 11:44 AM
Jim Dixon 04 Sep 09 - 12:06 PM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:





Subject: Lyr/Tune Add: THE TUNE THE OLD COW DIED ON
From: Bruce O.
Date: 22 Apr 99 - 12:30 PM

THE TUNE THE OLD COW DIED ON

Old Farmer John came walking home
One summer morning
And sat him down neath a maple tree
And sang himself a tune
The farmer sang til the cows came up
And round him formed a ring
For they never heard old Farmer John
Attempt before to sing

And this was the tune
Roy fal dol da dol
Sung neath the maple grove
Roy fal dol dol, roy fal dol day
Tis the tune the old cow died on.

The oldest cow in the farmer's herd
Tried hard to join the song
But the melody she could not get
Though her voice was loud and strong
The farmer laughed till the tears ran down
His cheeks like apples red
Then the cow got mad and tried to sing
Until she dropped down dead

And this was the tune, &c.

Old Farmer John had an inquest held
To see what killed his cow.
The jury sat and a verdict brought
Which I mean to tell you now.
They said that the cow would be living yet
To chew her cud with glee
If Farmer John hadn't sung that song
Beneath the maple tree.

X:1
T:The Tune the Old Cow Died On
S:H. H. Flanders, 'A Garland of Green Mountain Song', 1934
Q:120
L:1/8
M:2/4
K:G
D|G B G B|G E E3/2 D/|G B G B|d3B/ B/|c e c A/ A/|\
B d B G/ G/|A G G F|(E F G) D|G B G B/ B/|G E E D|\
G B G B|d3B/ B/|c e c A|G d B3/2 G/|A c E F|\
G3||"Chorus"D|G B/ B/ G B/ B/|G E E D|G B G3/2 B/|\
d3 B|c e c A|B d B G/ G/|A/ A/ c E F|G3|]


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tune the Old Cow Died On
From: MMario
Date: 09 Apr 02 - 07:39 PM

Refreshing this to thank Bruce! I've been singing this since a few days after it was posted. Realized that I didn't know who posted it.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tune the Old Cow Died On
From: GUEST,budandcathy@msn.com
Date: 14 Sep 03 - 12:12 AM

Hi, I have been wishing I knew some history of this song for a long time. My grandmother sang it to my sister and I before bedtime when we visited her. That was over 45 yrs ago. She said she learned it in 2nd grade, which would be early 1900's.   The words she sang were slightly different, but this is it. Do you know who wrote it or when? Please write me back with any suggestions of how I can find out! Thank you, Cathy


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tune the Old Cow Died On
From: masato sakurai
Date: 14 Sep 03 - 12:51 AM

The earliest date given at The Traditional Ballad Index: The Tune The Old Cow Died On is "1927 (Randolph)", but according to this sheet music (Boston: Perry & Co., John F., 1880) at American Memory it was first composed by "Eastburn" (pseudonym for Joseph Eastburn Winner, composer of "Little Brown Jug," and a younger brother of Septimus Winner). Sidney Robertson Cowell recorded two versions in 1939, which are at California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tune the Old Cow Died On
From: masato sakurai
Date: 14 Sep 03 - 01:08 AM

Some info (but not a history) is at The Fiddler's Companion:
TUNE THE OLD COW DIED OF, THE. AKA and see "The Nutting Girl." American, Air and Dance Tune (4/4 time). USA; northern W.Va., southwestern Pa. D Major. Standard. One part. Bayard (1981) states that a comic song to this tune was popular in the southern Pa./northern W.Va. region about a cow so entranced by a farmer's song that she danced herself to death. The title became for a time a phrase characterizing any extremely bad piece of music. Source for notated version: S Hall (fiddler from Pa., 1930's) [Bayard]. Bayard (Dance to the Fiddle), 1981; No. 95, pgs. 56-57.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tune the Old Cow Died On
From: Joe Offer
Date: 14 Sep 03 - 01:57 AM

I think it's worthwhile to post the entry from the Traditional Ballad Index.
-Joe Offer-

