Did Arcade Fire Record an Old Civil War Tune for the Hunger Games Soundtrack?

Slate's Culture Blog
Feb. 15 2012 5:09 PM

Did Arcade Fire Record This Old Civil War Song for the Hunger Games Soundtrack?

hunger_games_trailer_can_this_much_anticipated_adaptation_win_th1321289616322
A still of Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games.

Earlier this week, the track list for the Hunger Games soundtrack was unveiled, along with a new song from the compilation by the Decemberists (which you can hear below) and a new music video for Taylor Swift’s lead track, “Safe and Sound.” As those two names suggest, the soundtrack is largely a combination of rootsy indie and country songs—fittingly, given the Appalachian origins of Hunger Games hero Katniss Everdeen. (Kid Cudi is also on the soundtrack for some reason.)

Among the soundtrack’s most high-profile contributors is Arcade Fire, who recorded a song called “Abraham’s Daughter” for the album just last week, reportedly. It has not yet been released, but an Arcade Fire fan site reported on Facebook that this will be a “real Arcade Fire song … that very much fits with the film” and may run over the end credits. By “real Arcade Fire song,” the poster presumably intends to distinguish the track from the orchestral piece that Win Butler and Régine Chassagne also composed for the film.

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But will it be a new song? “Abraham’s Daughter” is the name of an old Civil War tune by Septimus Winner, a great 19th-century songwriter who is also responsible for “Ten Little Indians” and “Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?” And the lyrics for his “Abraham’s Daughter” (which was also called “Raw Recruits”) would seem to suit the storyline of The Hunger Games very well.

“Abraham’s Daughter” is sung by someone who has volunteered to fight for the Union in the American Civil War (“Abraham’s Daughter” refers to the union itself). In The Hunger Games, the U.S. has had another civil war, leading to a dystopic future in which the government of a new nation, called Panem, selects “tributes” who must fight to the death each year as punishment for an earlier revolt. “And if they call upon this child,” the narrator of “Abraham’s Daughter” sings, “I’ze bound to die a martyr.” When Katniss’s younger sister is selected as a tribute, Katniss volunteers to take her place. While Septimus Winner’s narrator is “tired of a city life,” Katniss, too, hates life in the Capitol.

Has Arcade Fire brought Septimus Winner into the 21st century? We may not know until late March, when the soundtrack is released. But the band is almost certainly at least nodding to Winner and the Civil War with their song title. And in the meantime, you can hear the new Decemberists’ song, “One Engine,” below.

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.

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