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Do you need to *believe* what you sing?

Artful Codger 20 Sep 12 - 02:55 PM
GUEST,belief 20 Sep 12 - 01:42 PM
Musket 19 Sep 12 - 07:25 AM
CupOfTea 18 Sep 12 - 05:54 PM
Joe_F 18 Sep 12 - 01:28 PM
Dave Hanson 18 Sep 12 - 03:31 AM
Charley Noble 17 Sep 12 - 08:21 PM
Ebbie 17 Sep 12 - 06:21 PM
Gurney 17 Sep 12 - 05:42 PM
Larry The Radio Guy 17 Sep 12 - 12:55 PM
GUEST,matt milton 17 Sep 12 - 12:45 PM
Charmion 17 Sep 12 - 12:14 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 17 Sep 12 - 08:11 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 17 Sep 12 - 08:09 AM
GUEST,Lighter 16 Jun 11 - 02:52 PM
lefthanded guitar 16 Jun 11 - 01:34 PM
John P 08 Jun 11 - 12:38 PM
Joe Offer 07 Jun 11 - 07:57 PM
Tootler 07 Jun 11 - 05:46 PM
dick greenhaus 07 Jun 11 - 05:23 PM
JHW 07 Jun 11 - 05:17 PM
Murray MacLeod 07 Jun 11 - 04:35 PM
John P 07 Jun 11 - 04:16 PM
lefthanded guitar 07 Jun 11 - 01:14 PM
Little Hawk 07 Jun 11 - 01:06 PM
dick greenhaus 07 Jun 11 - 01:01 PM
Ebbie 07 Jun 11 - 03:43 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 06 Jun 11 - 04:56 AM
Frankham 21 Mar 03 - 09:32 AM
Sam L 20 Mar 03 - 07:01 PM
Beccy 20 Mar 03 - 10:22 AM
JulieF 19 Mar 03 - 12:05 PM
George Papavgeris 19 Mar 03 - 11:20 AM
Orac 18 Mar 03 - 11:01 AM
Nathan in Texas 18 Mar 03 - 10:13 AM
Sam L 18 Mar 03 - 09:29 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 17 Mar 03 - 07:37 PM
Sam L 17 Mar 03 - 06:02 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 17 Mar 03 - 06:15 AM
paulo 17 Mar 03 - 05:07 AM
Thomas the Rhymer 17 Mar 03 - 12:08 AM
toadfrog 16 Mar 03 - 11:34 PM
reggie miles 16 Mar 03 - 11:29 PM
Blues=Life 16 Mar 03 - 10:20 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 16 Mar 03 - 07:13 PM
Gareth 16 Mar 03 - 06:19 PM
Felipa 16 Mar 03 - 04:20 PM
Blues=Life 14 Mar 03 - 08:14 AM
Felipa 13 Mar 03 - 08:44 PM
Mark Ross 13 Mar 03 - 01:17 PM
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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 20 Sep 12 - 02:55 PM

But is that "belief" or is it simply an ability to understand others' viewpoints on a compassionate level, whether those views or feelings coincide with yours, conflict with them, or bear no relation? I think singing a song is more like watching television, where you can "identify" somehow with everyone. It requires no personal belief, but rather the "suspension of disbelief". Even a believer can sing a song woodenly; it takes an actor to sing a song convincingly.

I make song choices more on the basis of music than lyrics, since, if the words are good enough, there's always some emotional meat to latch onto, even in silly songs.


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: GUEST,belief
Date: 20 Sep 12 - 01:42 PM

Obviously you don't HAVE to, but it certainly makes one a better singer if you do,it helps to feel the emotions of a song, and in turn helps to find little differences each time you sing it, there's nothing more boring than a mechanical rendition of any song


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Musket
Date: 19 Sep 12 - 07:25 AM

Do I believe what I sing? Or indeed should I?

Problem is, over the years you have to learn new songs if that is the case. As a young 'un, I was out to blame everyone for everything and sang the usual left wing clap trap that got good applause, and I possibly believed it, as opposed to wanting the applause.

Then my balls slowly dropped.

Music is an abstract. It can be a view delivery system, but when people go out to be entertained, it is chiefly an abstract.

Bugger me, I don't believe half of what I write on this website, so be blessed if I believe some of the waffle I sing, even if I wrote it!

Troubadour and philosopher are not expressions of the same word...


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: CupOfTea
Date: 18 Sep 12 - 05:54 PM

I like the overall concept that you have to *believe* in the SONG when you sing.

At times this means there are songs I don't think I can be *believable* when I sing and even if I love 'em, I don't try to add them to my repertoire. Songs that are strongly from a man's point of view with the flavor of first-person narrative are the ones that are the most difficult. Yet, I sing "Lass of Glenshee" or "Kisses Sweeter than Wine" that are clearly songs about a man's attitude towards a beloved wife. Perhaps I can sing those 'cause I was a beloved wife once? I dunno... but what the songs express ... they *feel believable* to me.

