My life from 1877 to 1915 is rather interesting in that it’s the first life I remember clearly in which a large body of the popular songs from that era are still remembered somewhat.
To that end, I’ve compiled a playlist of songs from the 1910s and earlier that, for whatever reason, struck me as songs I knew during that life. I only fact-checked these after deciding whether or not they resonated with me on a personal level and I’ve confirmed that all of these songs were extant and widely-known in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, though some songs are much older in their origin.
I went with a mix of period recordings and more recent recordings. In some cases (such as “Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes”) I just really liked a particular artist’s rendition.
When I was a child in my current life, my mother had a tape of the Burl Ives version of this song and my natural reaction every single time was to cry because it made me profoundly sad! It always vexed my current mother, who thought that I cried because the sounds of the instruments hurt my ears (WTF?!?). I now believe this may have been a lullaby that my previous mother sang to me in Victorian times as I still feel very sad when I hear it. The song’s origins are uncertain but are probably from about the time of the English Restoration. Its current “lullaby” version is from about 1805.
The Trees They Do Grow High
Another song that probably originated in the 17th century, this one probably in Scotland, though by the time Cecil Sharp did his survey of folk songs in Somerset it was already a well-established tune there. When I first heard this song it resonated with me but it could simply be tragic tone of the lyrics.
Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes
An old chestnut, this one with lyrics by Ben Johnson after an earlier poem by Philostratus. I first heard it as part of a compilation album called “Top Hits of 1776,” though I much prefer Paul Robeson’s version. The same album also contained a song called “How Stands The Glass Around” which felt familiar but is not included in this list as all the sources I’ve seen suggest it was out of vogue by the 19th century. By contrast, “Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes” remained a popular folk standard through the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. I am reasonably confident that I was familiar with this song during that particular life.
Harry Champion- I’m Henery The Eighth I Am
This song- a signature tune for Harry Champion- was another one that stood out for me since my present life’s childhood. I remember once, around age 12, hearing Herman’s Hermits version the song on the radio in my father’s garage and for once, it clicked for me that their version of the song was sung faster than it should have. In the back of my mind I always carried a slow music hall ballad version being sung in a beer-soaked chorus in a smoke-filled pub. I was excited when I discovered Harry Champion’s version because it’s sung at exactly the tempo I thought it should be!
I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside
I first heard this song in my current life around 2007 as a snippet at the end of Queen’s song “Seven Seas of Rhye.” I was living in Las Vegas at the time, in a long-distance relationship with the man who would later become my fiance. He came to visit and we drove out to Mt. Charleston for the afternoon; one of the albums he brought was Queen 2. I had wondered about the snippet of the older song at the end for a very long time as it sounded so familiar. When I discovered that this was a popular music hall song before WWI I felt sure I had known this song on many a carefree holiday to Weston Super Mare and Blackpool.
The Boy I Love Is Up In The Gallery
Not much to say about this one except I first discovered it while looking for songs from the English music halls. It was apparently made famous by Marie Lloyd. I simply chose the best-quality recording I could find of it.
There’s A Long Long Trail A’Winding
This song, published in London in 1914, is one of only a handful of songs from the actual war years that stands out as one I knew particularly well. The version I’ve chosen is a gorgeous two-part harmony recording from the later half of 1915.
It’s A Long Way To Tipperary
I actually owned several copies of this song more than six years before my memories broke! The “modified” date on the file I have (which is actually Albert Harrington’s version and not the John McCormack version linked here) is June 28, 2006; the metadata is lost on another version I have, by the Red Army Choir, but I seem to remember getting that one much earlier (around 2004) and actually listening to it while I was in England, though the loss of metadata makes it hard to prove. Still, it’s probably the only song on this list I have more than anecdotal evidence that I’d enjoyed the song before I’d realized I had a past life. It apparently was a prewar music hall tune that became very popular with the soldiers so it would have been well known by pretty much every soldier by the Second Battle of Ypres.
Le Temps de Cerises
A French tune from the 19th century, “Le Temps de Cerises” has been perennially popular in France. I first heard this song in a movie and it stayed with me in a big way, but I had initially assumed it was written for that movie. I now think it’s likely that I heard it in France in 1915 (specifically, I believe I heard it in Armentieres).