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What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?

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Rick Fielding 19 Sep 02 - 03:58 PM
Bert 19 Sep 02 - 04:03 PM
Rick Fielding 19 Sep 02 - 04:26 PM
MMario 19 Sep 02 - 04:28 PM
Jeri 19 Sep 02 - 04:33 PM
CraigS 19 Sep 02 - 04:43 PM
Don Firth 19 Sep 02 - 04:49 PM
Clinton Hammond 19 Sep 02 - 04:51 PM
toadfrog 19 Sep 02 - 05:06 PM
M.Ted 19 Sep 02 - 05:07 PM
JenEllen 19 Sep 02 - 06:48 PM
McGrath of Harlow 19 Sep 02 - 07:20 PM
Joe_F 19 Sep 02 - 07:24 PM
Stewie 19 Sep 02 - 07:34 PM
Don Firth 19 Sep 02 - 07:39 PM
michaelr 19 Sep 02 - 08:14 PM
McGrath of Harlow 19 Sep 02 - 08:29 PM
michaelr 19 Sep 02 - 08:36 PM
Uncle_DaveO 19 Sep 02 - 08:46 PM
Snuffy 19 Sep 02 - 08:47 PM
McGrath of Harlow 19 Sep 02 - 08:53 PM
Stewie 19 Sep 02 - 09:14 PM
Jon Bartlett 20 Sep 02 - 03:09 AM
McGrath of Harlow 20 Sep 02 - 06:41 AM
Peter T. 20 Sep 02 - 08:57 AM
Jeri 20 Sep 02 - 09:08 AM
McGrath of Harlow 20 Sep 02 - 09:22 AM
dermod in salisbury 20 Sep 02 - 10:50 AM
Jeri 20 Sep 02 - 11:43 AM
Peter T. 20 Sep 02 - 12:12 PM
alanabit 20 Sep 02 - 01:44 PM
dorareever 20 Sep 02 - 02:36 PM
Bert 20 Sep 02 - 02:47 PM
McGrath of Harlow 20 Sep 02 - 03:01 PM
Mark Clark 20 Sep 02 - 05:04 PM
DMcG 20 Sep 02 - 05:40 PM
McGrath of Harlow 20 Sep 02 - 07:21 PM
GUEST,Mudlark 20 Sep 02 - 08:49 PM
GUEST,Ossington*gal 20 Sep 02 - 09:06 PM
Amos 21 Sep 02 - 10:28 AM
Jeri 21 Sep 02 - 11:18 AM
Amos 21 Sep 02 - 12:28 PM
MMario 21 Sep 02 - 01:09 PM
McGrath of Harlow 21 Sep 02 - 01:37 PM
Bert 21 Sep 02 - 03:06 PM
John Hardly 21 Sep 02 - 03:34 PM
Don Firth 21 Sep 02 - 03:38 PM
McGrath of Harlow 21 Sep 02 - 04:22 PM
Leadfingers 21 Sep 02 - 04:29 PM
Stewie 21 Sep 02 - 10:41 PM
Mudlark 22 Sep 02 - 02:30 AM
McGrath of Harlow 22 Sep 02 - 07:56 AM
John Hardly 22 Sep 02 - 08:06 AM
McGrath of Harlow 22 Sep 02 - 09:54 AM
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GUEST 22 Sep 02 - 11:18 AM
Rick Fielding 22 Sep 02 - 02:02 PM
McGrath of Harlow 22 Sep 02 - 03:17 PM
Bill D 22 Sep 02 - 06:21 PM
Mark Clark 23 Sep 02 - 03:31 PM
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Mark Clark 25 Sep 02 - 04:30 PM
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Subject: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 03:58 PM

There's obviously no actual answer to this, simply because it's so subjective, but I'd be interested in folks' opinions.

One person's "song from the heart" may well make another person gag, just as I've seen lengthy posts on Mudcat that often affect people in vastly different ways. I've seen many instances of folks "typing with tears in their eyes" after someones' words have reached them on a level that I just couldn't find.

So, my question would be: Do you cry easily? Do you get emotional over certain kinds of poetry? Conversely, what makes you say "that's so emotional it's cloying, or insincere, or just plain crap"? Is it strictly a "lyric" thing, or what you know about the composer's motives, or something else more intangible?

I'm not sure where I draw MY line, but it may be quicker than most, 'cause when I used to hear songs like "Watchin' Scotty Grow", "Feelings", "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" "Scarlett Ribbons" or "You Light Up My Life", I'd almost gag....and yet....they're ALL solidly constructed from a technical stand point, and obviously "reached" millions of folks. A friend once said "If you had kids, Rick, you wouldn't be as quick to dismiss songs because they were "too sentimental". He may have been right.

Cheers

Rick


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Bert
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 04:03 PM

Of course there's an answer to this! You're just a miserable old fart Rick. *Hee Hee* Not liking Scarlet Ribbons indeed!!! You'll be saying you don't like Pretty Paper next y'ole scrooge.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 04:26 PM

"pretty paper"??!! Oh my gawd Bert, I forgot about that one!


