Homeward Bound: The Folk Song That Will Move You

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Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Homeward Bound is a traditional folk song that is sure to move you. It tells the story of a sailor who is homeward bound after a long journey at sea. The song is filled with longing and nostalgia, and its simple melody is sure to stay with you long after you’ve heard it.

Origins of the song

The song is often credited to Simon Garfunkel, who recorded it for their 1966 album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. However, the song was actually written by Paul Simon. The story goes that Simon wrote the song while traveling on a train from New York City to his home in Connecticut. He was thinking about his wife and children at home and how much he missed them. The song reflects those feelings of longing and homesickness.

The original version of the song was much slower and more somber than the version that would eventually become a hit. In fact, Simon initially thought of it as a throwaway song and only included it on the album at the insistence of producer Bob Johnston. But it was Johnston who also suggested that they speed up the tempo and add more instrumentation, giving the song the more upbeat sound that would make it a hit.

The rest, as they say, is history. “Homeward Bound” was released as a single in 1967 and quickly rose up the charts, becoming a Top 10 hit in both the US and the UK. It has since been covered by many artists and has become a timeless classic.

The lyrics of the song

The lyrics of the song are based on a poem written by Englishman Samuel Taylor Coleridge called “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” In the poem, a sailor returns home from a long journey at sea. He is telling his story to anyone who will listen, and he is filled with emotion as he describes his journey.

The lyrics of “Homeward Bound” tell the story of a sailor who is finally returning home after a long journey. He is full of excitement and emotion, and he can’t wait to be reunited with his loved ones. The song is a beautiful description of the homesickness that many sailors feel when they are away from home for extended periods of time.

The melody of the song

The melody of the song is very simple, and it is this simplicity that makes it so affecting. The tune consists of just a few notes, which are repeated over and over again. This repetition gives the song a feeling of yearning, as if the singer is longing for something that they can never have. The lyrics of the song are also very simple, but they are full of emotion. They tell the story of a traveler who is far from home, and who is longing to return. The song is sad and nostalgic, but it is also full of hope.

The history of the song

The history of the song “Homeward Bound” is a bit of a mystery. It was first collected by folklorist Frank C. Brown in 1916, who noted that it was sung by Mrs. J. P. Streeter of Hillsborough, North Carolina. The song was then published in the Journal of American Folklore in 1918.

However, the song may be much older than that. In fact, some experts believe it dates back to the Civil War era. The lyrics talk about a man who is “homeward bound” after having been away for many years. This could easily be referring to soldiers who were returning home from the war.

The song became popular again in the 1960s, when it was recorded by Simon & Garfunkel. Their version helped to make “Homeward Bound” one of the most well-known folk songs in America.

The influence of the song

In the years immediately following the Civil War, Americans were collectively yearning for a way to heal the wounds of the nation. One of the ways they did this was through music. A new genre known as “shape-note” or “sacred harp” music was becoming popular, and one of the most beloved songs to come out of this movement was “Homeward Bound.”

The song is believed to have been written by George P. Fisher, though some sources credit it to his brother Henry Clay Fisher. It was first published in 1868 in a shape-note hymnal called The Christian Minstrel. The lyrics are simple but profound, and they strike a chord with anyone who has ever longed for home:

I’m homeward bound, I’m homeward bound
In life’s weary night
I’m homeward bound to where my soul
Can find true rest and light

The song quickly became a staple of shape-note singings and gatherings across the country. It resonated with people because it spoke to the universal human experience of longing for a place where we can be at peace. Whether that place is literal or figurative, we all have a home that we long for in our hearts.

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