Sometimes I will hear a story about a song and go: “That’s kind of neat.”
Other times, I go: “Wow! That is something else”.
This week, I’m going to talk about the stories behind a couple of songs. In one case, it is the actual story behind the song; in the other, it’s how the group came to find the song.
Let’s start with the song based on actual history: Tom Dooley, which was a Number 1 hit on the Billboard charts for the Kingston Trio.
There was a man named Tom Dula, and he was involved in a murder of a young woman. Whether he killed her himself, killed her in association with someone else, or took the rap for one of several women he was romantically involved with who actually committed the murder depends on which of the approximately 500 posts I found on the Internet.
A couple of things they all agree on which are in the song: It was a stabbing; Tom Dula was turned in by a Mr. Grayson, whose farm he had gone to after the murder; and Tom Dula was hanged.
Reading some of the theories in the posts on the Internet sounds like a conspiracy theory, with the author bringing up names which aren’t mentioned on anyone else’s site.
A man named Thomas Land wrote the song shortly after Dula was hanged, and it has been recorded approximately 5,384,291 times since then.
A number of people have said versions of the following, which I believe speaks to the song: “If it’s not true, it makes a good story.”
The other song I want to talk about also sounds like it’s based on a historical character – but it isn’t.
“I’m Henery the Eighth, I Am” sounds like it should be about the many-married king of England, but it is, in fact, about a man and a many-married woman.
As the lyric, originally by Fred Murray and R.P. Weston puts it: “She’s been married seven times before, And every one was an ‘Enery”. Which makes our hero “Henery the Eighth.”
The original song had three verses, but the version Herman’s Hermits took to the top of the Billboard charts doesn’t.
In fact, at one point lead singer Peter Noone says, “Second verse, same as the first.” The story I’ve heard a number of times was the band found a copy of the song in a secondhand music store and liked it, but then realized some of the pages were missing – specifically the other verse.
Not a problem when you like the song as much as the Hermits did. Just repeat the first verse and the chorus.
Two other things to note about the song. First, the song it knocked off the top of the Billboard chart was a little thing by the Rolling Stones that you may have heard of – Satisfaction.
Second, despite Herman’s Hermits being an English band and the song reaching the top of the Billboard charts in the U.S., it was never released as a single in England.
What do you think about this story?