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: MMario
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 04:28 PM

well - i'd class four of the above as sickeningly maudlin - and one as sentimental


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Jeri
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 04:33 PM

Those songs make me gag, too, and yet I cry at plenty of other songs. I think the difference is that one type involves a somewhat detached songwriter or singer who's obviously trying very hard to provoke an emotional response. The other type seems like the songwriter and/or performer is getting emotional. If the song doesn't completely suck bilgewater, t's the level of sincerity that does it. Then again, never mind. I can cry at TV commercials, so I guess it just comes down to what mood I'm in.

(Before I wrote songs, I was going through a vet school and was learning how to check animal poop for worm eggs. The song I sang when doing this was "Feces...nothing more than feces..." Sorry.)


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: CraigS
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 04:43 PM

It tends to be sickening when the lyric is intended to evoke sympathy for the singer's self-indulgence, like Little Things (Willie Nelson) or There Stands The Glass


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Don Firth
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 04:49 PM

Confession time. Yeah! I can get pretty soggy sometimes.

There are certain songs I just can't sing because of the way they affect me. I steal wholesale from Gordon Bok's records, but one I just can't get through is Turning Toward the Morning. Does it to me every time. Mary Black's recording of Anachie Gordon is another one. Why? I do others with similar themes with no problem. Perhaps it's Mary Black's intense performance of the song, but I can't even listen to the song without puddling up.

Not everybody's cup of tea, I know, but one of my favorite operas is La Bohème. It's about the kind of people I have known. Bohemians, Beats, hippies, whatever you want to call them. The ones in the opera are in Paris around 1850, but they're the same kind of young people, struggling to make their way as artists, poets, and musicians. It's so bloody sad in the final act when Mimi is dying. The best version I have ever seen was a Metropolitan Opera production (currently available on videotape and DVD) with Teresa Stratas and José Carreras, directed by Franco Zeffirelli. The singing is magnificent, the acting is excellent, and they all look the part. Sometimes just a recognizable snippet of music from La Bohème can set me off.

On the other hand, to me, Bobby Goldsboro's Honeyis pure pukesville.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 04:51 PM

Yup... yer totally right Rick.. too subjective... so I'll withhold comment except to say...

If I EVER have to hear "There Were Roses" again, it'll be WAY too soon...

Ug... Urlp... Puke!!


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: toadfrog
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 05:06 PM

Some speak of a distinction between sentiment and sentimentality -- Jeri has an excellent point. "Sentimentality" sort of means that feelings are being consciously manipulated by the author of the song. Traditional songs almost never give me that feeling. (But there's always "Silver Dagger," which I have trouble believing is really traditional.) One problem I have with singer-songwriter stuff is that it almost always has something false in it that leaves me feeling manipulated. Like, someone trying to tell you how a farmer or sailor, or mountaineer or whatever would feel, written by someone who saw some sailors or read about them in a book, and thinks they are just too, too, glamorous. It almost never works.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: M.Ted
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 05:07 PM

It isn't a question of sentiment or anything like that--the song has to be catchy--whether the subject is love, murder or mayhem is irrelevant--audiences, for the most part, are pretty much indifferent to emotions, and only respond when the lyric is easier to remember than not--

Many pop songs are way over the top because the listeners are so insensitive that that extremes are the only things that get a response. If the mass audience was really sensitive, lyrics would be very subtle--

That said, I have a morbid fascination with songs that are either extreme, trite, or extremely trite. I have Bobby Goldsboro's Greatest Hits, and listen to "Honey" whenever I can--same with "Seasons in the Sun". There are a lot of "folk" songs that resort to extremes, as well, and, at least to me, those are part and parcel of the same thing--

I think that most performers decide early on whether they want to express themselves musically, or whether they want to please an audience (most writers, too)--after that, the road leads you--


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: JenEllen
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 06:48 PM

I think the 'sentimental' is when it hits you where you live. Physically and emotionally, we all live in different places (thank goodness) and what's home to some is crap to others.

Crying easily, sure. Anything that rattles the foundation unintentionally is likely to get that response. The stuff I find to be sheer crapola is when they try to evoke that response. Country music, perfect example: I've never felt less patriotic than I have since the new crop of songs has come out. I have a friend who gets teary every time he hears Red Sovine's Teddy Bear. (????) Or that song about the guy buying the car outta the old lady's garage, and it has a ghost letter in the glovebox? Gimme a break.

An' Jeri, lmao-- been there! (Feeeeeeceeees, whoa-whoa-whoa, feeeeeceees...)


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 07:20 PM

Plenty of songs might get me close to tears when I hear them; and there's a fair few I'd be a bit nervous of trying to sing because I might not get through them.

