Bonaparte’s Retreat (William Steppe)
This is an online fiddle lesson for the bluegrass song "Bonaparte's Retreat" in the style of William Steppe.
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Genre: Old Time
Skill Level: Intermediate
Key of D
Tuning: DDAD (Dead Man's Tuning)
You may download and use any of the MP3s and tablature for your personal use. However, please do not make them available online or otherwise distribute them.
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Video #1: Here is a video of me playing the song "Bonaparte's Retreat" in the style of William Steppe.
"Bonaparte's Retreat" is the name of two related songs. The original was a wordless melody that existed as various fiddle tunes dating back to at least the late 1800s and probably well before that. In 1950, American country music artist Pee Wee King recorded a modified version of the song, with lyrics added, which he also called "Bonaparte's Retreat". This latter song has been covered by many country artists.
The title of the original "Bonaparte's Retreat" is an apparent reference to Napoleon Bonaparte's disastrous retreat from Russia in 1812, and some earlier British folk songs told of that event.
In 1937, American ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax, while traveling through Kentucky, recorded violinist William Hamilton Stepp playing "Bonaparte's Retreat." This recording was inducted in 2016 into the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry.