George R. Poulton, celebrated musician and composer, was born in Cricklade, Nr Cirencester, (Wilts), England in 1828. He was baptised in St Mary's Church and was raised in the town until the age of seven when his parents, Charles and Hannah Poulton, emigrated to Lansingburgh, New York. George Poulton's descendants still have connections with the little Saxon town of Cricklade.
In 1861, George Poulton composed the tune "Aura Lee" - one of the most popular tunes of the 19th Century which became a famous American Civil War song and later became popular with college glee clubs and barbershop quartets. It was also sung at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.
It is said[by whom?] that during the Civil War, this song was one of the best with lyrics/poetry by W. W. Fosdick, esq., and was popular with both Union and Confederate soldiers. It is also said, that often during the night, when both armies were camped within earshot of each other and the song 'Aura Lea' was struck up by one side, the other side would join in. Such moments of camaraderie would have them harmonizing together, with thoughts of home and loved ones. However, such musical interludes were all too brief, for all too soon the horrors of war would return to divide them.
Whilst the legacy of this tune lives on, W. W. Fosdick's original lyrics were changed. No longer the poetry of: 'As the blackbird in the spring, Neath the willow tree, Sat and piped I heard him sing, Sing of Aura Lea', but rather a song-lyric for the 'Vinyl & Film' age.
For in 1956 the song (now in the public domain) would have its name changed to 'Love me tender' and would be credited to Elvis Presley and Vera Matson (It is said due to royalty issues). The new lyrics, however, were written by Ken Darby, the American Academy Award and Grammy Award winning composer and conductor. When Ken Darby was asked why he credited his wife (Vera Matson) as co-songwriter along with Elvis Presley, he responded, 'Because she didn't write it either'.
Whilst it cannot be denied that Elvis' version reached millions and indeed inspired many other great singers to give it their all, a respectful credit to its original melody maker would have not gone amiss. Thankfully many others have not been as shy in giving credit where credit is due.
In 1867, only six years after writing 'Aura Lea', George R Poulton died, aged only forty-eight.
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