Public Domain Rewrites

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  • @ustaknow Jan 11

    Anyone who knows me, knows that I love digging into the history of fragments that then were used, - leaving some confused about the origins, - public domain. (CR is on their performance, and version. And, no, I guess they don't have to "Reference" it, but, I do/would in a liner note, etc.)

    So, from fragments, to history lessons, to your favorite public domain hymn-gospel ala Ray Charles re-rocked to a current modern beat and modulation, - if I get to any of that, I'll put it here. Again, and as well, I love being skooled, pointed the way to new, old-new-again and as happened to me, -- some great history lesson stories came from the digging.


  • @jamkar  Jan 11

    Yes! I will be searching for nuggets.

  • @tseaver  Jan 12

    PD Lyrics, too! One of my favorite songs from past FAWMs was setting W. B. Yeats' "Aedh Longs for the Cloths of Heaven" for guitar and whistling.

  • @tsunamidaily  Jan 12

    not sure as far as music, but f scott fitzgerald's "the great gatsby" slips into public domain this year....

  • @yam655  Jan 12

    My knowledge is that very few -- if any -- audio recordings are in the public domain. My understanding is that no audio recordings were under copyright in the 1920s, and when they got copyright applied to them it retroactively impacted everything -- even the earliest of audio.

    But there are all sorts of really fun public domain sheet music. One of my favorites that I ran across was about a woman agreeing to anonymous sex with a man on the train, but not in front of the man's son.

  • @ustaknow Jan 12

    Yes, I love that archive *jamkar - it's a great help in confirming what's what. They could comment more, e.g., "if created when CR existed" 😀 and other interesting elements of all of that, that then followed it. I used to deal with an archive of content, pre-CR. To me, interesting concerning that, - there were folks waiting, and then since was CR'd, expired, left, they then CR'd it 😀 hahhh... But, what folks occassionally get tripped up by, "that" physical publication, not the Content; yes, that performance, not the content or basis. Many ran to CR old pub dom (so to speak) folks songs, spirituals, other.

    Some more common and known's? Are like:
    By Robert Plant. (He gets dinged for this I understand; probably a legal reason he feels, no reference is best, - if anyone knows for sure with reference 😀 )

    He makes, or then when I first saw the track, - made no mention of it not being "his", no liner note referencing, etc. But, he CR'd it and I heard folks talking about the "brilliance" of it 😀 - well, yeah... but, - that - performance, that revision, that orchestraion, that recording, -- not the "song" (lyric/melody). Anyone may use it, rewrite it, etc., just not anyone elses version, revision, recording.

    I personally, very much enjoy granular discussion on this stuff; and yet, I in no way am any kind of authority. Long ago I came to consider, - it's all best commented in the form of a question; leaving needed room for all the things one can't know about someting. Many disputed songs bear that out, esp around the time of, Copyright origination, when many rushed to, e.g, CR old Folk/Spiritual songs/fragments, chorus-only ever existed, etc. Hahhh, didn't work, but, sometimes, it did.


  • @ustaknow Jan 12


    Often, from what I observe is, very old, old songs, bits and pieces, bar-room, spirutual, cadence' got encorporated into songs. "Black Betty" is an e.g. (old cadence song about their muskets, pre-rifle).

    The song(s), "Cocaine" - hahhh so many and a very old wretched song base.

    A non-pub-dom "Hey Joe" - how many knew then, it was not Jimi? 😀 hahhh. It's one of those songs I feel the bits and pieces got rolled into what "Billy Robert's" Folk Song Writer, Performer and author of Hey Joe, did originally compose.

    Another song faught over, but only after slight successes of it, the NOLA "iko iko" song. What I surmised is, all who wrote a version, own their own 😀 and the elements of similarity are so convoluted, -- are, were always in public domain.

    Well, for me, -- interesting stuff. In circa 2017 I did a "satan's kingdom must come down" rewrite and took on the Iko Iko song a year or so ago, and other that I repurposed, just to see what I might come up with.

    You? 😀

  • @tseaver  Jan 12

    Shall we tag such "collaborations with the dead" (mostly) as #publicdomaincollab?

  • @ustaknow Jan 12

    *tseaver - that's interesting. I'd never seen that.

    My liner notes can be prolifically long, and spaghetti appended as the month flows on.

    I still am not entirely clear, however have supposition concerning, why many do not (Reference) or liner note the origin.

    I know that, e.g., with the "Iko Iko" song, - very glad I did since someone, (and there's always at least 1 😀 +++...) who didn't know the history of the song. They're not even sure what language some of it is, though supposed some slang, idiomatic, sung while "hammered" 😀 so, likely just "gibberish".
    -- But, Oh, Blah, Dee... Oh, Blah, Dah... 😀 Uno!! 😀 hahhh. Vlahhh...!

