One of the most familiar American folk tunes, “Simple Gifts” was composed by Joseph Brackett, Jr. an elder from the Alfred Shaker Village in 1848 as a dancing song in worship.
’Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
’Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
’Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.
Aaron Copland featured the melody for his score Martha Graham’s ballet, Appalachian Spring in 1944. And in 1963, English songwriter Sydney Carter used the Shaker tune for the hymn, Lord of the Dance. The band Weezer even used the tune for their 2008 song The Greatest Man The Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn).