Mudcat Café message #1669741 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #48317   Message #1669741
Posted By: GUEST,J C
15-Feb-06 - 05:33 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
I am fascinated to see that the necrophobia surrounding the name of Ewan MacColl is still going strong some fifteen years after his death and the same tired old misinformation is still doing the rounds.
I knew and worked with him for about twenty years and found (and still find) many of his ideas and opinions informative and insprationa and his singing enjoyable and deeply satisfying.
It is worth remembering that, while other 'stars' of the folk-song revival were getting on with their own careers MacColl ran a (voluntary) workshop, The Critics Group for ten years on a weekly basis.
He was incredibly generous with his time, his self-penned songs, his field recordings and his advice, to the extent of having a permanent recording set-up in a spare room in his home for anybody who wished to make copies of his large collection of tapes of traditional singers. I never once, throughout the time I knew him, saw him refuse to pass on a copy of a song to anybody who asked.
His pioneering work on the Radio Ballads still stands as a landmark in recording (they were his conception, despite rumours to the contrary, I heard Charles Parker say so on many occasions, both on the media and in person). Despite the importance of the last one, the Travelling people, which introduced many of us to Travellers and their plight, one individual attempted to sabotage it - he failed, but did manage to get Sheila Stewart dropped at the last minute - a partial success from his point of view I suppose!!!
The 'Song Carriers' series are still unsurpassed thirty years after they were first broadcast.
The text of 'Sheath and Knife', one of the 137 Child Ballads MacColl put back into circulation, was supplied to him by a friend, Prof. Robert Thomson, now at the English Department at Gainesville, Florida. He did make some changes to the text, as do most singers to traditional songs they decide to put in their repertoire.
MacColl's autobiography, Journeyman, was not particularly representitive of him or his ideas; perhaps the forthcoming biography will sweep aside some of the garbage that is obviously still circulating.
MacColl was by no means perfect; he was often difficult to work with, but he was at least willing to work with others and expend a great deal of time and effort on their behalf.
I have not yet seen the current series; I fully expect that there will be the old usual snide pops at him. I understand Shirley Collins has had her go. I await to hear what she had to say with interest, but if it comes to a choice between the passion and understanding MacColl brought to traditional song and her milk-and-water renditions, as far as I'm concerned there's no contest.