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?

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.


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.



Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?