As for sickening - I can't think of any traditional song that I'd class that way. Some performances can be, the ones that try to squeeze out all the emotions and put them on display, and over-dramatize instead of letting the song take the weight. (toadfrog's comment on Silver Dagger leaves me puzzled - maybe it's some messed up version you're thinking of. I can't remember who it was suggested it's probably about incest, which is sickening enough thought - though very possibly true - but in another sense)

In fact that's probably true of a lot of modern songs that might get labelled as sickening - it's the way they are sung that is at fault. Maybe with modern songs people find it a bit harder to think of the song divorced from the performance.

Going back a bit, and in the American context, there are all kinds of verses the Carter Family sang which would come across as sickeningly over-sentimental from many singers. But the way they sang them, they don't come across that way. Might make me feel close to tears maybe. Nothing wrong with that in a song.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Joe_F
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 07:24 PM

I am very sentimental, and I used to believe that no song was too icky for me. (I am put off by "Turning toward the Morning", but not because it's sentimental -- because it's incoherent. Bok can't decided whether his metaphor is the daily or the yearly cycle.)

But some years ago, I read in a work of fiction a *description* of a song that seemed like a self-parody of sentimentality. Later on, I heard a rumor that it actually existed. This thread stimulated me to try the database, and sure enough, there it is: "The Last Game of the Season".

But, come to think, it's not the sentimentality of that, itself, that makes me gag. It's the combination of sentimentality with *football* & *religion*. So it is really snobbery & not taste that is in back of my response.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Stewie
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 07:34 PM

I agree that it is too subjective and that you draw your own lines. I'm with McGrath that much depends on the performance - I think of, say, Bascom Lunsford's lovely rendition of 'In the Shadow of the Pines'. There is truth too in G.K. Chesterton's comment [I can't recall where I read it in his writings] to the effect that sentimentality is simply having feelings and not troubling to invent a new way of expressing them.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Don Firth
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 07:39 PM

Didn't bother me, Joe. The metaphor works as far as I can see. The cycle of time: whether it takes a day or a year, this, too, will pass.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: michaelr
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 08:14 PM

I agree with McGrath -- much of the difference is in the delivery, and the instrumental arrangement, as well. It's a bit like movie music: you don't always notice it, but when those violins (or pedal steel guitars) swell, it has an emotional effect which would be quite different if they'd used, say, distorted electric guitar.

What triggers my gag reflex are Jesus songs -- I'm not talking about the exuberant black gospel kind, but the maudlin whitebread ones, the likes of which sometimes are posted here.

Cheers,
Michael


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 08:29 PM

Here's that song Joe_F thought over the top - there are some people who could make it work, singing it very straight, as an anecdote, "take it or leave it".

Good to see someone else quoting Chesterton, Stewie - here's a link to a quotes page for him, though I don't think that one is in there.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: michaelr
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 08:36 PM

Thanks for the Chesterton link, McGrath -- great stuff!
Is there a similar site with Oscar Wilde bon-mots that you know of?

Michael


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 08:46 PM

I thought I might write essentially this post in the "Worst Song You Ever Heard" thread, but never got around to it.

First let me state that I am a great and long-time admirer of Pete Seeger, and generally love any song that I'm aware he's written. So when I bought a compilation CD of his singing and heard his song with a name something like "If I Had A Golden Thread" I was dismayed.

Of all the meretricious (look it up), manipulative, but meaningless songs I ever heard, that takes the cake! The tune is all right, I suppose, but the lyrics are vacuous.

The man sold his birthright for a pot of message.

DAve Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Snuffy
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 08:47 PM

Taking an example from a current thread, Crosby is sentimental, Sinatra is sickening.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 08:53 PM

Well, the tune is the one generally used for "Nearer my God to Thee". I like Pete singing it. There's not too many other people who could, maybe.

But Nearer my God has a lot more depth, partly the associations it's built up. (And the lady who wrote it lived and died and is buried just outside Harlow.)


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Stewie
Date: 19 Sep 02 - 09:14 PM

McGrath, thanks for the Chesterton quotes link - I have bookmarked it.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Jon Bartlett
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 03:09 AM

A warning: strong opinion on its way! Stand well back - toes might get trodden on.

My definition of sentimentality is emotion looking at itself. My partner Rika says it's like drinking the wine, upchucking it, and then drinking the upchuck. Much of what is called "sentimentality" is emotion - and as some others have said in this thread, what gets to you doesn't get to me, and vice versa. And much is well-aimed and commercial sentimentality.

I've been singing and listening to folk song for thirty years or so (as many of you have, too!) and over the course of that time, I've noticed a change in temperament, from emotion to sentiment. In the folk milieu I like almost nothing made by Bok, Stan Rogers, David Francie or Bogle, finding them all pure treacle. I wish it weren't true, but there's precious little modern stuff I *do* like: when it isn't preachy stuff telling me it's only a wee-wee or I can be whoever I want to be (fine uplifting stuff, taking the place once held by religion), it's fake maritimers telling me that I can rise again, surrounded tho I be by smiling bastards. Thank god I say for traditional song, the sentimentality of which rarely goes further than "The Dark-Eyed Sailor".

