Red Wing (song)

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"Red Wing"
RedWingMills1907.jpeg
Sheet music cover (1907)
Song
Published 1907
Composer(s) Kerry Mills
Lyricist(s) Thurland Chattaway

"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:

Lyric[edit]

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.
She worked for him day and night;
She lit all the campfires bright;
And under the sky each night, she would lie
And dream about his coming by and by,
But when all the braves returned,
The heart of Red Wing yearned,
For far, far away, her warrior gay
Fell bravely in the fray.
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,
While Red Wing's weeping her heart away.[1]
  1. ^ in later versions usually: "For a far far away her brave is dying"

Covers[edit]

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] During the 1970s, Harry Boardman and the Oldham Tinkers folk group recorded a version incorporating all of the verses that they remembered from their childhood.[4]

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
Charlie Chaplin meek and mild
Stole a sausage from a child
But when the child began to cry
Charlie socked him in the eye
Charlie Chaplin had no sense
He bought a flute for 18 pence
But the only tune that he could play
Was ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay
Now 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.[5]
Charlie Chaplin went to France
To teach the ladies how to dance
First you heel, and then you toe
Lift your skirts and up you go
Charlie Chaplin Chuck-Chuck-Chuck
Went to bed with three white ducks
One died and Charlie cried
Charlie Chaplin Chuck-Chuck-Chuck
Now the moon shines bright on Charlie Chaplin
His shoes are cracking, for want of blacking
And his old fusty coat will need a mending
Before they send him to the Dardanelles.


In 2016 Harp and a monkey recorded a song called 'Charlie Chaplin' based on 'red wing' on their album 'War Stories' which uses the chorus:
'And the moon shines bright on Charlie Chaplin
His boots are cracking, for the want of blacking
And his old great coat's in need of mending
until they send him to the Dardanelles'
The verses deal with the soldiers recreation time behind the lines and their longing for home. The song is based on the story of the Daily Mail's ill conceived attack on Charlie Chaplin and the response by the school children and troops.

References in pop culture[edit]

A music box version of Red Wing can be heard in the 1994 cult classic Pulp Fiction during the scene in which Butch returns to his apartment to retrieve his great grandfather's gold watch.
john Wayne and Lee Marvin sing a few lines in the western The Comancheros.

References[edit]

  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. ^ Oldham Tinkers
  5. ^ WWI soldiers songs

External links[edit]