Tune The Old Cow Died On, The

DESCRIPTION: "The old cow might have been living yet, A-chewin' her cud with glee, If Farmer John hadn't sung of this song...." Farmer John sings, the cows gather in surprise. The old cow tries to join in, and it kills her
AUTHOR: Joseph E. Winner?
EARLIEST DATE: 1927 (Randolph)

KEYWORDS: death animal farming music humorous
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MW,So)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Randolph 411, "The Tune the Old Cow Died On" (1 text plus 2 fragments, 1 tune -- although the "C" fragment does not appear related to the first two)

Randolph/Cohen, pp. 352-354, "The Tune the Old Cow Died On" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 411A)
Roud #4352
RECORDINGS:
Warde Ford, "The Tune the old cow died on" (AFS 4212 A2, 1939; in AMMEM/Cowell)
Notes: Carl Sandburg wrote in 1936, "A man having nothing to feed his cow sang to her of the fresh green grass to come; this is the tune the old cow died on." One suspects that this phrase was part of popular idiom, and someone created a song to explain it.

Cohen reports an 1880 copyright of a song with this title, credited to George Russell Jackson and Eastburn (Joseph E. Winner), but adds that the song "must date from the 1850s or 1860s." He does not, however, give evidence for this claim. - RBW
File: R411


Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions

The Ballad Index Copyright 2004 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


Here's the entry from Folktrax.org:
    TUNE THE OLD COW DIED OF, THE - "Farmer Brown from his work came home" - ROUD#4352 - SHARP Ms "Umbrella Courtship" ("Bill & his beau") --- FLANDERS Garland of Green Mountain Song 1934 pp22-3 - RANDOLPH, Ozark Folk Songs 3 1948 pp148-9 - Family Herald & Weekly Star (Montreal) Old Favourites section 4 Dec 1952 - COHEN 101 FS for Camp p51 - FOWKE Ring Around the Moon pp34-5 -- HAYMAKERS Band: 324 "Winster Gallop" --- Warde FORD rec by Sydney Robertson Cowell, Boomtown, Calif 1939: Library of Congress: Archive of American Folk Culture 4212 A2 (click)- Lena Bourne FISH rec by Frank & Anne Warner, USA 1940: 922


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tune the Old Cow Died On
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 26 Jun 04 - 06:47 PM

Well, I went to see the Town Clerk today about registering my car and ended up talking to the Nottingham (NH) Town Tax Collector, originally about our Fourth of July Free Breakfast (7 a.m.), Music (8 a.m. -- all of us usual suspects) and the reading of the Declaration of Independence (9 a.m.) by David Behm from the porch of Demmon's Old Country Store in West Nottingham, but then he asked me about a song he was taught in the third grade (prolly mid-1950s) and was told it was an old song from Vermont.

Of course, as soon as we started talking about it, a steady stream of people came in to pay their taxes or stuff like that. So he called me a bit later and gave me the only words he could remember. Now the story he says it told is a bit different -- and, as I'm discovering, there are several different story lines out there.

He said it was about a farmer who used a song to call his cows for the evening milking. Here's what he gave me (and he wants to know more) -- also note the slight variation on the title:

The Tune the Old Cow Died Of   [Of, not On]

The farmer had an inquest held
To see what killed the cow
The jury sat [something, something]
The verdict was
'Twas the tune the old cow died of.

Curmudgeon also is curious as to why he has a familiarity with the song, yet knows he didn't learn it in school and hasn't found it in any of the sources he suspected it might be in.

Linn


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: THE TUNE THE OLD COW DIED ON (J H Hewett)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 26 Jun 04 - 09:04 PM

The "Tune the Old Cow Died On" became a popular phrase voiced whenever someone didn't like or was bored by a song. Mark Twain used it in "Life on the Mississippi" and a James Joyce character says it in "Ulysses." It once was common on both sides of the Atlantic.

There is more than one song with the title. The one posted above by Bruce Olson is close to the one in the sheet music at American Memory linked by Masato, words- George Russell Jackson, music by 'Eastburn' (Winner) from 1880. The original poem is older.

Here is one at Public Domain Music by John Hill Hewett.ca. 1850?, from an undated Ms. The song is widespread in collections.

THE TUNE THE OLD COW DIED ON
(John Hill Hewett)

I am a poor old widdower,
My name is Betsy Dow,
I once possessed a fortinin,
And a fine old brindle cow.
I milk'd her ev'ry noon and night;
And sold my cheese and butter
But then, poor thing! she died on day,
May soon be dead and gone;

Chorus (sung after each verse):
I'm singing now in doleful strain
The tune my cow died on.
(Note: manuscript refers to a chorus beginning
"Oh, pity" but the words are not included.)

On applesass and peanutsuts
I feed my poor old cow,
And ev'ry day I sang herer
The tune I'm singing now.
I gave her sassafrase and salt,
Mix'd with plantation bitters,
But, she got worse and worse each day
The vile, ungrateful critter!

She could not speak her feelingsings
When this 'ere song I sing;
She knew that she was dyinging
Lodown her head was hung.
The song it so affected her,
That she began a sighing,
And then she look'd a look that said,
"Oh, stop for I am dying!"

The fled her gentle spiritit,
She's gone where good cows go;
And then on Abram's bosomom
(Note: verse incomplete in manuscript)

Copied without changes. "Source: manuscript photocopy from John H. Hewitt papers # 31 (OP3 8)
Special Collections, The Robert W. Woodruff Library, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322-2870."

Old Cow


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tune the Old Cow Died On
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 27 Jun 04 - 08:39 AM

Right -- I mentioned I found several different songs with the same title -- also different story lines. Anyone run into the one Bill, our Nottingham town tax collector was forced to learn (and sing in a distinctive way) in 3rd grade back in the '50s? He was told it was an old song from Vermont.

The Tune the Old Cow Died Of 

The farmer had an inquest held
To see what killed the cow
The jury sat [something, something]
The verdict was
'Twas the tune the old cow died of.

Anyone know any more of THIS one?!?

Linn


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: THE TUNE THE COW DIED ON
From: MoorleyMan
Date: 27 Jun 04 - 05:34 PM

This gets interesting!
I only recently came across this gem - through the singing of the excellent Jeff Warner. He said his dad collected it from the singing of the redoubtable Lena Bourne Fish (east coast) back in (I believe) the 40s, and these are the words of that version as transcribed from his own recent rendition at Ryburn and Chester. (I've been singing it ever since - but maybe it seems to cry out for an extra verse!)

THE TUNE THE COW DIED ON

Farmer Brown from his work came home one summer's afternoon
And sat beneath the maple tree to sing himself a tune
All the cows the farmer had, around him joined a ring
For never before had Farmer Brown attempted for to sing

(Chorus:)
Hi fal-de-re-do – so sang Farmer John
Hi fal-di-re-do – it's the tune the cow died on


Now the oldest cow the farmer had, (she) tried to join the song
But she could not strike the melody tho' her voice was loud and strong
The farmer laughed till the tears rolled down, his cheeks like apples red
The cow got mad, she could not sing, and so she fell down dead


So the farmer had an inquest held to see what ailed the cow
The jury sat, the verdict gave, I mean to tell you now
They said that the cow would be living yet and chewing her cud with glee
If Farmer Brown hadn't sung that song beneath the maple tree


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: THE TUNE THE OLD COW DIED ON
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 27 Jun 04 - 06:30 PM

Moorleyman, this appears in the school songbook, Silver Burdett, New Music Horizons 5, McConathy et al., with music, p. 35. (see Permathread 69027, Silver Burdett Songbooks).
Close to the Jeff Warner version that you quote. It is listed as a folk song from Vermont close to the "Green Mountain State where Bruce O's version came from.

THE TUNE THE OLD COW DIED ON

Old Farmer John came walking home
One summer afternoon,
And sat hin down 'neath a maple tree
And sang him-self a tune;-
The farmer sang till the cows came up
And round him formed a ring,
For they never heard old farmer John
Attempt before to sing.

Chorus
And this was the tune Roy fal dol da dol
Sung 'neath the maple grove
Roy fal dol dol, roy fal dol day,
'Tis the tune the old cow died on.

