Red Wing

  • songfacts ®
  • "Red Wing" is also sometimes known as "Red Wing Polka" (being in 2/4 time); although it sounds like a traditional song, it was actually written as recently as 1907; with music by Frederick Allen (Kerry) Mills (1869-1948) and lyrics by Thurland Chattaway, this is a song that shows the reverence with which the original inhabitants of the Americas were held by those who displaced them.
  • The original sheet music by F.A. Mills of New York (its composer) alludes to it as An Indian Intermezzo. The melody is actually adapted from a classical piece, "The Happy Farmer" by Robert Schumann, something many contemporary writers have done, for example Al Stewart with "Palace Of Versailles" and "Rocks In The Ocean", and perhaps most famously Procol Harum with "A Whiter Shade Of Pale".
  • Lyrically, "Red Wing" is a song in the same vein as "The Ash Grove" or "The Unquiet Grave" although without the supernatural connection of the latter. Squaw Red Wing is weeping for her love, who perished in battle. It has to be said it loses a little in translation, "brave and gay" does not mean quite the same thing in the 21st Century as it did at the turn of the 20th.
  • "Red Wing" is a beautiful melody although one of its most memorable performances is anything but melodic; it is sung a capella by a drunken John Wayne and Lee Marvin in the 1961 film The Commancheros. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for all above
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