Memory Lane: ‘Oleanna’

This came out in 1959, and soon us kids were singing it at YMCA summer camp. The mess hall rang with it: Oleanna, a Norwegian-American folk song. This version’s by the great Theodore Bikel, plus Israeli folksinger Geula Gill.

Yes, this song was sung by those eccentric people who came here legally, embraced their new country, took pride in becoming Americans, and never demanded to be rewarded for breaking immigration laws. They learned to sing our songs, we learned to sing theirs, and the songs wound up belonging to all of us.

(Inane Y camp memory: Kid to counselor: “Bruce put a boogie in the Kool-Ade, I seen him!” Counselor bops his against the table. Some people will do anything to pay their way through college–but maybe that’s ancient history, too.)