Debunking the Wesley Tavern Song Myth

Dean McIntyre writes: There is a popular misconception that continues to survive among United Methodists that John and Charles Wesley made use of tavern, drinking, or bar songs, as melodies for their hymns. The same is often heard of the great reformer and musician, Martin Luther. This claim is sometimes made to show the extent of their evangelistic zeal; namely, that they would go out into the secular culture, even into the taverns, saloons, and parlors frequented by the sinners they sought to redeem and make use of the musical language, the familiar drinking song tunes, for their own sacred hymns. The claim continues to be made today by some musicians, pastors, worship leaders, composers, and hymn writers. Unfortunately, this is a misapplication of a historical inaccuracy.

Read more here: Did the Wesleys Really Use Drinking Song Tunes for Their Hymns? by Dean McIntyre

And: Of particular importance for the reader to keep in mind is the distinction between the use of SECULAR music as hymn tunes — a practice that the Wesleys did occasionally use — and the use of DRINKING TUNES or SALOON SONGS as hymn tunes — a practice that they did not use. Here follows a number of statements to contribute to the debunking of the Wesley tavern song myth…

Read more here: Debunking the Wesley Tavern Song Myth by Dean McIntyre

And one more resource:

Debunking the Drinking Song Myth: A Mighty Fortress
QUESTION: If Martin Luther DID NOT make use of drinking or tavern tunes for his hymns, then what is the original context of “A Mighty Fortress” and its tune, EIN’ FESTE BURG?

Dean McIntyre serves as Director, Music Resources, for the General Board of Discipleship of the United Methodist Church.


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