Joseph Brackett Jr. (May 6, 1797 – July 4, 1882) was an American songwriter, author, and elder of The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, better known as the Shakers. Brackett's most famous song, "Simple Gifts", is still widely performed and adapted.
Brackett was born in Cumberland, Maine, on May 6, 1797, as Elisha Brackett. When he was 10, his first name was changed to Joseph, like his father's, as the Bracketts joined the short-lived Shaker community in Gorham, Maine. This new Shaker community was centered on the Bracketts' property, until the whole group moved to Poland Hill, Maine, in 1819. Brackett's father died there on July 27, 1838, but Brackett continued to rise in the Shaker community, eventually becoming the head of the society in Maine.
Brackett died in the Shaker community of Sabbathday Lake at New Gloucester, Maine, on July 4, 1882.
Brackett is known today primarily as the author of the Shaker dancing song "Simple Gifts", which has become an internationally loved tune, both through his original version and many of its adaptations. The song, written in 1848, was largely unknown outside of Shaker communities until Aaron Copland used the melody in his 1944 composition Appalachian Spring.
Brackett's tune is also known widely through the lyrics "Lord of the Dance", written by Sydney Carter in 1963.
The "Tune Lovers Society", an online organization designed to preserve and protect American tunes from the past, sponsors a birthday commemoration for Brackett on May 6.
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