McKinley's Rag Song-Writing Project

BACKGROUND

People around the United States understandably were shocked when they learned that President McKinley had been assassinated in Buffalo. Memorial services were held, eulogies were given, and statues were erected. But perhaps one of the most intersting reactions to McKinley's death was the way that the President was memorialized in song. The most famous of the songs was called "McKinley's Rag." Adopting the tune of a popular folk song of the day, "McKinley's Rag" told the story of the assassination from an eyewitness perspective and then followed the train carrying the President's body back "from Buffalo to Washington." The song was played by numerous musicians across the country and, as was the custom of the day, each singer altered the lyrics and adjusted the melody and tempo however he or she saw fit. Eventually, what had been "McKinley's Rag" grew into several distinct songs. These included: "White House Blues" (which told the story from the perspective of Mrs. McKinley), "Zolgotz" (which was addressed to the assassin), "Cannonball Blues" (which was a story of lost love that retained only the melody and the line "from Buffalo to Washington"), "Hard Times" and "Solid Gone" (which are almost totally unrelated to "McKinley's Rag."

THE CHALLENGE

Your task, should you choose to accept it and you must accept it (if you don't want to write the take-home essay), is to become a troubadour of the early twentieth century and write new words to the original song (examples of the different versions are found below). The topic can be about any topic or issue involving either Progressivism or Imperialism, but it should retain the same basic rhythm and rhyme scheme. This is your opportunity to demonstrate your mastery of the material and yur creativity. Accordingly, the new song can be funny, sad, or poignant, but it must not be offensive and it have some educational value. Mr. Laskowski will collect all of the songs, and the best ones will be posted on this page.

GRADING

This assignment will be worth a grand total of twenty points, which will be assigned as follows:

10 points--Educational value of the song

5 points--Mainitining proper song structure including length, rhythm and rhyme scheme

5 points--Creativity

Happy singing!

THE SONGS

McKinley's Rag Cannonball Blues
White House Blues (version 1) Zolgotz (White House Blues)
Hard Times (White House Blues) White House Blues (version 4)
White House Blues (version 5) White House Blues (version 6)