William Billings

William Billings (1746-1800), was a composer of the early American primitive style, whose works have become an integral part of the American folksong. A tanner by trade, he was self-taught in music. Among his friends were prominent figures from the American Revolution—including Samuel Adams and Paul Revere.

Billing’s compositions include hymns, anthems, psalms and fuging tunes. His music is noted for its rhythmic vitality, freshness, and straightforward harmonies. His music included The Lord Is Risen Indeed, the grief of David’s Lamentation, to the humor of the secular song Modern Music, and the canon When Jesus Wept. Some of his songs were among the most popular of early American hymns.

Although missing both an eye and a leg, Billings was active as an itinerant singing master and was influential in furthering the singing-school tradition of American folk culture. His major publications include The New-England Psalm-Singer (1770), The Singing Master’s Assistance (1778), and The Continental Harmony (1794).

Source: William Billings
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