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The Sinking of the Reuben James

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Written  1941-1942
Language  English
Published  1942
Composer(s)  (Wildwood Flower) Joseph Philbrick Webster
Lyricist(s)  Woody Guthrie, Fred Hellerman

The Sinking of the Reuben James” is a song by Woody Guthrie about the sinking of the U.S. convoy escort, the Reuben James, which was the first U.S. naval ship sunk by German U-boats in World War II. Woody Guthrie had started to write a song including each name on the casualty list of the sinking. This was later replaced by the chorus “tell me what were their names.”

The song is set to the melody of Wildwood Flower, an antebellum tune by Joseph Philbrick Webster.


  • The Almanac Singers on Dear Mr. President 1942
  • Will Geer on Bound for Glory 1958
  • The Weavers on At Carnegie Hall, Volume 2 1960
  • Johnny Horton on Johnny Horton Sings History 1960
  • Oscar Brand on Every Inch a Sailor 1960
  • Kingston Trio on Close-Up 1961
  • The Chad Mitchell Trio on Reflecting 1963
  • Jon Mark and Alun Davies on Relax Your Mind 1963
  • Cisco Houston on Cisco Houston sings the songs of Woody Guthrie 1963
  • James Talley on Woody Guthrie and Songs of My Oklahoma Home 1999
  • Folk Family Robinson on Songs of America (2007). Folk Family Robinson is Chris and Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes and their father Stan Robinson.
  • Country Joe McDonald on Thinking of Woody Guthrie 1969
  • References

    The Sinking of the Reuben James Wikipedia

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