Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Favorite Versions of Auld Lang Syne and Other Music

Scottish poet Robert Burns got the traditional part from an old man he once heard singing it, then he improved upon it, writing verses three and four.  The part we like best is an ancient toast, then.  We'll take a cup of kindness yet, for Auld Lang Syne.

The playlist below is simply grand, full of versions you'll want to play again and again.

1.   I like to start off with John McDermott's very masculine version, in an Irish accent.  Subdued and very deliberate, and then there is that lovely violin solo.

2.  James Taylor.  My favorite American version.  Acoustic guitar and piano and laid back vocal.

3.  Yo-Yo Ma's version, in duet with Chris Botti's muted trumpet.  Botti draws the last notes out sadly, as if this were taps on a bugle.  Yo-Yo Ma's track title is "Dona Nobis Pacem (Give Us Peace)," but the heart of it is Auld Lang Syne.

4.  Manheim Steamroller plays it slowly, a chorus humming then singing in the background.  Thoughtful and sad, it is.  I think my wife and I could dance to this one.

5.  Susan Boyle.  I really like both this arrangement and Boyle's phrasing.  For one thing, she contracts "my dear" into "m'dear," and it is very nice that way.

6.  Guy Lombardo and Glenn Miller, two different big band versions of the traditional song you usually can't hear for the fireworks.  Lombardo is given credit for making the song so popular in America.  Icons fade in the popular memory, but the song of remembering goes on.

7.  Dan Fogleberg.  "Same Old Lang Syne," the same only very different.

8.  Chris Issak.  Another one I like a bit, although it is slow and quite short, using only one verse.  And he says "my friend" instead of "my dear."

9.  Kenny G.  Another good one to slow dance to, or at least to move from side to side on a crowded dance floor.  A sad saxophone.  Seems to me I've heard it hundreds of times, but mostly at the end of Dan Fogelberg's "Same Old Lang Syne."

We drank a toast to innocence,
We drank a toast to now,
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness
But neither one knew how.

We drank a toast to innocence,
We drank a toast to time,
Reliving in our eloquence
Another 'Auld Lang Syne.'

10.  A downloaded version sung by Susan McKeown will sound different to you in a good way.  A splendid arrangement that sounds somehow traditional, even if it isn't.

11.  Maria Carey.  Disco, and very loud disco.  Good for dancing, but not for singing or thinking about old times.  It includes a countdown to midnight.

12.  Marc Anthony or Bobby Darin.  "Christmas Auld Lang Syne," which changes the lyrics entirely and makes the year revolve around Christmas and gratitude to God.  Some other artists have covered this since, and I like it more every time I hear it.
When mistletoe and tinsel glow
Paint a yuletide valentine
Back home i go to those i know
For a christmas auld lang syne

13.  I can't leave out the live version by Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin in duet.  These two are both as dead as Jacob Marley, and their lively voices remind us that it was not so long ago that they were among us, and that it will not be so long until we are dead too.  We need to remember that and to cherish each day like New Year's Day. 

Other music natural for New Year's Eve:

1. I Understand (Auld Lang Syne) by Herman's Hermits.  A love unrequited song I liked when I was young.  "Auld Lang Syne" is sung in the background as a counter melody and it works.

2. My Dear Acquaintance (A Happy New Year) by Peggy Lee.  This is the older, experienced Peggy Lee, and she is a delight.  Much my favorite version of this song.

3. My Dear Acquaintance (A Happy New Year) by Regina Spektor.  This version features the sound of guns and warplanes in the background, giving the lyrics a less general meaning.  In the last verse, she substitutes the word "young" for "kind," excluding those kindly but old.  No matter; Spektor's little girl voice is a part of her charm.  It's as if Spektor and and Janet Evancho got their voices switched somehow back at the factory.

My dear acquaintance
it's so good to know you,
the strength of your hand
that is loving and giving
and happy new year
with love overflowing
with joy in our hearts
for the blessed new year.

Raise your glass and we'll have a cheer
For all of us who are gathered here.
And happy new year to all that is living,
to all that is gentle, kind, and forgiving.

My dear acquaintance,
a happy new year!


  1. What a delightfully ecclectic set of versions! I'll take Regina Spector. It's such a strange song. I have mixed emotions about it. soemtimes I think I just don't like it. and others I'm vrysentimental about it's existence. I like when its playing at the end of "When Harry Met Sally". Perfect.

    "My whole life. what does this song mean?"

  2. Thanks for dropping by, Candy. I drop in on your blog quite often.

    To me, the song is a moment of mindfulness. Which is what a toast is, isn't it. A moment to pause and consider, to rededicate ourselves to peace on earth and good will.

    Over at boyhowdy's cover blog,, they have another list of Auld Lang Syne covers, completely different from mine above, and they are (at least for now) availble for free download. Just left click with the mouse and select "save target as."

    The one by Kate and James Taylor is quite nice.

  3. "These two are both as dead as Jacob Marley"

    Stupid comment. The dead are dead, let them R.I.P and Marley was fictional.