Friday, July 15, 2011

Red Wing

“Red Wing” is a popular American song written in 1907 by Kerry Mills and lyricist Thurland Chattaway. The “A” part is adapted from Robert A. Schumann’s “The Happy Farmer.” Because of the success of “Hiawatha” five years earlier in 1902, Native American, or Indian-themed, compositions became fashionable with American audiences during the early 1900s. “Red Wing” achieved a folk song-like popularity, was embraced by Native American fiddlers as well as most fiddlers in all regions and was performed widely throughout the continent.

A 24-year-old girl from the Winnebago Reservation who, in the very same year “Red Wing” was written, became the first Native American film star, was probably the inspiration for the Indian maiden portrayed in the lyrics. Her name was Princess Redwing (1883-1974) aka Lillian St. Cyr. By 1915, Miss St. Cyr became Hollywood’s first critically acclaimed feature film actress. She sang “Red Wing” herself as early as 1914 in New York, and performed it as late as 1964 during an inter-tribal powwow held at Wyalusing Rocks, Pennsylvania.

There is also the town of Red Wing, Minnesota, named for its Mdewakanton Dakota Chief Red Wing which could have influenced the spelling Red Wing as two separate words.

From Book II of the O'Connor Method.

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