Why the Hell is Everyone Singing “Auld Lang Syne” Tonight? (BONUS: A Brand New Death Metal Version!)

Everyone’s done it: the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve and everyone launches into “Auld Lang Syne,” a global tradition, which, by the way, was ushered in by Canadian Guy Lombardo.

But why is this song from the 1950s (based on a Robbie Burns poem from 1788) the official song of New Year’s? What does the song even try to say?

First, let’s look at the lyrics.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

And days of auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my dear

For auld lang syne

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet

For auld lang syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

And days of auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my dear

For auld lang syne

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet

For auld lang syne

The first thing you should know is that “auld lang syne” means “For the sake of old times.” Second, let’s go to The Telegraph for more.

The Scottish Bard wrote many wonderful pieces of original verse, but this was not among them. Instead, he was the first person to write down a much older Scottish folk song. In 1788 he sent a copy of the song to his friend, Mrs Agnes Dunlop, exclaiming: “There is more of the fire of native genius in it than in half a dozen of modern English Bacchanalians!” Five years later he sent it to James Johnson, who was compiling a book of old Scottish songs, The Scottish Musical Museum, with an explanation: “The following song, an old song, of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man.”

Keep reading. Once you’re done, try this melodic death metal version of the song.

 

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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