Public Domain starts in 1923 – aka You want some great Free Music…without Limewire?

January 27, 2008 at 6:56 am | Posted in kids music, Music for You, Reviews | 1 Comment
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Pretty much as long as I can remember, I’ve paid .99 for a song. I remember saving up my allowance to buy a 45 at the record store. The first record I bought, I’m very embarrassed to say, was John Travolta’s “Let Her In” – HOLD ON! Before you stop reading this blog forever, let me explain. I actually thought I was buying Paul McCartney,’s “Let ’em In…” (You remember, “Someone’s knocking at the door, Somebody’s ringing the bell, Someone’s knocking at the door, blah, blah, blah – blah, blah, blah…AND LET ‘EM IN.” I don’t really recall John Travolta’s song – not surprisingly.

These days, iTunes has revived the .99 tradition (You can find my CD’s there: Dreher on iTunes). Somehow, though, I can’t imagine that today’s kids, clicking their way through a sale at iTunes on their parents’ credit card, will ever remember that transaction as fondly as I recall running down the street in 1976 with a few quarters and change clutched in my little hand on my way to a date with Paul McCartney…or John Travolta.

pmcartney.jpg jtravolta.jpg
An easy mistake to make….

Anyway, if you’re willing to step even a little further back than 30 years (and leave the 70’s for awhile) – if you’re willing to step, say 95 years back, there’s a treasure trove of music that’s absolutely free because it’s in the PUBLIC DOMAIN. That means it’s yours, it’s mine and most importantly, it’s our kids’. Think of all the great music – Stephen Foster’s stuff, “Oh Susannah,” “Camptown Races,” “Hard Times Come Again No More…” all public domain. “Frogie Went a Courtin -” public domain, “Frankie and Johnie – ” public domain, “All the Pretty Horses – ” public domain – you get the idea. There’s so much great stuff that you can sing, perform, record…for free.

Probably the best website that I’ve come across for Public Domain music is (appropriately enough) Public Not only has its founder, Benjamin Robert Tubb, listed hundreds of songs that are in the public domain, he’s tracked down lyrics and played them all in midi files!!! He’s got them catalogued by author, by genre and by year. If I weren’t a happily married man, I might just fall in love with the guy for all the efforts he’s made for the common good. You really need to check out his site. At minimum, you’ll get a few songs you can sing with your kids. Possibly, you get a major history lesson in the cultural trends that have shaped our country. Mr. Tubbs does go to great pains to point out that his performances of the songs are copyrighted. In other words, I can’t put them on my next CD. At the same time, he puts them all up for free – to listen to, download, take on a car ride…he’s my hero.

I might as well put in a shameless plug at this point. Since I just happened to mention my next CD, I thought I’d add that it will feature some great, and often unknown, public domain music. The whole project started when I found my great grandmother’s 1st grade school book – published in 1891. There were, of course, a bunch of songs in it, some well known, others lost in obscurity, all public domain. One jumped out, “Weaver John.” Here’s a demo of the song that I played with Gavin, my bassist and back-up singer, and Dave and Chris, my percussionists – Weaver John – you can listen for free.







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  1. […] it be the joy of waiting…saving up and finally being able to get something (remember my “Let Her In” post…) ? Wouldn’t it be better for her (the tooth fairy that is) to give Isabel $1 for each tooth, […]

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