Maybe there's more folk who think this, but I'm an old fart who not only bores folk but shocks 'em too with the songs I *do* like (like Child ballads!).

My 2c. Jon Bartlett


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 06:41 AM

There's a balance here, but I'd sooner tip over on the sentimental side than the cynical side. I'll stick with Eric Bogle and Stan Rogers, though maybe not with the way people somtimes sing the songs in question.

As for wallowing in emotion, that is mostly a matter of style of performance rather than the actual song, and it is better avoided. It gets in the way of true emotion.

Actually all this reminds me of the old actor saying "The important thing about a performance is sincerity.Once you've cracked that you can do anything."


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Peter T.
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 08:57 AM

James Joyce once said that the sentimentalist is someone who indulges in an emotion without having earned it. That is pretty good as a definition: some songs earn their emotion, and the enotional reaction; others just (as was said above) are manipulative or false. That is one reason why the non-sentimentalists are repelled by them: they are asking us to pay emotionally for something the song has not earned. Why should we hand out emotions over to you, you haven't earned the right to make us laugh, or cry, or whatever? But the cost threshhold is lower for some people, nonexistent for others, and sometimes when we are tired or drunk or whatever, our threshhold can drop dramatically!! Some things are right on the edge -- La Boheme can be completely false done wrongly, but done well it is intensely moving. Even a really crappy sentimental song, sung by someone who has earned the right to sing it, can move us -- because the singer has put some of their own earnings (and yearnings) into it. yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Jeri
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 09:08 AM

**Warning**
thread creep with bad language.

It's only P.C. so what's the big deal
It's only P.C., the polite thing to do
Was to change a few words, everyone should be happy
And if you aren't, fuck you

Alright, so I cry at everything. I laugh at everything too. Sometimes I laugh at myself crying over stuff.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 09:22 AM

I like that, Peter T. If you haven't in some sense been there, you can't really sing about it without a phony element creeping in.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: dermod in salisbury
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 10:50 AM

Songs about home have emotional power. Underlying them, often, is an expression of something irretrievably lost, usually through age and time. Songs about early love are in the same mode. Stephen Foster songs are an illustration. In the period in which he lived, life could be short and harsh. Graphic lyrics did not seem so alien or distasteful. Many other parlour ballads of the period, and later, can have a similar force. Even the Everly Brothers sang a few (e.g. Midnight Express). Sentiment or slush? I don't think it is entirely in the eye of the beholder. Songs of this sort, when sung with conviction and absence of sarcasm (a modern disease) are still effective. Of course, there were also a lot of pot-boiling tunes in this mode which are not worth the bother.


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Subject: LYR ADD: Driven From Home
From: Jeri
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 11:43 AM

There is a keyword in the DT - you can search for @tearjerker.
Of course, most modern songs aren't even close, barfogenically, to:

DRIVEN FROM HOME

Out in this cold world, out in the street
Asking a penny of each one I meet,
Shoeless I wander about thro' the day,
Wearing my young life in a sorrow away;
No one to help me, no one to love,
No one to pity me, none to caress,
Fatherless, motherless sadly I roam,
A child of misfortune, I'm driven from home.

CHORUS:
No one to help me, no one to love
No one to pity me, none to caress,
Fatherless, motherless sadly I roam,
A child of misfortune, I'm driven from home.


The flowers that bloomed that I once loved to see,
Seem bowing their heads as if pitying me,
The music that mingles with voices of mirth,
From the windows of pleasure and plenty on earth,
Makes me think what it is to be friendless and poor.
And I feel I shal faint when I knock at the door.
Turn a deaf ear, there's no one will come,
To help a poor wanderer driven from home.

Oh! Where shall I go, or what can I do?
I've no one to tell me what course to persue.
I'm weary and footsore, I'm hungry and weak;
I know not what shelter tonight I may seek.
The Friend of all friends, who rules earth and sea,
Will look with a pitying eye upon me.
I'' wander about till His messenger comes
To lead me to father and mother at home.

From Weep Some More, My Lady by Sigmund Spaeth. He found the song in the Grosvenor Library in Buffalo, NY.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Peter T.
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 12:12 PM

I bet some of the completely beaten down-and-out old guys I have met in Franciscan soup kitchens, etc., could sing that, and everyone would be in tears, including the jaded. Seeing someone battered and hurt trying to warm themselves by an old song, however trite, can be intensely moving -- again, not because of the song, but because of what it speaks of the singer's life, that got him or her to the point where that song is.

yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: alanabit
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 01:44 PM

