Bony on the Isle. of St. Helena
8. Bony on the Isle of St. Helena
(traditional, arr. Uncle Earl/© 2006 Smokin Granny Music, ASCAP)

Beethoven originally dedicated his Third Symphony to Napoleon Bonaparte. But when the French general decided to crown himself Emperor, Beethoven tore up the dedication. The hopeful idealism of the early years of Bonaparte's reign helps explains why so many songs were written to mark its eventual excess and failure. Having attained a position of ultimate power, Napoleon Bonaparte nevertheless spent the last six years of his life sick and alone, a prisoner of the British Army on the remote southern Atlantic island of St. Helena. Our version of this 19th century “pop song” comes from a handful of sources, including the shape note piece (see above) and also a 1940 field recording of North Carolina singer Charles Tillet (see Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still: The Warner Collection Volume 1, Appleseed 1035). I'm grateful to our friend Aoife O'Donovan for pointing me towards the song in the first place and to Keith Murphy for his beautiful version on the album Bound for Canaan. – KA

Fiddle: fcfc
Banjo: fFCFG
(lead vocal & guitar: KA; harmonies: all; mandolin: KCG; fiddle: RG; banjo: AW; bass: EY)