Kenneth Roberts: College Fight Song Lyricist

Cornell "C" logoWhat do you know about Cornell University? Yes, it’s a university in New York. And yes, it is the alma mater of Andy Bernard from The Office (a fact of which he was very proud). If you’re a fan of Kenneth Roberts, you may even know that Cornell was his alma mater as well. But, did you know that Kenneth Roberts – while a student at Cornell – wrote the lyrics to some of Cornell’s fight songs? Well, he did – two songs, to be exact!

Kenneth Roberts (Class of 1908) penned the lyrics to Fight for Cornell (’07) and Carnelian & White (’06) (at least, he mentions only these two in his I Wanted to Write). And just as Kenneth Roberts’ novels have lived beyond Roberts’ own life, so has one of his Cornell songs – Fight for Cornell. 

The alumni page of Cornell’s website has a collection of current Cornell songs, among which is Fight for Cornell. Over 113 years after Roberts penned the lyrics, you can hear his words put into song. The alumni page provides MP3s for each song, which one can download for free here: https://alumni.cornell.edu/come-back/cornell-traditions/cornell-songs/#track-listing. Unfortunately, I cannot upload the MP3 to my site, so you’ll have to listen to the 1975 Cornell University Glee Club version of Fight for Cornell from Cornell’s site previously linked.

It’s amazing that the words of Kenneth Roberts put to song is still available to us today. Enjoy this unique treat – something other than Roberts’ novels that still lives on today. I close this post with the lyrics of Fight for Cornell. [P.S. I’ve not been able to find a recording of Carnelian & White – if I do come across it, rest assured I’ll write about it!]

Fight for Cornell
Words: Kenneth Roberts, Class of 1908
Music: Theodore Julius Lindorff, Class of 1907
Written: 1906

From rocky height
We come to fight
For the name Cornell has made,
And we will cheer
Without a fear
That her good name will ever fade.
Fight to the end,
Don’t break or bend
Until our team has won the game;
And fight for might, for right, for Cornell’s name
For the glory that brings us fame.

Refrain (2x)
Make all advances strong and sure today.
Take all the chances fate throws in the way.
Fight for the glory that is earned so well;
Victory makes history so fight for Cornell!

“Cornell Songs,” Cornell University Chorus, http://cuchorus.com/cornell-songs. Accessed 09 Jan 2020

 

Kenneth Roberts in the News: Prescott Evening Courier 1938 and Northwest Passage

Which Kenneth Roberts novel is your favorite? For me, it’s always been Rabble in Arms, followed by Northwest Passage and Oliver Wiswell tied for second. While Roberts published his first novel in 1930 (Arundel), he did not gain notoriety until after the publication of Northwest Passage (1937). So popular was the novel that it made the silver screen starring Spencer Tracey. (If I’ve read Roberts correctly, he was none too happy about his novels being set to movies. Within the first three pages of I Wanted to Write, Roberts made known his dislike of Hollywood producers butchering perfectly fine novels).

Way back in 1938, however, George Tucker, in a column titled “Man in Manhattan” in the Prescott Evening Courier (3/19/38) wonders aloud why Roberts’ first two novels weren’t more popular than Northwest Passage:

Never was fame more illusive or unpredictable than it is now. Take the case of Kenneth Roberts, who wrote “Northwest Passage” and became “discovered.” Everybody is reading it and the money is rolling in. Yet, despite these enjoyable royalties, Roberts must turn his back occasionally and indulge in a private chuckle. For, it seems to me two earlier books, “Arundel” and “Rabble in Arms,” are so much better than “Northwest Passage” that comparisons are ludicrous. It just doesn’t belong in the same league with either.

While I think Tucker is a little hyperbolic, I do agree that Roberts’ first two novels can stand with Northwest Passage.

An interesting little read from way back in 1938.

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