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DonD What is a folk song? Version 2.0 (59* d) RE: What is a folk song? 22 Apr 02

And the guru on top of the mountain said, "Life isn't a fountain?"

The meaning of folk is like the meaning of life, everyone is entitled to his or her own definition. As time passes you find people with similar enough definitions to hang out with and mutually tolerate, and those with suffuciently divergent views you avoid.

I learned what I think of as the folk songs I sing from LP recordings mostly and off the radio and from concert performances and the like, and though I sometimes had liner notes with the words to check against or books of lyrics to refer to, usually I started singing the songs that appealed to me the way I remembered them.

When I got the tune wrong, but sung it wrong often enough, so that became the version I sang, When I forgot or misheard the words, I made up my own to fill in the dead spots, and that became the version I sang -- and I'm still singing them, without worrying about whether they're right or wrong.

I see lyrics in the DT that aren't the way I think they should be, but I can't revise my version now. And I've seen transcriptions on album liners that are clearly not what is being sung on the record itself, nor is the sung always sung the same way by an artist over time, and certainly not by different singers. To me, that's the oral tradition and how it's supposed to be.

I heard "Hard Times" on a link a few weeks ago and can't get it out of my mind. I'd known it years ago but never knew it was Stephen Foster. Didn't he write art songs or pop songs; he certainly tried in vain to make a living at it, so doesn't that make it commercial, or does the fact that he died in poverty disallow the commercial label?

I learned it orally, and I sing it "wrong' because it has a hard melody for me. I say it's a folk song, and to hell wit yuz!

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