Wednesday, May 20, 2009

An artifact from the early 1960s: The Duke's Men of Yale on the New Frontier

Some time ago, a friend who is an alumnus of two Yale a capella groups, the Duke’s Men and the Whiffenpoofs, gave me a multi-CD compilation that he had produced of recordings by “Da Doox” going back to the early 1950s. One of the songs on the first disc is “New Frontier,” which pokes fun at JFK, Camelot, and (of course) Harvard, and which the Duke’s Men first recorded in 1963. The song is interrupted by a monologue in which one member of the group does a more-than-passable Kennedy imitation. Although the flavor of the song cannot be captured entirely by the lyrics alone -- indeed, the music and the lyrics are very well matched -- I thought the lyrics in themselves were clever and evocative of the period. And in light of what happened in November 1963, the last lines take on a certain poignancy. So here are the lyrics.

New Frontier
First recorded by the Duke’s Men of Yale in 1963
Music and lyrics by
Carl Kaestle and Gurney Williams
(Lyrics reproduced by permission)

We sing of the pioneers of old
Who ventured forth so brave and bold
Far from their rightful homes so dear
They slept beneath the stars on the old frontier
And the rocky campground’s peaceful glow
Cheered the hearts and souls of the men below.

But the old frontier is dying
The old frontier is gone.
Yet behold the low clouds passing
To hail another dawn.
Yes it’s a new frontier
Put your money on the sunny boy from Hyannis
Hail to the sod where Kennedy trod
A hunter on the new frontier.

Oh we love the walls of ivy
That surround the new frontier
[JFK monologue]
Jack is the king of the new frontier
Jack is the fellow who makes folks cheer
Massachusetts' favorite son
Hah-vad moved to Wa-shing-ton.
And though he began as the un-der-dog
Now he's considered a vi-tal cog.
Let John Harvard fade a-way
Jack Harvard's here to stay.
It’s young Jack Harvard so shout hoo-ray Hooray-hoo_eee.

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