Photo – Michael preparing for a video of the song. He’s sitting on a stool in front of a green screen. Later, a photo of one of Scotland’s highlands was inserted behind him.
The Battle of Culloden
Lyrics – The Battle of Culloden
In dark skies the fire flies Jacobite sons, bleed your compromise Wild eyes… so frightened On the Culloden Moor God rest their souls For when the righteous have fallen The highland winds will e’er cry their name And they will ne’er be forgotten Out of the dark… let the silence be blessed Red coats and sliced throats The musket and sword lay the lion to rest Sweet sound of silence After the ravaged blood has stained the land For the weary no vengeance As the savage cry stills their hand But they shall ne’er be forgotten Into the dark… they shall ne’er be alone Humm ditty ditty butty dum bitty butty ditty ditty Humm ditty butty dum ditty butty bum Humm ditty ditty butty dum bitty butty ditty ditty Humm ditty butty dum ditty butty bum Suilean làn eagal (Eyes full of fear) Leigeil fuil air an talamh (Bleeding on the Earth) Tha an teine a' fàs (The fire grows) Fiadhaich air an gaoithe (Fierce on the wind) The dear cost of life lost Nowhere to run from the freedom they seek The great young pretender A bonnie dear Prince they cry his name And they will never surrender Run toward the sword they die in vain When the final defender Goes into the dark… his name is written in stone Humm ditty ditty butty dum bitty butty ditty ditty Humm ditty butty dum ditty butty dum Humm ditty ditty butty dum bitty butty ditty ditty Humm ditty butty dum ditty butty dum The Making of a Song
This song is the serendipitous coincidence of a a few different elements coming together. It would not have happened if any of those elements were missing.
The ‘Outlander’, a Netflix series set mostly in 18th century Scotland had captured enough of my interest to warrant a little bit of historical research. I have never been to Scotland, but the affinity I feel for the wildly free and proud highlander is very real. I have a fanciful notion, not based on anything really, that some time long ago, perhaps very long ago, my ancestors lived there. Perhaps they were farmers.
I didn’t start out with the intention of writing a song about this particularly tragic moment in Scottish history but rarely will I sit down with a guitar and a plan to come up with a song. It just sort of happens while noodling around and exploring different rhythms. It just so happened that I had my guitar tuned to an open C chord that day which was the critical second element. From thick to thin string, this tuning goes C G C G C E. The early James Gang song ‘Garden Gate’ and Leo Kottke’s ‘Busted Bicycle’ are two examples of songs played in this tuning.
With season two came a history lesson on the Jacobites and their fight for independence from the British crown. I had just finished watching the poignantly tragic episode of the battle itself, but didn’t even realize I had begun to write a song with that theme until I started searching for a rhyming second line and the word ‘Jacobite’ appeared on the paper.
The third element that was looking for a way to manifest was a recently developed taste for Celtic flavoured music. I was thus compelled to find a powerful female vocalist who could do it justice. In my opinion, this song would not have worked without Melanie’s vocals.
The Gaelic bridge section does not mean that I speak Gaelic, but it does lend a more authentic feel than say Chinese or Swahili would. Language is a truly fascinating study, each one intimately entwined with the history of a geographical area. It is my hope that this song conveys an emotion that might resonate with a modern day highlander whose ears might happen to catch it. It is my hope that it might be appreciated by whoever might be listening to it through Stephanie’s blog.
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