Connections: Paul Revere, King Tut, Andy Griffith, Bob Dylan and Guys and Dolls

July 4th, 2012

Paul Revere rightly gets the credit, but he couldn’t have done it without Brown Beauty, the mare he borrowed for his midnight ride to warn the colonists that British soldiers were headed for Concord.

Steve Martin

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow immortalized Revere in his poem “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” but Steve Martin gives voice to Brown Beauty in his homage “Me and Paul Revere,” which he wrote and performed with his award-winning bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers on Tuesday, at Revere’s historic home in Boston.

Copley's portrait of Paul Revere

Martin, the comedian famously known for his “King Tut” performance on Saturday Night Live in 1978, is also a talented banjo player, as well as writer of fiction, music and lyrics, and art collector. His interest in Paul Revere was sparked by John Singleton Copley’s famous portrait of the silversmith that hangs in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, specifically because the artist portrayed Revere as “a working man with his sleeves rolled up, and it is just something that really wasn’t done (at that time)”

Later, after reading “Paul Revere’s Ride,” by David Hackett Fischer,” Martin decided to write “Me and Paul Revere,” as told from the perspective of the horse “to make it more interesting and entertaining.”

Broadway composer Frank Loesser famously wrote Paul Revere, albeit a racehorse, into the lyrics of opening number, “Horse Can Do,” the awarding winning musical “Guys and Dolls, which premiered in 1950 and was made into a movie starring Frank Sinatra and Marlon, in 1955.

Bob Dylan also invoked “Paul Revere’s Horse” in the first stanza of “Tombstone Blues,” a ballad he wrote and recorded during the turbulent 1960s (1965):

The sweet pretty things are in bed now, of course,
The city fathers they’re trying to endorse
The reincarnation of Paul Revere’s horse,
But the town has no need to be nervous.

Andy Griffith’s interpretation of Paul Revere’s ride, as told to Opie and his school buddies, and Deputy Barney Fife on the Andy Griffith in the early 1960’s, might be the most fitting and certainly the most poignant. Griffith died yesterday, July 3, at the age of 86.