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Advertising: Levi's Uses Rare Walt Whitman Recording To Sell Jeans

It's horrifying. It's sort of cool. Or both.  This Levi's ad, currently running around the country, wants you to buy $238 jeans and features a recording of Walt Whitman reciting his own poem, Pioneers! O Pioneers!

You remember the one:  "Pioneers! O Pioneers!  COME, my tan-faced children, Follow well in order, get your weapons ready; Have you your pistols? have you your sharp edged axes? Pioneers! O pioneers! For we cannot tarry here, We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger, 5 We, the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend, Pioneers! O pioneers!"


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Horrifying that it should sell jeans. Cool that so many people should get to hear it.

No one knows for sure that the voice is Whitman's, but it probably is. It turned up on an 1888 wax cylinder recording by Thomas Edison, who was recording voices of some prominent people around the world. I first heard the recording about 10 years ago and was entranced. It's fascinating to hear what is probably Whitman's voice--the only know (or suspected) recording--more than 120 years after he spoke those words.

Correction: I had heard another version of the commercial you post here that included the original Whitman recording of "America," not "O Pioneers." The ad you feature here seems to use a much later recording in another voice--certainly not Whitman's.

Actually... this is NOT the cylinder recording of Walt Whitman. This is an actor's voice reciting the poem.

The commercial with "America" uses the original cylinder recording of Whitman reading it.

Also, this version of the "Pioneers" commercial is the long version. I'd actually never even seen it 'til now.

Can you suggest the link to the recording of America? It's magic to think that this could be Whitman's voice, back from the dead.

You can hear the MP3 of what is believed to be Walt Whitman reciting 38 seconds of "America" by going to his archives at this location:


I like the video, is it an advertisement or an infomercial?


Levi's are now made in China, O Pioneer.

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