Song of the Day – Auld Lang SyneHappy New Year, everyone!
“Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?” The familiar opening lines to the song that has become synonymous with New Year. The Canadian band leader, Guy Lombardo, popularized what started out as a Robbie Burns poem that was set to a traditional air. Lombardo and his band, The Royal Canadians, broadcast their New Year’s Eve show from the Roosevelt Hotel, and then later the Waldorf Astoria, for 48 years starting in 1928. It was moved to television in 1956 where it enjoyed a 21 year run with a brief hiatus due to World War II. Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve was in answer to Lombardo’s programme, the anti-Lombardo if you will, Clark feeling that Lombardo and the Royal Canadians were anachronistic so he decided to put on a more modern show aimed at the younger generation. That show is the one we are more familiar with today.
The song itself dates back to the 15th century poem Aul Kindnes Foyett. The melody, a traditional strathspey, was thought to be taken from The Miller’s Wedding or The Miller’s Daughter. Auld Kindnes Foyett translates to “(Should)Auld Aquaintence (Be) Forgot”, which became the opening lines to the Robbie Burns version that is sung today. Everyone wonders what the heck this means and it was lampooned by Billy Crystal in the movie When Harry Met Sally: “I mean, ‘Should old acquaintance be forgot?’ Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances, or does it mean if we happened to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot?” Generally, it’s meaning is that we should not forget old friends, forgive past quarrels and celebrate the New Year.
Although it has become inseparable from New Years Eve, Auld Lang Syne is also played at funerals, it was played at Parliament Hill when former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s body left for burial in Montreal for instance, as well as when the British handed over Hong Kong to the Chinese in 1997. It was also played when the British troops left India. It is traditionally sung at the end of the Burn’s Supper which is held annually in Scotland to celebrate the man’s life and poetry.
There are too many covers of this song to list but here are a few of my favourites, the Chenard Walcker, a great singer from Paris, is from Comfort Stand Recordings. They have a few great compilations available for download and you can get 25 different versions of this song for your New Years bash if it’s not too late.