April 15th, 2012
April 15th, 2012, marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. The tragic tale has been expressed in stories, movies, books, and, of course, music. In addition to Celine Dion’s famous “My Heart Will Go On,” there are a number of other Titanic-inspired songs. Here are a few:
According to legend, the ship’s ensemble played on the boat’s deck as the Titanic sank. Their last song is said to have been the hymn “Nearer My God to Thee.”
However, some experts say it was actually the waltz “Songe d’Automne” by Archibald Joyce. Learn more about the bandleader who played on.
British composer Gavin Bryars took the hymn and wove in other sounds and an underwater mood to create “The Sinking of the Titanic.”
Soon after the sinking of the ship, blues great Leadbelly wrote “Titanic” evoking race issues of the day. He sings a (fictional) tale of Jack Johnson, a prominent heavyweight boxer of the day, who was denied passage on the Titanic because he was black. (It was also the first song Leadbelly ever performed on a 12-string guitar, which became his signature instrument.)
Years later, in “Legend of the RSS Titanic,” Jamie Brockett also sings about the Jack Johnson story.
A number of folk musicians have sung of the Titanic. Ernest V. Stoneman sang “Titanic (It Was Sad When That Great Ship Went Down)” in 1924, and artists such as Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie have also covered it.
Loretta Lynn recounted learning about the Titanic from her grandmother and song “Titanic,” which appeared in the soundtrack for Coal Miner’s Daughter.
In 1997 the Titanic story became a Broadway musical. Here are a few highlights from it: