Sing Books with Emily, the Blog

Archive for February 5th, 2013

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When I First Came to This Land

Words and Music by Oscar Brand
Illustrated by Doris Burn
LOC Catalog Card Number: 74-77596
This book contains notes about the author and illustrator and printed sheet music.

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When I First Came to This Land

Words and Music by Oscar Brand
Words Adapted by Harriet Ziefert
Illustrated by Simms Taback

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I’ve had a hard time finding historical info about this song, except for the note at the back of the book illustrated by Doris Burn:

For a performance at the Town Hall in 1948, Oscar Brand was asked to write a song about immigrants coming to this country.  He was to describe their struggles in developing the land and the happiness they found: and so he composed “When I First Came to This Land.”  Since that performance, the song has traveled across the country, spreading in fame.

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I love to sing this song.  And, after recently reading all the Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and having begun a project to study the music in the stories, I realized that the song “When I First Came to This Land” tells the same story…homesteaders making lives a-new in the American West.

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These lyrics are repetitive and cumulative, but I’ve typed them all out so your eyes don’t have to dart all over the place to find the next lyric when you’re trying to sing  the song.
Look to the end of the lyrics for suggested hand movements to perform as you accumulate new things in our life as a homesteader.

WHEN I FIRST CAME TO THIS LAND
Words and Music by Oscar Brand

When I first came to this land
I was not a wealthy man
So I got myself a farm and I did what I could
Called my farm, “POWER IN MY ARM”
But the land was sweet and good and I did what I could.

When I first came to this land
I was not a wealthy man
So I built myself a shack and I did what I could
Called my shack “BREAK MY BACK”
Called my farm, “POWER IN MY ARM”
But the land was sweet and good and I did what I could.

When I first came to this land
I was not a wealthy man
So I got myself a horse and I did what I could
Called my horse “TIRED OF COURSE
Called my shack “BREAK MY BACK”
Called my farm, “POWER IN MY ARM”
But the land was sweet and good and I did what I could.

When I first came to this land
I was not a wealthy man
So I got myself a cow and I did what I could
Called my cow “NO MILK NOW”
Called my horse “TIRED OF COURSE”
Called my shack “BREAK MY BACK”
Called my farm, “POWER IN MY ARM”
But the land was sweet and good and I did what I could.

When I first came to this land
I was not a wealthy man
So I got myself a duck and I did what I could
Called my duck “OUT OF LUCK”
Called my cow “NO MILK NOW”
Called my horse “TIRED OF COURSE”
Called my shack “BREAK MY BACK”
Called my farm, “POWER IN MY ARM”
But the land was sweet and good and I did what I could.

When I first came to this land
I was not a wealthy man
So I got myself a duck and I did what I could
Called my duck “OUT OF LUCK”
Called my cow “NO MILK NOW”
Called my horse “TIRED OF COURSE”
Called my shack “BREAK MY BACK”
Called my farm, “POWER IN MY ARM”
But the land was sweet and good and I did what I could.

When I first came to this land
I was not a wealthy man
So I got myself a pig and I did what I could
Called my pig “TOO DARN BIG”
Called my duck “OUT OF LUCK”
Called my cow “NO MILK NOW”
Called my horse “TIRED OF COURSE”
Called my shack “BREAK MY BACK”
Called my farm, “POWER IN MY ARM”
But the land was sweet and good and I did what I could.

When I first came to this land
I was not a wealthy man
So I got myself a wife and I did what I could
Called my wife “LOVE OF MY LIFE”
Called my pig “TOO DARN BIG”
Called my duck “OUT OF LUCK”
Called my cow “NO MILK NOW”
Called my horse “TIRED OF COURSE”
Called my shack “BREAK MY BACK”
Called my farm, “POWER IN MY ARM”
But the land was sweet and good and I did what I could.

When I first came to this land
I was not a wealthy man
So I got myself a son and I did what I could
Called my son “MY WORK’S DONE”
Called my wife “LOVE OF MY LIFE”
Called my pig “TOO DARN BIG”
Called my duck “OUT OF LUCK”
Called my cow “NO MILK NOW”
Called my horse “TIRED OF COURSE”
Called my shack “BREAK MY BACK”
Called my farm, “POWER IN MY ARM”
But the land was sweet and good and I did what I could.

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Movement Suggestions for “When I First Came to This Land”:

“MY WORK’S DONE” (Gesture with your arms like you are digging a hole with a shovel and then throw the dirt over your shoulder)
“LOVE OF MY LIFE” (Cross your arms over year heart like you are in love)
“TOO DARN BIG” (Hold your arms out in front of you like showing Santa’s big round belly)
“OUT OF LUCK” (Draw an X in the air)
“NO MILK NOW” (Hold your fist with thumb up and pour it out, to thumb down, like an empty bottle)
“TIRED OF COURSE” (Put your hands together like praying and lay your sleepy head on them)
“BREAK MY BACK” (Lean over and put your hand on your lower aching back)
“POWER IN MY ARM” (Show your arm muscle like Rosie the Rivetor)

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Biography of songwriter Oscar Brand
http://oscarbrand.com/bio.htm

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The song was written by Oscar Brand.
His official website, here:
http://www.oscarbrand.com/

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Oscar Brand sings his own song:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00603AM68/ref=dm_dp_trk6?ie=UTF8&qid=1359654086&sr=1-10

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I love this version by Pete Seeger:
http://www.amazon.com/When-First-Came-This-Land/dp/B0028DZU66/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1359590385&s=dmusic&sr=1-9

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Beautifully sung version of the song, performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir:
http://www.amazon.com/When-First-Came-This-Land/dp/B00137V8X2/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1359590385&s=dmusic&sr=1-7

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This is not exactly the melody that I know, but it’s pretty close.  This video has got words and guitar chords, too:

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Free lead-sheet music, here:
http://www.traditional-songs.com/country/Usa/when%20i%20first%20came%20to%20this%20land.jpg

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Addendum, 12/2/2013
Included in post for
COLONIAL ERA SONGS IN SINGABLE PICTURE BOOKS
http://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2013/12/02/colonial-era-songs-in-singable-picture-books/

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This song is depicted in Doris Burn’s (and Simms Tabak’s) illustration as happening in the late 19th or early 20th centuries.  But the story told in the song is true also for those who came to these shores in the 17th and 18th centuries…people looking for freedom and opportunity, a chance to get a little piece of land and make their own way and live in freedom.


When I First Came to This Land

Words and Music by Oscar Brand
Illustrated by Doris Burn
LOC Catalog Card Number: 74-77596

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Related Posts

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OSCAR BRAND
Singable Picture Books (and Other Musical Treasures) of Oscar Brand
http://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/singable-picture-books-and-other-musical-treasures-of-oscar-brand/

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LITTLE HOUSE SONGS: LAURA INGALLS WILDER – SONGS OF THE LITTLE HOUSE BOOKS
Songs of the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
http://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/songs-of-the-little-house-books-by-laura-ingalls-wilder/

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FOURTH OF JULY AND OTHER HOLIDAYS CELEBRATING THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND HER CITIZENS AND HISTORY
A list of Patriotic Singable Picture Books
http://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2010/06/22/a-patriotic-list-of-singable-books-for-july-4th/

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EDUCATIONAL CONTENT

A list of SPBs with fun and sneakily educational content.  The kids won’t even know they’re learning!
http://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/singable-picture-books-with-sneaky-educational-content/

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SIMMS TABACK

The Singable Picture Books of Author/Illustrator Simms Taback
http://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/the-singable-picture-books-of-simms-taback/


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