The oldest cow in the farmer's herd
Tried hard to join the song;
But the melody she could not get,
Though her voice was loud and strong.-
The farmer laughed till the tears ran down
His cheeks like apples red;
Then the cow got mad and tried to sing
Until she dropped down dead.

Chorus

Old Farmer John had an inquest held
To see what killed the cow;
The jury sat and a verdict brought
Which I mean to tell you now.-
They said that the cow would be living yet
To chew her cud with glee,
If Farmer John hadn't sung that song
Beneath the maple tree.

Chorus


Click to play


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tune the Old Cow Died On
From: Joe_F
Date: 27 Jun 04 - 07:03 PM

A. E. Housman would appear to have been alluding to this tradition when he wrote

The cow, the old cow, she is dead;
It sleeps well, the horned head;
We poor lads, 'tis our turn now
To hear such tunes as killed the cow.

In _A Shropshire Lad_, LXII -- first published in 1896


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: TUNE THE OLD COW DIED ON (Jackson/Winner)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 27 Jun 04 - 07:47 PM

For completeness, here is the 1880 sheet music, noted by Masato, from which were derived the 'trad' New England versions and the one in the Silver Burdett school song book.

THE TUNE THE OLD COW DIED ON
Words George Russell Jackson
Music 'Eastburn' (Joseph Eastburn Winner)

Old Farmer John from his work came home one summer afternoon,
And sat him down 'neath a maple tree, and he sang himself a tune,
He sang until the cows came running up, and round him formed a ring.
For they never heard good old Farmer John attempt before to sing.

Chorus
And this is the tune Ri fol dol da do,
Sung in the maple grove,
Ri fol dol da dol ri fol dol da,
'Tis the tune the old cow died on.

The oldest cow in the farmer's herd tried hard to join the song,
And she could not strike the melody 'tho her voice was loud and srong;
The farmer laughed till the tears ran down his cheeks like apples red,
But the cow was mad and she tried to sing until she dropped down dead.

Old Farmer John had an inquest held to see what killed the cow,
The jury sat and a verdict brought which I mean to tell you now,
They said the cow would be living yet to chew her cud with glee,
If old Farmer John had not sung that song beneath the maple tree.

'Eastburn,' on the sheet music, is listed as composer of "Little Brown Jug."
Published by John F. Perry & Co., NY.
On the cover it says "You have often heard of "The Tune the Old Cow Died On" but never before have seen it in print. Here it is." This suggests that the saying is older than this song; was there also a previous song? (The one by Hewett, probably earlier, was never published and is quite different).


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tune the Old Cow Died On
From: Jeri
Date: 27 Jun 04 - 11:24 PM

You want some synchronicity? Someone was asking me (a couple of weeks ago) if I knew anything about that song - the guy that puts on the free Jul 4th breakfast! I'd never even heard of it before then. I'll print the thread out for him, but perhaps we might be able to get the tune from Jeff and sing it on Jul 4th ...or just get Jeff to sing it.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tune the Old Cow Died On
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 28 Jun 04 - 08:57 AM

Hey, Jeri --

That "guy" who asked you about it is Bill Garnett -- the Nottingham Town Tax Collector (who asked me about it the other day when I went in to see the Town Clerk to register my car -- aren't small towns grand?).

And, unfortunately, Jeff won't be there at the breakfast/music/reading of the Declaration this year on the Fourth. (He'll be in New Bedford next weekend.)

But, yeah, print out the thread for Bill -- and I also found the term in Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable -- as an idiom for any tune that's been played to death. (Geez, I can think of several even in our own circle -- prolly even being played the morning of July Fourth during breakfast.)

Linn


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tune the Old Cow Died On
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Oct 04 - 07:25 PM

I was cleaning out my e-mailbox last night, and discovered a scan of this song that Q asked me to post, way back in June. got it posted today. The old dead cow must be ripe by now.
-Joe Offer-

Click to play


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tune the Old Cow Died On
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 04 Oct 04 - 07:00 AM

Funny this thread should show up right now. I saw Bill last Thursday night and he said he had just gotten back from Vermont and had no luck there tracking down the version he was taught in school.

I DID tape him singing what he could remember of it on Fourth of July after David Behm read the Declaration of Independence from the porch of the store.