  • @yam655  Jan 12

    Oh! I should go ahead and mention this here.

    Pretty much all of my stuff is released Creative Commons Attribution, which is similar to Public Domain in nearly every aspect except that you need to credit me. (You can make derivatives. You can use traditional copyright on your stuff. You make all the money, etc. You _just_ need to credit me.)

    So, it's sort of public domain adjacent.

  • @tiller2  Jan 12

    I've run into several songs about "a headlight on a north(or south or east)bound train", so I view that as a folk metaphor anyone can use.

  • @tseaver  Jan 12

    @yam655 I believe the point of this particular thread is using "old" content (lyrics, melody) which has gone into public domain after copyright expiration. Folks who want to collab with you during FAWM should likely still consult .

  • @ustaknow Jan 14

    * tiller2 - yes, that's interesting..., very, and a "major" ? point. Well, for "me" it is. You-all get into it as best suits you! 😀

    Yes, -- CR didn't always exist 😀 hahhh..., like the "Internet" has not always existed (yikes!, - it's not even "old" tech, pending how one may define that)...

    It's why I try to cite the songs I did, - diverse. (?) ; I hope, best I could do in the moment.

    For me, the "cocaine" history really drew me in, and even "TLTR" commented last year on that, - it being an old cowboy trail "folk-song", wretched lyrics song really 😀 ... as I postulated then, no TV/Radio/Internet back in those 1800's +- on the cold border trail..., so the most extreme self entertainment (story telling was big?), got you an extra blanket, plate-o-beans and pull off the 'ole jug 😀 hahahh.

    What I find interesting is the use of "stuff", and it's evolution. (Like "art" of any kind, it's context of that sociology/psychology, one might say, and so to speak.)

    I'll end this comment with, the "Black Betty" song... ... "me" no idea what that was about (I listened mostly/only to the music of a track back then, they could have been singing in any language... "blah blah blah blah blah... face melting riff, and etc., 😀 ... a "classic rock" (?) ditty of which when I look into it, was/or part of and old 1700's ish "Cadence" phrase, - folks march in military training, timing about their weapons carried, and so it goes. (Iko Iko was another mystery song for many).
    -- It resurrected my interest in Cadence ditty's and then pulled, maybe, others into that. It did @dzd or seemed to. He's plenty busy with allot other.

    One "challenge" could be, -- take one line from a pub-dom song, eg, "midnight special" and build an entire song from it. I know I was not happy with all of "... we're gonna burn your kingdom down..." and while similar, is a re-write.

    Or, like any neo-classic band that electrifies "Classical Music" and re-orchestrates, - same inspiration.

    Well, I love it 😀

  • @krayzie003  Jan 18

    I've been wanting to dig into some public domain works for inspiration. This might be a good time to do it.

  • @davidbreslin101  Jan 30

    I posted a collab with the 19th century poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge once. Some cheeky sod just commented "Nice lyrics"....

  • @torsten  Feb 2

    @ustaknow : Interesting subject. "Man of constant sorrow" is practically in the public domain, to my knowledge just as "Nature boy" and "Misirlou" should be, as they were heavily inspired (a.k.a. 'stolen') from public domain (a.k.a folk) songs.

    Oh yes and "Happy birthday" had been stolen from the public domain but has now been saved from the hands of record companies some years ago (

  • @ustaknow Feb 2

    @torsten - I am glad you think so too. 😀 hahhh, it fluctuates from year to year 😀 Every year is different!

    I never know, with these (pub doms), what will be done, - I hope to do at least one. However, on occassion, it's been more. For me, some of the more obscure bits and pieces, like a 4-line "Spiritual" fragment, and only 4-lines that gets developed is interesting. I've done full song "re-do's", but not so much.

    I am looking at re-doing a re-do from 2017. It's not a "remarkable" song, but I never felt like I quite re-addressed it and "felt", - "yup, that's how it SHOULD be" 😀 hahhh... wierd, aye!

    I've been toying with it now, even (why I thought about this thread, to comment now). I may just have yet another, less than satisfying vesion again, - but, one day! 😀

  • @ustaknow Feb 6

    Well, I did get to this one 😀 a re-rewrite:

  • @tunecat  Feb 6

    NB Ustaknow: at 2.07 something wierd happens with the track on bandcamp... !

  • @ustaknow Feb 7

    @tunecat - hahhh, yes, I wanted to break the song 😀 But, it's not broke 😀 It's experimental... thank you though!

  • @ustaknow Feb 15

    Well, I combined two different songs, that one just above and another I did out of considering combining banjo as I did. So, those two got fused and this was the result - as re-written as I think a Spiritual from the Pub Dom may get 😀

  • @jamkar  8 weeks

    This is my rearrangement of an old song. Pretty obvious where I mined these riffs. It will live here on FAWM, but that's about it.

