I grew up in Kingsville, Texas, a little farming and ranching community of 23,000 people. My family were typical country (and western) music fans, so I learned the Texas two-step, country line dancing, how to dance while actually touching your dancing partner, and similar things. However, when I was by myself, I usually preferred pop music, rock & roll, and, since I played the piano and violin, classical music. However, one of my favorite country artists at the time (and still), Marty Robbins, was well represented on my listening list.
I still have a wide interest in all types of music, except hip hop and rap (don’t like the lyrics, if that’s what you can call them). As I was trying to think about what to do for today’s Music on Mondays, history came to the rescue. From my daily email sent to me by history.com:
On this day in 1836, in San Antonio, Texas, Colonel William Travis issued a call for help on behalf of the Texan troops defending the Alamo, an old Spanish mission and fortress under attack by the Mexican army.
On February 23, 1836, a large Mexican force commanded by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana arrived suddenly in San Antonio. Travis and his troops took shelter in the Alamo, where they were soon joined by a volunteer force led by Colonel James Bowie.
Though Santa Ana’s 5,000 troops heavily outnumbered the several hundred Texans, Travis and his men determined not to give up. On February 24, they answered Santa Ana’s call for surrender with a bold shot from the Alamo’s cannon. Furious, the Mexican general ordered his forces to launch a siege. Travis immediately recognized his disadvantage and sent out several messages via couriers asking for reinforcements. Addressing one of the pleas to “The People of Texas and All Americans in the World,” Travis signed off with the now-famous phrase “Victory or Death.”
Only 32 men from the nearby town of Gonzales responded to Travis’ call for help, and beginning at 5:30 a.m. on March 6, Mexican forces stormed the Alamo through a gap in the fort’s outer wall, killing Travis, Bowie and 190 of their men. Despite the loss of the fort, the Texan troops managed to inflict huge losses on their enemy, killing at least 600 of Santa Ana’s men.
The brave defense of the Alamo became a powerful symbol for the Texas revolution, helping the rebels turn the tide in their favor. At the crucial Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 910 Texan soldiers commanded by Sam Houston defeated Santa Ana’s army of 1,250 men, spurred on by cries of “Remember the Alamo!” The next day, after Texan forces captured Santa Ana himself, the general issued orders for all Mexican troops to pull back behind the Rio Grande River. On May 14, 1836, Texas officially became an independent republic.
And with that, I present to you Marty Robbins and his hit from 1960, “Ballad of the Alamo.”
In the southern part of Texas
In the town of San Antone
There’s a fortress all in ruins that the weeds have overgrown
You may look in vain for crosses and you’ll never see a-one
But sometimes between the setting and the rising of the sun
You can hear a ghostly bugle
As the men go marching by
You can hear them as they answer
To that roll call in the sky.
Colonel Travis, Davy Crockett, and a hundred eighty more
Captain Dickinson, Jim Bowie
Present and accounted for.
Back in 1836, Houston said to Travis
“Get some volunteers and go
Fortify the Alamo.”
Well the men came from Texas
And from old Tennessee
And they joined up with Travis
Just to fight for the right to be free.
Indian scouts with squirrel guns
Men with muzzle-loaders
Stood together, heel and toe
To defend the Alamo.
“You may ne’er see your loved ones,”
Travis told them that day
“Those who want to can leave now
Those who fight to the death let ‘em stay.”
In the sand he drew a line
With his army sabre
Out of a hundred eighty five
Not a soldier crossed the line
With his banners a-dancin’
In the dawn’s golden light
Santa Anna came prancing
On a horse that was black as the night.
Sent an officer to tell
Travis to surrender
Travis answered with a shell
And a rousing rebel yell
Santa Anna turned scarlet
“Play deguello!” he roared
“I will show them no quarter
Every one will be put to the sword!”
One hundred and eighty five
Holding back five thousand
Five days, six days, eight days, ten
Travis held and held again
Then he sent for replacements
For his wounded and lame
But the troops that were coming
Never came, never came, never came…
Twice he charged and blew recall
On the fatal third time
Santa Anna breached the wall
And he killed ‘em, one and all
Now the bugles are silent
And there’s rust on each sword
And the small band of soldiers…
Lie asleep in the arms of the Lord…
In the southern part of Texas
Near the town of San Antone
Like a statue on his pinto rides a cowboy all alone
And he sees the cattle grazing where a century before
Santa Anna’s guns were blazing and the cannons used to roar
And his eyes turn sorta misty
And his heart begins to glow
And he takes his hat off slowly…
To the men of Alamo.
To the thirteen days of glory
At the siege of Alamo…
Hip hop and rap should study Marty Robbins (and others) to learn how to write lyrics.
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