Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

Our history in song: “The Mississippi Flood,” by Vernon Dalhart, 1927

Read related posts on Mississippi Floods written by Erwin A. Thompson.

In this season of floods and tornadoes, our hearts go out to those who have suffered such terrible damages and even lost their lives. At Evergreen Heights we are safe, but all anxiously watch as the waters of the Mississippi crest this weekend. My father at 95 has lived through so many floods and tornadoes. He shares this 1927 song "Mississippi Flood," by Vernon Dalhart. Here is his introduction to the song:

In other times, it was tradition to write a song about a certain happening. In many cases it documented a tragedy. In the late 1920's there was a disastrous flood. This one must have been mostly in the Southern states, but I do remember the people from Scotch Jimmy's Island coming up our hill in the middle of the night with their wagons. They had just gotten the use of a barge to rescue their belongings before the river took them. --Erwin A. Thompson

Watch and listen to Vernon Dalhart singing "The Mississippi Flood."

THE MISSISSIPPI FLOOD
By Vernon Dalhart, 1927

1.

ANOTHER GREAT DISASTER HAS COME UNTO OUR LAND,
DOWN WHERE THE MISSISSIPPI FLOWS ON ITS WAY SO GRAND.
THE SPRINGTIME FLOWERS WERE BLOOMING,
THE WORLD WAS BRIGHT AND GAY,
AND FOLKS ALONG THE LEVEE WERE HAPPY ALL THE DAY.

2.
AND THEN THE SKIES GREW CLOUDY,
AND RAIN CAME POURING DOWN.
FOR DAYS A MIGHTY TORRENT CAME POURING TO THE GROUND.
AND THEN THERE CAME THE WARNING:
"THE LEVEES CANNOT STAND,"
AND BRAVE MEN FOUGHT AND STRUGGLED
TO SAVE THEIR NATIVE LAND.

3.
MANY LIVES WERE TAKEN, AND BRAVE MEN KNELT TO PRAY
AS ALL THAT THEY HAD CHERISHED WAS SWIFTLY SWEPT AWAY
WE CAN'T EXPLAIN THE REASONS
THESE GREAT DISASTERS COME,
BUT WE MUST BE WILLING TO SAY: "THY WILL BE DONE.".

4.

THE WORLD WOULD GLADLY HELP THEM
TO PAY THE AWFUL COST
BUT GOLD CAN NEVER BRING THEM
A LOVED ONE THEY HAVE LOST.
HERE ON EARTH THE GOOD MUST SUFFER
FOR OTHER PEOPLE'S SINS,
BUT THERE IS A LAND UP YONDER
WHERE ETERNAL RIGHT BEGINS!

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4 Responses »

  1. Erwin:

    Thank you for connecting us to tragedy and redemption through your insights and the art of lyrics and music.

    Be well,

    Eden

  2. Eden,

    My father's passion for music is only equaled by his passion for history. I'll forward him your thanks. He'll be so pleased.

    Janet Riehl

  3. Oh, Erwin,
    What a tragic time it was and is. Thank you sharing the words and sounds of history in Vernon Dalhart's song. It feels as if it was written yesterday.
    Arletta

  4. Arletta,

    Yes. One does see the rhythm and recurrence of history--both through what happens and the humanity that emerges from it.

    Janet Riehl

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