The Soldier's Sweetheart Jimmie Rodgers, widely viewed as the father of country music, was born on 8 September 1897, in Meridian, Mississippi.
by Jimmie Rodgers
After many years working as a railroad brakeman, Rodgers, self taught in banjo, ukele and guitar, had his sights set on a musical career. In 1924, although recently diagnosed with tuberculosis, he ignored his doctor's advice, and formed a group with his sister-in-law Elsie McWilliams and fiddler Slim Rozell. As singer and guitarist with the trio, Rodgers blended the sound of blues and commercial hillbilly music, developing a unique new form, which became known as "blue yodel".
In 1927, Rodgers attracted the attention of a talent scout for RCA Victor Records, with whom he made his first recordings later that year. Billed as the "Singing Brakeman" and the "Mississippi Blue Yodeler," Rodgers became a national star, with big hits like Sleep, Baby, Sleep, Blue Yodel, and The Soldier's Sweetheart. His career at the top was tragically short. Jimmie Rodgers died of a massive lung hemorrhage on 26 May 1933; he was only 35 years old.
As recounted by Jimmie Rodger's wife Carrie, the story goes that this song was one of his first compositions, written during the war in tribute to his friend Sammie Williams, who had kissed his sweetheart goodbye and sailed to France where he was killed in action. It was a great hit with his fellow railroad workers, and his friends but it was not until 4 August 1927 that the song was finally recorded at Jimme's first ever session for RCA Victor.
It's a simple, sentimental country ballad, but it suited the times. The words are reproduced below, and you also hear the original recording .
Once I had a sweetheart,
A sweetheart brave and true.
His hair was dark and curly,
His loving eyes were blue.
He told me that he loved me,
And he often proved it so.
And he often came to see me,
When the ev'ning sun was low.
But fate took him away
To this awful German war,
And when he came to say goodbye,
My heart did overflow.
He says, "Goodbye, little darling,
To France I must go."
He takes the golden finger ring
and he placed it on my hand,
Said, "Remember me, little darling,
When I'm in no man's land.
He promised he would write to me,
That promise he's kept true.
And when I read this letter, friend,
I pray the war is through.
The second letter I got from him,
The war was just ahead.
The third one, wrote by his captain,
My darling dear was dead.
I'll keep all of his letters,
I'll keep his gold ring, too.
And I'll always live a single life
For the soldier who was so true.