Red Wing (song)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
"Red Wing"
(An Indian Fable)
Cover of sheet music, 1907.
Music by Kerry Mills
Lyrics by Thurland Chattaway
Published 1907
Language English

"Red Wing" is a popular song written in 1907 with music by Kerry Mills and lyrics by Thurland Chattaway. Mills adapted the music of the verse from Robert Schumann's piano composition "The Happy Farmer, Returning From Work" from his 1848 Album for the Young, Opus 68. The song tells of a young Indian girl's loss of her sweetheart who has died in battle. The first verse and chorus are:

There once lived an Indian maid,
A shy little prairie maid,
Who sang all day a love song gay,
As on the plains she'd while away the day.
She loved a warrior bold,
This shy little maid of old,
But brave and gay he rode one day
To battle far away.
Now the moon shines tonight on pretty Red Wing,
The breeze is sighing, the night bird's crying,
For afar 'neath his star her brave is sleeping,[N 1]
While Red Wing's weeping her heart away.[1]
  1. ^ in later versions usually: "For a far far away her brave is dying"


The song has been recorded numerous times in many different styles. It was sung by John Wayne in the 1943 film In Old Oklahoma and again by John Wayne and Lee Marvin in the 1961 film The Comancheros and finally by John Wayne and Lauren Bacall in the 1976 film The Shootist. In 1950 Oscar Brand recorded a bawdy version in his Bawdy Songs & Backroom Ballads, Volume 3.

"Union Maid" by Woody Guthrie[edit]

In 1940 Woody Guthrie wrote new lyrics to the tune, retitled "Union Maid". Guthrie's are perhaps the most famous of alternative words for the song; his song begins:

There once was a union maid, she never was afraid
Of goons and ginks and company finks and the deputy sheriffs who made the raid.
She went to the union hall when a meeting it was called,
And when the Legion boys come 'round
She always stood her ground.
Oh, you can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union,
I'm sticking to the union, I'm sticking to the union.
Oh, you can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union,
I'm sticking to the union 'til the day I die.

British school parody[edit]

Red Wing was parodied, in a version perpetuated among British schoolchildren, which begins with the line, "The moon's shining down on Charlie Chaplin." (See Iona and Peter Opie's The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren.) This variant was popular among British troops during the First World War in response to the comedian's refusal to enlist, and was featured in the movie Oh! What A Lovely War.[3]

Now the moon shines bright on Charlie Chaplin
He's going barmy to join the army
But his old baggy trousers they'll need mending
Before they send him to the Dardanelles
The moon shines bright on Charlie Chaplin
His shoes are cracking, for want of blacking
And his baggy khaki trousers still need mending
Before they send him to the Dardanelles.[4]


  1. ^ Mills, Kerry. "Red Wing: An Indian Intermezzo" (sheet music). New York: F.A. Mills (1907).
  2. ^ a b c O'Connor, Mark (July 15, 2011). "Red Wing". The O'Connor Method - A New American School of String Playing (New American School of String Playing) II. Retrieved July 8, 2013. 
  3. ^ Oh What a Lovely War
  4. ^ WWI soldiers songs

External links[edit]