What I would call a bad, sentimental song is one which works (or tries to) by the audio equivalent of idiot boards which say, "Smile" or "Be sad". Personally, I find garbage like "Honey" or "Ebony Eyes" too daft to even annoy me. They do make for wonderful parodies though. I feel much the same way about Ben Johnson's "Drink to me only with thine eyes". If he really was the culprit for this trite woofle, he really was having a bad day with the quill. The ones which move me are the ones which simply get on with the story and let you make up your own mind how to feel about it. Songs like "Cold and Haily, Windy Night" and "Rosemary Lane" have this quality.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: dorareever
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 02:36 PM

I cry easily,I'm very emotional,I hate sappiness and sentimentality.I'm romantic.I'm very detached on the outside,and very emotional on the inside.I want valentine's day to be abolished,and I don't call every boy I fancy "love".I like sentimental songs,I'm the kind who even likes Danny Boy and stuff,but I hate sappy pop songs.I don't think there's much "sappiness" in folk ,blues,country music,only true emotion-the kind you try to cover up,acting cynical,because is powerful,opposed the the kind you have to boast because is not real.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Bert
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 02:47 PM

While London Sleeps is probably a bit too maudlin for modern tastes, but that doesn't stop me from singing it.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 03:01 PM

That's an interesting song, bert; anyone who thinks its maudlin may have led a sheltered life. Obviously it could be sung in a way that was, but what song can't be wrecked by a singer with the wrong attitude?

Any history to it? Like when does it date from, and who wrote it and so forth?

And that's a pretty interesting thread it comes from.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Mark Clark
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 05:04 PM

I confess that, over the years, I've acquired a taste for overly sentimental songs—ranging towards maudlin—mostly from the Applacnian traditions. I'm aware, however, that this was an acquired taste. As a city kid, the first time I was exposed to such songs, I think I just laughed. I thought they must be intentionally humorus; I just couldn't believe that anyone could write such songs with a straight face.

But keep in mind that, growing up, there was no country music of any kind in our house or those of our friends and relatives. Acceptable music generally included white protestant church music (not old time gospel), classical, opera, broadway show tunes, big band jazz and urban pop of the forties and early fifties. Even though the Grand Ole Opry road show came to town at least twice a year, we not only didn't attend, I didn't even recognize the names of any of the performers.

My gravitation toward's country forms really began with the Kingston Trio's recording of Tom Dooley. I became curious to know where this music came from and just kept following it down all the roots I could find. The process took a long time. As long as sentimental songs were rooted in old Elizabethan forms, I could accept them as being odly historical but when I started finding maudlin material that wasn't all that old, I figured they must be some kind of joke. Songs like “Little Joe,&rdquo “Wreck on the Highway, ” and “Mother's Not Dead” were only precursors, as it turned out.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines sophisticated as “Having acquired worldly knowledge or refinement; lacking natural simplicity or naiveté.” and I finally realized I was going to have to find something of that unsophisticated natural simplicity or naiveté if I was going to be able to present the sentimental Applichian material in anything approaching a believable fashion. I couldn't simply ignore all that rich tradition just to delude myself that I was being hip.

Now I can sing “Little Bessie” with a straight face and have even evoked a tear or two with “Old Shep.” I'm aware that “Bringing Mary Home” is a shamefully cheap trick but that knowledge doesn't insulate me from feeling the emotion of the last line whenever I sing it. Jerry Garcia was by all accounts a pretty hip guy but I still love the recording he did of “The Fields Have Turned Brown” with Red Allen, et al.

Maybe the singers who can't yet deal with the overly sentimental material are some of the same ones who can't sing a song in the opposite sexual voice. They can't rise out of themselves to celebrate the song itself but must hold back using the song as a vehicle for celebrating themselves. Just a thought.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: DMcG
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 05:40 PM

How about the song "The Constant Lovers" (in the DT)? At eighteen, I thought this was far too sentimental to sing, but my flatmate, also 18, thought it was great. Now, decades later, I quite like it and do sing it occasionally.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 07:21 PM

Sometimes I get the feeling that the fact that people can have really sad things happen in their lives is felt by many people as either threatening, or as so out of kilter with their daily lives that they need to see have to treat songs about such matters as a bit absurd.

To sing sings like that straight, you've got to know that life really can be that way. And it can. The singing is at the same time a kind of expression of solidarity with the people in the song, and a sigh of relief that, touch wood, the singer's own fortune has so far been better than that. And a way of gearing yourself up for what the future might hold.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: GUEST,Mudlark
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 08:49 PM

It's interesting that so many really over the top sentimental songs, poems, short stories, etc. came out of Victorian times...the sort I cluster under the "Songs I Learned at My Mother's Knee (and other low places)" umbrella. Songs about violet sellers, drunken fathers, dead mothers are a way of safely evoking emotion in a changing world where change is scary and authentic tragedy is overwhelming.

My own sentimental BS litmus test is definitely manipulation. Sentimentality may ellicit tears, especially if it's been a bad day, a bad night, whatever, but it is a cheap shot, calculated to wring out emotion at all cost, authentic or not, and I resent this calculated manipulation. (I find movies like E.T. in this category as well.)

