“A Mighty Fortress is Our Tavern”?????


My wife will tell you that I have a special skill that is totally useless. I can take almost any popular tune and rewrite the lyrics in almost a split second. I especially love to take cherished love ballads and recast them into the farcical drivel that they truly deserve. Somewhat related is the common misnomer that many of the great hymns were actually pub songs from the old country rewritten with a more biblical lyric. Someone even told me once (with a straight face) that “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” was originally a bar tune. The wife and I once saw the lapsed Lutheran, Garrison Keilor, at the Hollywood Bowl where we sang the old song in German right after he repeated the same historical faux paux. Thankfully Gene Edward Veith sets the historical record straight,

“For the record, Luther did not take “bar tunes” and put biblical words to them. That legend comes from a comical misunderstanding. Someone apparently heard a music historian referring to Luther’s use of the “bar form,” which refers to a stanza structure, not to what drunks sing in a tavern. Luther did borrow and adapt tunes from earlier hymns, medieval chants, and contemporary composers, but a good number of his melodies were his own original compositions.”

See the full article here.

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One response to this post.

  1. Jerry:

    Enjoyed your comments on cessationism. Related to this post, I have heard from at least two sources that GK was brought up as a Plymouth Brethren
    http://prairiehome.forum.publicradio.org/article.pl?sid=06/01/25/0852228#112381
    so not too far afield from some aspects of where you are at.

    Bill Isley

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