Scottish poet Robert Burns is credited with penning the poem known as “Auld Lang Syne” (roughly translated as “Old Long Since” or “Days Gone By”) in 1788. He was quick to admit, however, that he’d been inspired by a drinking song he’d heard an old man singing in a pub.

The Lyrics of “Auld Lang Syne” are printed on a wall as part of an exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York
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The original melody he had in mind was a bit darker and more melancholy that the tune that is familiar today. In 1793, Burns sent a long letter along with his “Auld Lang Syne” lyrics to editor George Thomson, who was compiling an anthology book of sheet music. Burns indicated that he wasn’t particularly “married” to the original melody, and Thomson apparently agreed, since he revised it to the tune that we all sing to this day at midnight on December 31.

Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians

Guy Lombardo.
CBS/Getty Images

Canadian bandleader Guy Lombardo helped to make the song a New Year’s Eve icon. Lombardo and His Royal Canadians first played “Auld Lang Syne” on a national radio broadcast at midnight during a New Year’s Eve party held at New York’s Roosevelt Hotel in 1929, and it immediately struck a chord with listeners.

From radio to television, ushering in the New Year with Lombardo and his band playing live from the lavish ballroom of New York’s Waldorf Astoria became an American tradition. (How many of us remember watching the Ball drop in Times Square on TV in our pajamas, struggling to stay awake…often with a babysitter nearby because Mom and Dad had gone out to a New Year’s Eve party?)

Another New Year’s tradition: Dick Clark

Dick Clark at the first ‘New Year’s Rockin Eve.’
Fred A. Sabine/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Guy Lombardo pretty much had the monopoly on New Year’s Eve entertainment until 1972. That’s when television producer, savvy entrepreneur and American Bandstand host Dick Clark did some math and discovered that the first wave of baby boomers were now of legal drinking age, and might tune in to a broadcast that featured more modern entertainment than grey-haired folks in evening dress fox-trotting the night away.

Thus was born New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, the first of which aired on NBC on December 31, 1972. Three Dog Night officially “hosted” the show, which also featured the band Blood, Sweat and Tears and soul legend Al Green. The “New Year’s Eve” part of the show title was a bit of a misnomer, since it had been filmed in November. But unlike today, all the musical acts did indeed perform live, with no pre-recorded backing tracks.

And here’s what it looked like when Dick Clark (and Allied Chemical) ushered in 1973.

“Auld Lang Syne” lyrics

In case you want to really impress your fellow revelers at midnight on January 1, here are the lyrics for “Auld Lang Syne”:

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?

Chorus:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

II
And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Chorus

III
We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.

Chorus

IV
We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.

Chorus

V
And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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