Life is a Book That We Study…

My mother (born early 1940s) told me that she sang “My Buddy” – music by Walter Donaldson, Lyrics by Gus Kahn – in elementary school. It is considered a World War I song – I have a nice “straight” rendition on a CD entitled Over There! Songs From America’s Wars, sung by Jon English. Actually, it was released in 1922, but it certainly seems to draw on the grief felt over the loss of so many young men in that war. Some people interpret it as sung by a man over his lost war comrade; but to me, even though it has been sung by many male singers,  it sounds like the thoughts of a young woman missing a man who’s gone off to war – though possibly more of a “crush” than a full-fledged romance. My interpretation is supported by one of the early sheet music illustrations.

Here is a version by the Canadian singer Henry Burr:

My Buddy

Life is a book that we study.
Some of its leaves bring a sigh.
There it was written, my Buddy,
that we must part, you and I…

Nights are long since you went away.
I think about you all through the day,
My buddy, my buddy,
Nobody quite so true.
Miss your voice, the touch of your hand-
Just long to know that you understand,
My buddy, my buddy,
Your buddy misses you.

Buddies through all of the gay days.
Buddies when something went wrong.
I wait alone through the gray days,
missing your smile and your song…

Nights are long since you went away.
I think about you all through the day
My buddy, my buddy,
Nobody quite so true.
Miss your voice, the touch of your hand-
Just long to know that you understand,
My buddy, my buddy,
Your buddy misses you.

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8 Responses to Life is a Book That We Study…

  1. Will says:

    This rings true. My grandparents were courting in the early ‘twenties and in their earliest letters sometimes called each other “buddy.” “Pal” was used the same way–as in, for instance, the song “Darling Pal of Mine.”

  2. stephenhopewell says:

    Will, thanks for sharing this. Interesting that these words became more “masculine” later. Also, I think it was quite common to sing a song written in the voice of the opposite gender.

  3. Paulina says:

    What a song! I am not sure that we have a word in spanish for “buddy”. ¿Compañero? ¿Cuate? No, I think we do not have a word as buddy…

    • stephenhopewell says:

      Paulina, thanks for the comment. I do not know much Spanish but your translation is interesting. Anyway, the word would not be used this way in a song today. (Actually, what I notice these days is that American parents call their young children “buddy” affectionately.)

  4. Paulina says:

    I think we would say “amigo”. It’s a precious song, thanks for sharing, I’ve heard it 20 times or more…

  5. Velia Nonamaker

    My mother (born early 1940s) told me that she sang

  6. Pamela A. Batty says:

    I decided to look up the lyrics to this song because my father died on 9/17/2014. This song came to me and I find it comforting. My grandmother used to sing this song alot. She died 5/30/1991. Until now, the song only reminded my of her, but know it has a different meaning. I think she used to sing it alot because she missed my grandfather who died, 12/11/1963. Thank you for putting this up. I look at other sites which claimed to have the lyrics, I believe this is the only site that has them right. Thank you again.

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