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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Sandy Paton Tune Req: The Great Silkie (26) RE: Tune Req: The Great Silkie 07 Nov 02


To answer Naemanson's question: One day, while Folk-Legacy was still operating out of an old farmhouse in Vermont, a young fellow came by to get some records from us. Bought our early albums Frank Proffitt and Hobart Smith, as I recall. When he told us his name was James Waters, we asked if, by any chance, he was the fellow folks had told us who composed the splendid modal tune for "The Great Silkie." He allowed as how he was. Turns out he had never copyrighted it. We urged him to do so, and he said, "You can be the publisher, if returns from the tune will help you produce more albums of genuine traditional folk artists." We handled the copyright for him, and then things got complicated. Turns out that Pete Seeger had thought the tune to be traditional, and borrowed it to set the Turkish poet's "Girl of Hiroshima." This had been recorded by one of the 50s popular groups, as well as by Pete, himself. When Pete learned that Jim Waters had wrwitten the tune, he went out of his way to make sure that royalties from his recording of the tune came to us. Unfortunately, Manny Solomon at Vanguard, and many others who recorded "The Silkie," took advantage of the late copyright disclaim responsibility for royalties. Even though Joan Baez's book actually says that the tune was by James Waters (who wrote it, by the way, while he was a banjo-picking student at MIT), Vanguard never paid Jim a cent for her recording, as it was released before the copyright was filed. Legally, they were within their rights, I'm told, but ethically...? Even admitting that the tune was the creative work of Jim Waters? Well, Pete Seeger has always been a man with a great sense of ethics. He alone took the honorable stand, God bless him. So, James Waters, who wound up teaching high school math in Vermont and is now retired, and his publisher (us) never got rich off of his wonderful melody.

I'm too tired to go back and proof read what I've written, so that's the story, folks, warts and all.
Sandy


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