Connecting the dots of artistic inspiration: a musical family tree
“Old Mother Leary” may not have had a heavy influence on many of today’s top songs, but it certainly influenced Catherine O’Leary’s life. Many Chicagoans blamed O’Leary for the Great Fire, and when she died in 1895, she was allegedly heartbroken over the event.
The song itself was influenced by Theodore August Metz and Joseph Hayden’s ragtime classic “A Hot Time in the Old Town,” from which it borrows its music. While “Old Mother Leary” is primarily only sung by young schoolchildren and camp-goers these days, “A Hot Time in the Old Town” remained a favorite of jazz and blues singers like Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith well into the 20th century. Today the song remains popular as the fight song of several major American universities, including Texas A&M and Wisconsin.
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