why should the devil have all the best tunes?

Many hymns are sung to popular secular melodies, a practice that was especially favoured by the Methodists. This saying is commonly attributed to the English evangelist Rowland Hill (1744–1833).

1859 W. CHAPPELL Popular Music II. 748 The Primitive Methodists..acting upon the principle of ‘Why should the devil have all the pretty tunes?’ collect the airs which are sung at pot and public houses, and write their hymns to them.

1879 J. E. HOPKINS Work amongst Working Men vi. If Wesley could not see why the devil should have all the good tunes, still less should we be able to see why he should have all the good amusements.

1933 G. B. SHAW Letter 29 June in In Great Tradition III. 261 Why should the devil have all the fun as well as all the good tunes?

1996 National Review 23 Dec. 6 Not even the rule that the Devil should not have all the best tunes could save ‘Happy Days Are Here Again.’

2002 Times 23 July 17 The Devil may have all the good tunes, but he was also, it appears, on the receiving end of one of humankind’s greatest puzzles.


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