In much of traditional music/song, there is authentic distillation of emotion, both at inception and thru the folk process, that rings true. Yet its accessibility allows us in the 21st century, to, if approached with the proper respect and care, let this music speak directly to us and even through us. The connection for me is as real, and thrilling, as putting my foot into a stone stair hollowed out by hundreds of years of wear.

And it is usually true, for me, at least, that the songs that truly move me are very spare traditional songs, traditional in nature if not in fact, where little is said, much implied. Pain and tragedy is explained and accepted, wth no need to ask or beg for anything from the listener.
Sentimentality is all about getting the listener to respond. It's a power play.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: GUEST,Ossington*gal
Date: 20 Sep 02 - 09:06 PM

Surely when Barb'ry Ellen comes into the home stretch it's as negatively sentimental as anything from the pen of Bobby Goldsboro. Aren't we just a lot more forgiving of the folk process than commercial concerns? Peter, you sound like you've known some hard times, and are better for it now.

OG


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Amos
Date: 21 Sep 02 - 10:28 AM

I believe that the "unearned emotion" factor that Peter describes is what gives sickening songs their repulsive aura. There is a genuineness to a song which actually penetrates the cage. It is there because the writer walked the walk and is writing from some kind of personal knowledge. That said, even the most genuine song can be trashed by a performer who is unable to understand it or reconstruct a genuine voice to sing it.

One of my best tips when I was a young sprat was that I should sing songs as though I were in them. On-site.

The first time I heard "The Rose" (Some say looooove...) it was being song by a seventeen year old suburban girl at a talent contest and I would have barfed if there had been a place to do it.

I heard it again ten years later as part of a wedding I was conducting, a friend of the bride singing it a capella and realized it was not such a bad song, kind of sweet and appropriate.

I sang itmyself two weeks ago at a large dinner party, and it knocked 'em dead, if I say so myself -- the point being that it has the potential of being a fine song, but it has to be sung with a sense of genuine experience

This lack of reality, talking something you have never walked, is what annoyed me about the pretty singers dureing the early folk scare of the 60's -- PP&M and the Kingston Trio. It's not that they all had to go shoot someone in order to sing 'Tom Dooley'. But they ought to sing it with a genuine sense of the moment, not as a polished barbershop bit! :>) Frank Warner, on the other hand, sounded as though he'd done it himself, as well as surviving every Civil War battle ever fought single-handed!

A


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Jeri
Date: 21 Sep 02 - 11:18 AM

Some folks prefer the sparseness of traditional songs. I think that there are 'messages' in these songs, but they're either honest and plainly evident or they're perceived by how each individual interprets the song.

On the other hand, the folks who like sentimental songs like them because they manipulate, or shall we say 'provoke' emotion. You go to a scary movie hoping it will make you want to hide in your popcorn container (they're big enough these days). Let's face it, the emotional provocation is NOT subtle - it's not like they're trying to be sneaky about it. Maybe it's that lack of subtlety that bothers people most.

I like sparse; I like blatant. I love music because it makes me think AND it makes me feel. I'm also an expert at suspending my disbelief. I think that's another factor that greatly influences whether or not we like sentimental songs: how effective we are at brainwashing ourselves to NOT think "this can't be real."


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Amos
Date: 21 Sep 02 - 12:28 PM

"Expert at suspending disbelief" -- wow, what a quaolification!! Didja have to work hard and study long, Jeri?? :>) I love it! Well, you're probably among the biggest collection of professionals anywhere, here! :>)

Now I know who to call when I can't get the damned things suspended right!

A


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: MMario
Date: 21 Sep 02 - 01:09 PM

Many people find it hard to suspend disbelief. In training for acting at ren-faires a lot of work goes into this - both for the actors themselves and to teach them how to extend that suspension to the patrons with whom they will be interacting.

One of the interesting things about working ren-faire is observing the different levels of suspension of disbelief that people operate from.

(from which people operate. that participle is actually dangling - it's suspended from my disbelief)


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 21 Sep 02 - 01:37 PM

What's a ren-faire?


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Bert
Date: 21 Sep 02 - 03:06 PM

Hi McGrath,

While London Sleeps, I guess, dates from the late 19th. or early 20th. century. At least during the era when policemen carried carbide lamps. Most likely a Music Hall song.

When I was growing up in and around London, there would usually be someone get up and sing it at just about every party you went to.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: John Hardly
Date: 21 Sep 02 - 03:34 PM

"James Joyce once said that the sentimentalist is someone who indulges in an emotion without having earned it."

This quote that Peter brought up...
That's the main reason I have given up any hope of writing. (that...and the number of people out there critical enough to understand Joyce's point :^)......)

I agree with Jeri's initial premise (echoed many times) that the element of forced as opposed to natural is true to my sense of taste.

I get shivers when I play "Butcher's Girl" and hold the word "grave"

I sometimes can't finish "Wasn't Suppose to Be Like This" by Mallett.