I haven't had a chance (well, I actually had entirely forgotten about it as I've been rather busy of late) to play it for Jeff Warner (or anybody else).

It's somewhat different (I think; I'll have to listen again) to the version just posted.

Linn


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tune the Old Cow Died On
From: GUEST,sunburst
Date: 02 Sep 09 - 05:19 PM

Hello! I wonder if you can help me with a tune, though perhaps there really isn't one. It's for "The Tune the Cow Died Of" but the words given to me are quite different from "Farmer John" and I've never heard anyone sing it. Nor do I know whether there are more words. What do you think?

There was an old man and he had an old cow,
And he had no fodder to give her.
So he took up his fiddle and played her this tune.
Consider, good cow, consider.
This isn't the time for the grass to grow.
Consider, good cow, consider.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: COW'S DIRGE / TUNE THE OLD COW DIED OF
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 04 Sep 09 - 11:44 AM

From "Outward Bound" in The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Miscellany, Volume 18, November, 1835, page 202:

The Society for the Suppression of Cruelty to Animals, biped as well as quadruped, should bring in an act of parliament prohibiting the embarkation of every musical instrument on board ship, not warranted to be kept in its case during the voyage. The practising of the band on the poop is a most dreadful infliction, particularly when the leader happens to be a man of aspiring genius, who attempts to instruct his unruly French horns in the intricacies of some of the splendid compositions of Weber or Rossini. We lost a cow on our voyage to India, and her death was mainly attributable to the dolorous ditties continually poured into the poor creature's ears. One of the passengers was so convinced of this fact, that he wrote a monody to the very tune which it was believed had killed the unfortunate animal; and as it forms a good sample of oceanic poetry, it is subjoined for the benefit of the reader:—

THE COW'S DIRGE.
Air.—"Tune the old Cow died of."

The cow! the cow!—that butcher, death,
In her hay-day appears,
And interrupts her sweetest breath,
Amid the cable tiers.
No more she'll stretch her dew-lapped neck,
To low in thundering stave;
She's gone from the deserted deck,
Too low beneath the wave

The cow! the cow!—and must our tea
Go all unwhitened now?
No more in tête-à-teat shall be
The milker and the cow;
No more the cud, with look sedate,
She'll, all contented, chew;—
Alas! we now must ruminate
On what we are to do!

The cow! the cow!—she's in the sea,
A thousand fathom deep;
And sharks have joined in revelry,
That carnival to keep.
Oh! 'twould have cheered this mournful note,
And soothed the general grief,
Had timely knife across her throat
Transformed her into beef.

The cow! the cow!—the zodiac weeps,
And—oh! lugubrious "sign!"
Yon Bull, whose eye moist sorrow steeps,
Augments th' entombing brine.
She little dreamed that TAURUS bent
On her his glances keen,
For, bashful still, she only went
To sea, not to be seen.

The cow! the cow!—she died that day,
And tearful skies deplore her:
Her death obstructs the "milky way,"
Though cream-topped waves roll o'er her.
Her moans were sad, her eyes aghast,
One faint whisk gave her tail;
And she the bucket kicked at last,
Who'd often kicked the pail.

The cow! the cow!—a few weeks more
Had she contrived to stay;
Her death had then been less a bore,
Than what it is to-day:
For though we're one, "by're lady," yet
In vain for milk we try;
The best has overboard gone wet,
The other has gone dry!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tune the Old Cow Died On
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 04 Sep 09 - 12:06 PM

From Notes and Queries, 2nd Series, Vol. 2, No. 34, August 28, 1856, page 157:

"The Tune the Old Cow Died Of" (2nd S. 5. 375. 500.; ii. 39.) — Your correspondents are quite on a wrong scent on this head. One quotes the old nursery rhyme, "Willie Wily Had a Cow," which is sung to any tune a nurse pleases; and another brings forward the Scotch words, "There was a Piper had a Cow," &c., which go to the popular air known as "The Corn Rigs Are Bonny." The cow died of no air in particular, — still less a popular one: "the tune the old cow died of" being merely a proverbial or slang way of expressing "the music is insufferably bad." P. P.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 25 June 7:34 AM EDT

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.