Song Of The Week: “The Battle Of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton

More sneaky learning. “The Battle Of New Orleans,” written by a high school principal with a love of history, pre-dates Schoolhouse Rock by almost 15 years, but shares the same basic idea: take a subject most kids would find boring, simplify it, and make it catchy.

While the lyrics are not as in-depth as those of Schoolhouse Rock, we can still learn a few things. Such as, when was the Battle of New Orleans fought? 1814. (Nope, 1815. Seriously, if you’re going to mention only one date in a historical song, it really should be the actual date of the event.) Who led the American troops? Colonel Andrew Jackson. What was his nickname? Old Hickory. Who did we fight? The “bloody” British. When the cannons melted, what did the American soldiers use as a replacement? Alligators. (Okay, the writer strays from the path of cold, hard “facts” here. As far as we know.) Who won? The Americans, obviously; otherwise, we here in the States would all be speaking English, wouldn’t we? (The Redcoats—lacking lizard technology—were doomed to failure.)

Though many artists have covered “The Battle Of New Orleans” over the years, Johnny Horton’s 1959 version remains the most famous. It spent six weeks at #1 on the Billboard chart that year and topped the Country chart, as well. Unfortunately, Horton didn’t have long to enjoy his success. He had a couple more sizable hits in the historical vein, but just over a year after achieving mainstream success, Johnny Horton died when a drunk driver slammed head first into his car. Horton was only 35. He left behind him a fine collection of rockabilly and country songs well worth checking out.

Since that’s a downer way to end a post, let’s finish up with this fun fact: in 1986, Dwight Yoakum had a big hit with Horton’s own “Honky Tonk Man” —it was the first country video played on MTV.

Johnny Horton – Battle of New Orleans

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