Still, I find sappy tunes like "Save Your Heart For Me" (by that great folk group -- Gary Lewis and the Playboys) to be a great source of untapped, terrific melodies to do fingerstyle -- and people suddenly react sentimentally almost unawares, as the melody, but not the familiar arrangement, allows them to feel it differently.

so, I guess I'm also in the camp that says a performance or arrangement can make ALL the difference.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Don Firth
Date: 21 Sep 02 - 03:38 PM

". . . as real, and thrilling, as putting my foot into a stone stair hollowed out by hundreds of years of wear."

Nice image, Mudlark! Mind if I steal it? I also like, "And it is usually true, for me, at least, that the songs that truly move me are very spare traditional songs, traditional in nature if not in fact, where little is said, much implied. Pain and tragedy is explained and accepted, with no need to ask or beg for anything from the listener."

In the early Sixties, bluesman Jesse Fuller was in town for about a week, singing at a local coffeehouse. One comment he made between songs was, "I gotta laugh about all these college boys singin' about bein' a 'steel-drivin' man.' I mean, I have drove some!" Not specifically about sentimental songs, but I think it applies.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 21 Sep 02 - 04:22 PM

Hunting around for that song bert mentioned, While London Sleeps, I couldn't find a sound file - but I did find that Chas and Dave included it on a record. (And there was a 1926 film of the same name, starring Rin Tin Tin.)


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 21 Sep 02 - 04:29 PM

As the man said,its all subjective!I'heard the same songs sung by different people,and some times it worked and some times it didn't.The treatment makes a world of difference to how a song is received,as does the personal taste of the recipient.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Stewie
Date: 21 Sep 02 - 10:41 PM

Fine post, Mudlark. I disagree, however, with your assertions in your last couple of sentences:

'Sentimentality is all about getting the listener to respond. It's a power play'.

That may be true in some instances, but not always. Many singers sing what would be regarded by others as 'sentimental songs' because these songs have the power to move them deeply. I think particularly of Roscoe Holcomb's performance of 'Little Bessie' for Cohen. The listener had nothing to do with it, there was no thought of manipulation, but it had a profound effect on Holcomb. Cohen says that he was so emotionally drained that he refused to record for several days.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Mudlark
Date: 22 Sep 02 - 02:30 AM

Point well taken, Stewie, no argument. It's WHEN it's a power play that I really resent it, I guess because it is to my mind a debasement of things I care about preserving: authenticity, music, song, passion, the honesty of everyday life, etc. It probably deeply rattles my cage to know that such profoundly meaningful things can be calculatedly evoked, without heart.

And Don, as my grandma used to say to me, Honey you can have anything I got! At least so far as the printed word is concerned. And I loved that Jesse Fuller quote...it says it all for me.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 22 Sep 02 - 07:56 AM

You have to able sometimes to see past the singer and imagine what the song really has the power to say.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: John Hardly
Date: 22 Sep 02 - 08:06 AM

of course a singer/performer has to use his/her "power" to move the audience. And of course, to a degree, that power can be developed, practiced and improved upon. If not; 1) there'd be little live music to go see. (because) 2) the performer would only perform when "moved by the spirit" so to speak.

The spontaneous performance from the heart comes from hours upon hours of practiced sincerity.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 22 Sep 02 - 09:54 AM

The spontaneous performance from the heart comes from hours upon hours of practiced sincerity. That's not by any means true in many many cases.

Very often the important thing is for the singer to learn to get out of the way of the song, and that can take time, but it's not quite the same as "practiced sincerity".


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: MBSLynne
Date: 22 Sep 02 - 10:32 AM

This really is an interesting question and has made me think deeply. I DO cry at some songs. There are songs I can't sing because my voice breaks up when I try, and yet there are those which make me want to puke, and, offhand, I can't work out what the difference is. Sentimental songs in the "Country and Western" genre I often find mawkish and sickly, but not always. Someone mentioned Eric Bogle as a sickening song writer. I went to a concert of his and was completely breath taken by the power of the emotion in some of his songs. Some of it, I'm sure, has to do with the sincerity of the feeling of the person who writes the song in the first place, but again, not always. I don't know what the answer is, but I do know that I will be listening with a different ear in the future.

Love Lynne


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: GUEST
Date: 22 Sep 02 - 11:18 AM

Wayne Newton singing "Scarlet Ribbons" in a Bonanza episode.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 22 Sep 02 - 02:02 PM

JEEZUS GUEST!! At first I thought you were joking....then I started thinking back....and ya know...I seem to remember that Wayne Newton thing on Bonanza.....Hmmmmmm...now that WOULD be enough for Hop Sing to poison the whole family!

A little more thinking back and I remember hearing Hank Williams' "I Can't Help It If I'm Still In Love With You" right after a serious relationship break-up. Wow...the song's ultimate truth hit me like a ton of bricks....simplistic or not.

