Mudcat Café message #2266554 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #2224   Message #2266554
Posted By: Jim Carroll
19-Feb-08 - 02:50 PM
Thread Name: What is a Folk Song?
Subject: RE: What is a Folk Song?
"What makes them folk songs any more than a Ewan MacColl song? MacColl was surely a participant and no passive recipient."
Damn - the Cap'n pipped me on my Magic Roundabout joke.
Up to the mid-seventies the song tradition among Travellers was very much alive. We were present at a couple of open-air sessions.
Songs about members of the Travelling community were being made by people who were non-literate and passed on by word of mouth. They were absorbed by members of the community and turned up in numerous versions. More often than not the names of the makers were forgotten.
Usually they were no more than two or three verses long, with one notable exception.
We were given one about an arranged marriage (by at least four different singers) each of whom asked us not to make it public. Mary Delaney sang a six verse version and asked us not to make it public as "it's about my cousin and he'll murder me if he knew I'd sung it to you".
Independently of the singers we recorded, it is included on the John Reilly Topic album as 'Old Caravee' with the names altered completely.
Ewan was never a deep-sea fisherman, miner, roadworker, Traveller, railway worker, boxer....etc, he was not writing for his community, but for the folk song revival. As far as I know, the people of Beckenham never took the songs up and made them their own.
Meant to respond to your point earlier.
Glad your club hasn't crashed in flames - I heard it is a good one.
I do not in any way object to newly written songs being sung at folk clubs; using the traditional forms to make new songs was what it was all about for me.
I dug out my old repertoire book recently and found that around a quarter of the songs I know and sang (around 100) are non traditional.
This argument; and others on this forum, is basically what we mean by folk song, - definition, not preference (important to some, not to others).
Jim Carroll