The Sinking of the Reuben James

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"The Sinking of the Reuben James"
Song by Almanac Singers
Written 1941-1942
Published 1942
Composer(s) (Wildwood Flower) Joseph Philbrick Webster
Lyricist(s) Woody Guthrie, Fred Hellerman
Language English

The Sinking of the Reuben James” is a song by Woody Guthrie about the sinking of the U.S. convoy escort, the Reuben James, which was the first U.S. naval ship sunk by German U-boats in World War II. Woody Guthrie had started to write a song including each name on the casualty list of the sinking. This was later replaced by the chorus “tell me what were their names.”[1]

The song is set to the melody of Wildwood Flower, an antebellum tune by Joseph Philbrick Webster. [2]



  1. ^ Klein, Joe (1980). Woody Guthrie: A Life. Knopf. ISBN 978-0-394-50152-9. 
  2. ^ Smith, Rod, Rod's Encyclopedic Dictionary Of Traditional Music, archived from the original on December 1, 2002, retrieved 1 December 2002  via the Internet Archive.

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