Maybe I can answer my own question by simply saying that "What's sentimental and what's sickening" depends on how yer feeling at that moment. Of Course if it's part of the folk repertoire, I tend to go a little easier with the value judgements, Ha Ha!

Cheers

Rick


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE SOLDIER'S SWEETHEART (Jimmie Rodgers)
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 22 Sep 02 - 03:17 PM

Just by chance today I clicked on this song on honking duck - said to be the first one Jimmie Rodgers wrote. I think it's as good an example as I can think of of a song that treads the line between sentiment and sentimentality, and never strays over it. Here is a link to Jimmie Rodgers singing it, via Honking Duck.

And here are the words and a story about it from another site, which is very well worth visiting. (I put them in here in case it goes down or something, not to save people the trouble of going there.)

MRS. CARRIE RODGERS: A pal of Jimmie's, Sammie Williams, told his sweetheart good-bye and went to France -- to be killed in action. So before the war was over, Jimmie found time to pick out words and air to his first composition, a sentimental song.... From the first his railroad buddies liked the song, and the young fellows in Meridian who were his boon companions liked it. With banjo, guitar, uke, they hung around the all-night places or strolled the streets playing and singing Jimmie's song along with 'Sweet Adeline' and other sentimental ballads. But it was not until some ten years later that the world heard -- and approved of it. From 'My Husband, Jimmie Rodgers,' reprinted in Dorothy Horstman, Sing Your Heart Out, Country Boy, New York, NY, 1976, p. 282

This song was recorded by Jimmie Rodgers at his first ever recording session for RCA Victor's talent scout Ralph Peer at 408 State Street, Bristol, TN, 4 Aug 1927 (released as Vi 20864). © 1927 Peer International Corporation Lyrics as reprinted in Dorothy Horstman, Sing Your Heart Out, Country Boy, New York, NY, 1976, p. 282-283

The Soldier's Sweetheart

Once I had a sweetheart,
A sweetheart brave and true.
His hair was dark and curly,
His loving eyes were blue.
He told me that he loved me,
And he often proved it so.
And he often came to see me,
When the ev'ning sun was low.

But fate took him away
To this awful German war,
And when he came to say goodbye,
My heart did overflow.
He says, "Goodbye, little darling,
To France I must go."

He takes the golden finger ring
and he placed it on my hand,
Said, "Remember me, little darling,
When I'm in no man's land.

He promised he would write to me,
That promise he's kept true.
And when I read this letter, friend,
I pray the war is through.

The second letter I got from him,
The war was just ahead.
The third one, wrote by his captain,
My darling dear was dead.

I'll keep all of his letters,
I'll keep his gold ring, too.
And I'll always live a single life
For the soldier who was so true.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Bill D
Date: 22 Sep 02 - 06:21 PM

a wonderful choice, McGrath....though it's written in the first person, it evokes a universal experience, rather than the "look what happened to ME" stuff that pervades many modern attempts to convey emotion and meaning.

Now I need to retire and think about exactly why that Bluegrass classic about the Rebel Soldier (Will My Soul Pass Thru the Southland?) offends me so much.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Mark Clark
Date: 23 Sep 02 - 03:31 PM

Bill, Maybe it would help to remember that “The Legend of the Rebel Soldier” is nothing but an Americanization of the venerable Irish song “Shall My Soul Pass Through Old Ireland” which in turn is a rewrite of “Bingen on the Rhine.”

Of course knowing that the song comes from an older tradition doesn't mean it isn't overly sentimental. It's interesting, though, to follow the development of such a sentimental theme.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 23 Sep 02 - 05:40 PM

Maybe the significant difference is that the Irish song was written at the time, within days of Terence McSweeney's death in a hunger strike; the American adaptation was written a hundred years after the Civil War, but written in period, so to speak.

Good songs can indeed be written long after the events they portray, but I think the best in that category will be coloured by what has happened since.They can be a way of making more sense for a later generation of what happened long ago, and what was happening at the time they were written, maybe. ("The Night they Drove old Dixie Down", for example, couldn't have been written back in the 1860s. It's as much about the 1960s.)


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Allan Dennehy
Date: 23 Sep 02 - 07:57 PM

I'm a sentimental old fool and proud of it! There are days when I can't sing the end of Galway to Graceland or Leaving My Nancy O without choking. That being said, there are plenty of songs out there that can make me lose my lunch. What was that WW2 (?) song about the deck of cards? Now that scores a big 10 on my pukeometer. And I'd still prefer someone who chokes on "Honey" than a person who never gets moved at all.


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Subject: RE: What's Sentimental and what's Sickening?
From: Mark Clark
Date: 25 Sep 02 - 04:30 PM

Anyone who enjoys sentimental songs might also enjoy one of my favorite threads: The Saddest Song of All and its extensions and relatives. Those threads will separate the hounds from the jackels—sentimentally speaking.

      - Mark


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