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Last songs that were played while the Titanic sank

The front page of The New York Times April 15, 1912 edition details the sinking of the RMS Titanic at the opening of the “Titanic at 100: Myth and Memory” exhibition on April 10, 2012 in New York City. (Photo credit: Getty images)

By: Vibhuti Pathak

Mysterious things always attract people’s attention, Titanic is a mystery, and history is something that people still read about. On this day, April 15, 1912, people are still reading of one of the greatest ship wreckages, the Titanic wreck after 112 years.

There have been many stories of the survivors who were recorded after they managed to escape the accident. Many of them have mentioned that they heard the band of the ship playing music till the last of them survived.

Amidst the chaos, a haunting soundtrack played on, provided by the ship’s orchestra led by violinist Wallace Hartley.

The night the Titanic sank, bandleader Wallace Hartley and his musicians bravely played on, calming passengers as the ship went down. Their heroism became a legend, though the final song remains a mystery. Nearer, My God, to Thee is widely accepted, but some believe it was Autumn.

In 2013, a violin found in an attic, with Hartley’s initials and an inscription from his fiancee, was confirmed as his instrument. Experts believe it was the one played on the fateful night. The discovery came after years of investigation, including analysis of the engraving and a CT scan to examine the violin’s construction.

One survivor, Vera Dick, claimed to hear the sombre strains of the hymn Nearer My God To Thee as her lifeboat drifted away from the sinking ship.

This evidence, along with a telegram from Hartley’s fiancee mentioning the violin’s return, solidified its authenticity. The violin, a powerful symbol of the band’s bravery, stands as a lasting testament to their sacrifice.

Survivors reported that the musicians played various tunes, from dance numbers to hymns, as the ship met its watery grave. But the identity of the final song performed remains an enduring mystery.

However, other testimony contradicts this account. Harold Bride, the Titanic’s radio operator, stated that the last song played was the melancholic Songe d’Automne, just before the ship went under.

Regardless of the discrepancies in witness statements, the music played during the ship’s final moments has left an indelible mark on history. This tale of the ship’s band performing while faced with their impending doom inspired countless musical compositions, including operas, musicals, and songs across various genres.

The story also spawned a wealth of folk songs that captured the Titanic’s tragic end. These ranged from Ernest Stoneman’s The Titanic to Leadbelly’s The Titanic, which focused on an urban legend involving boxer Jack Johnson’s denied passage due to racial discrimination. Another notable entry is Vernon Dalhart’s The Sinking of the Titanic, an evocative piece echoing the ship’s tragic fate.

Gospel guitarist Blind Willie Johnson’s eerie God Moves On The Water offers a haunting interpretation of the disaster, while Richard Rabbit Brown’s Sinking of the Titanic interweaves Nearer My God To Thee into its composition.

Even decades after the disaster, blues artists like Hi Henry Brown and Charley Jordan continued to pay tribute with “Titanic Blues,” showing the lasting impact of the event on American music.

Though James Cameron’s movie Titanic popularised Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On as the definitive song of the tragedy, the real soundtrack of the ship’s final moments remains an enigma, a poignant reminder of the human spirit amidst calamity.

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