  • @kludge  8 weeks

    Not for FAWM, but I feel one of my best song is my version of the traditional song "John Henry". True to the story, but changes the meaning in a much darker (and more political) direction. Here's a bad recording of it.

    John Henry
    trad arr Dave Stagner

    John Henry was an artist with a hammer
    It's the only thing that he could understand
    He said there's only one thing that I know for sure
    Gonna die with this hammer in my hand

    One day the Boss Man bought a steam drill
    Took it out for all the men to see
    Boss Man said why should I pay you lazy fucks
    When this steam drill will work for free?

    John Henry said I'm faster than that steam drill
    I'll die before it proves me wrong
    And if I should lose to that rusty hunk of shit
    I'm gonna leave you with one hell of a song

    They both started hammering that rock face
    Both hammers pounding in time
    John Henry hammered fourteen inches
    Steam drill only hammered nine

    Everybody cheered for John Henry
    Everybody knew he was ahead
    But that steam drill just kept on pounding
    Poor John Henry dropped dead

    The Boss Man just lauged when John Henry fell
    He turned around and this is what he say
    I don't give a shit which one was faster
    Steam drill's gonna take your jobs away

    Steam drill don't quit, steam drill don't get sick
    Steam drill don't get drunk and fight
    Steam drill only does what I tell it to
    Steam drill don't know wrong from right

    Steam drill don't love nothing
    Steam drill got no pride
    A man needs to believe that he matters
    That's why John Henry died

    They dumped John Henry's body in an unmarked grave
    There's no cross to tell us where he died
    Nobody cries or says a goddamn thing
    Any time a train rolls by

    Now the steam drill's forgotten in a junkyard
    John Henry's in an unmarked grave
    John Henry bet his life against the future
    Boss Man wins it either way

  • @mhorning 8 weeks

    In the other Public Domain thread we were discussing public domain poets. Another FAWMer brought up Henry Lawson, whom I was unfamiliar with. So another musical setting for one of Lawson's poems.

  • @ustaknow 8 weeks

    Hey *mhorning - for some reason, there's seems to be a distinction, which, I think I get, I guess, as that goes, - so yeah, put it here 😀

    This is in the "Free for All" [Forum], cat-a-gory. It's good no one posted the all knowing presumptive, [other, already link], thread link 😉 to this -- hahhh, that would be interesting. Ahhh, paradigms, paradigms 😀

    - And, so it goes, no rules! aye! 😀 just Art! Discuss, do, and stuff like that! 😉 😀 and "free, for all", no less!

  • @ustaknow 8 weeks

    @kludge - great take on it. I remember this song, for some unknown reason, from like when, maybe 8 ish yo... I think it was formatted in an elementary book of sorts text, line art, (not allota music in schools back then 😀 ).

  • @ustaknow 8 weeks

    @jamkar - yes, love that piano! 😀

  • @ustaknow 8 weeks

    Ah, reading above, seeing *tunecats comment about the broken track 😀 I love that... (I just lack good tech skills 😉 ) -- here it is redone.

    What happened is, and I love this, -- I wrote an unrelated music only track as an annoyed reaction to a banjo comment 😉 and then that night heard the "satan gonna burn your kingdom down..." words to it in my head.
    - And I said head, but, you didn't do that; so, next day I did! 😀 hahhh! And, here it is:

    Re-titled it since, so different now, -

    "Not for the Weak Ones"

  • @ustaknow 6 weeks

    I've been chording out an old Hymnal of all public domain songs all circa 1800's and came across,

    "I Need Thee Every Hour" by, Annie Sherwood Hawks:

    Anyway - in chording it I felt I was back in the Cowboy Trails stuff I was doing this FAWM 😀 hahhh - Rhythms!

    I assigned D, G, E, A7
    (E7 may work as well on one short phrase, pending whose singing); and, then, - with how I strum the Right hand.

    - It's that Right hand 😀

    I love now that it makes me think of happy trails.

    I know many old folk, beer-hall melodies got "hymnal" lyrics for the ease of it I understand. So, Annie may have liked cowboy songs too!

    Yeehaww for that Brooklyn girl! 😀 (Probably allot of farm land back then too anyway, Brooklyn, Queens, etc., the history of that area is very interesting!)

  • @ustaknow 5 weeks

    Oh my, here's an oldie, but a goodie 😀

    - gonna put more I think, as they seem, could be, for there:

    I'm chording out an old all public domain hymnal, such as they are, (so much easier to grab the book than loose paper! - shudda dunnit long ago); piano to Guitar and in my key 😀 hahh, narrow as it may be.

  • @ustaknow 5 weeks

    Almost done guitar chording out that hymnal;
    and what do I see? This gem 😀

    "Wayfaring Stranger"

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