Songs dealing with faith are a very interesting area, and get right down to the key of belief, and makes many of us find a place where we draw the line. Sometimes that's with simple folkprocessing "Goddam" into "goldurn, " or the like.

If a song details a theology (or specific lack thereof) I'm not comfortable with, I won't sing it. Fer instance, David Tamulevich's "Ours is a Simple Faith" is a lovely singable, joyous, song. I love David and lots of his songs. This one, I can't sing "there is no heaven or hell" because I seriously believe the opposite. I've also found there is a line to what I'll sing in the bawdy tradition, (which I LOVE,) that I just can't cross - I can imply alot, but out and out raunchy and pottymouthed? I back away from that. In that case, it's what I'd want people who hear me sing to *believe* about me, and who I am.

Joanne in Cleveland


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Joe_F
Date: 18 Sep 12 - 01:28 PM

I have often sung

My name it is Sam Hall,
And I hate you one and all --
You're a bunch of muckers all,

even tho my name is *not* Sam Hall.


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 18 Sep 12 - 03:31 AM

Martin Carthy said Pavarotti has a god given voice and Bob Dylan doesn't but I can believe what Dylan sings.

Mike Harding asked Dick Gaughan how he chose his songs, Dick said, well first of all it's got to be something I believe .

Dave H


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 17 Sep 12 - 08:21 PM

"I was just listening to a recording of Pete Seeger singing the Leadbelly song Ain't It a Shame (to beat your wife on Sunday). It's certainly an interesting song, but I can't bring myself to sing it. I wonder how Pete did."

The New Lost City Ramblers also covered that song. I certainly enjoyed singing it in college but I can't imagine leading that song in concert now except with prefacing remarks about the kind of insensitive songs many of us sang when we were young.

If you sing a song you don't believe in, don't blame it on the song.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Ebbie
Date: 17 Sep 12 - 06:21 PM

I figure that if I'm going to sing a gospel song I will believe at that momentin what the writer is saying. And if I sing a love song, for that moment I am in love. If it is a lament or a dirge, for that moment I am grief stricken.

Tom Russell's 'Guadalupe' (Is it Tom Russell?) can reduce me to tears when it comes to the recurring line: 'I'm the least of all your pilgrims here; I am the most in need of hope'. I have no idea of his religiosity or spirituality but it is a tremendous song.

I have often said that I like to sing a certain gospel song and added: although I don't necessarily agree with the theology. I have even written a couple of gospel songs, again from the point of view of the believer.


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Gurney
Date: 17 Sep 12 - 05:42 PM

Personally, I have to feel some connection with the words or thrust of the song, or I wouldn't have learned it. It isn't the same as believing.


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Larry The Radio Guy
Date: 17 Sep 12 - 12:55 PM

For any song I add to my repertoire there has to be a reason.....I mean there are so many songs out there! I agree with matt milton...there has to be something in the songs lyrics that have some meaning for me.   

I also agree that we, as singers, are also 'actors'.   But to put on a good performance I have to put myself into the script and find something about it I can believe.


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 17 Sep 12 - 12:45 PM

I don't think you have to literally "condone the sentiments" of a song, or adhere to a specific faction or cause related to in the music.

But there has to be SOMETHING in the song's lyrics that get you. Doesn't have to be a message or a moral. Could just be some detail, some turn of phrase, some unfathomable energy. If that's not there, why do you want to sing it?

There are two or three songs I learned ages ago simply because I liked the tune. And there's nothing wrong with that. But I never play them any more; I often forget that I know them. And that's cos ultimately, there's little in the lyrics that does anything for me.


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Charmion
Date: 17 Sep 12 - 12:14 PM

I like to sing "Lilliburlero" (especially when doing housework), although I do not believe in hanging Catholics -- or indeed anyone else. I would not sing "Lilliburlero" in Northern Ireland, however, or anywhere near a branch of the Loyal Orange Lodge because my performance might give certain people reason to believe that I carry any part of its political baggage.

Political songs present much greater performance difficulties than songs with religious content do. Political songs are often angry, or designed to provoke anger or scorn in others, whereas religious-oriented songs -- at least in the Christian and Jewish traditions -- are generally intended to promote meditation, express joy or offer comfort. I have never heard a Christian or Jewish religious song that I could not sing with conviction, even if I do not personally believe specific statements in the lyrics, because the overall message is something I can support.

I am not commenting here on songs from other faiths because I don't know any.


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 17 Sep 12 - 08:11 AM

*other*


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 17 Sep 12 - 08:09 AM

To add my two cents, I think you do, to a certain extent, but not necessarily in real life. One of my favourite songs is "Babalu", a prayer to the orisha Babalu Aye, who is in charge of death and disease. I'm hardly religious as such, yet when I sing that song, I act like I'm religious.
It's from the perspective of someone praying that their lover won't die, and that basic sentiment is common to anyone, even if you're not religious. When someone you love is in danger of dying, you hope and pray that they won't.


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 16 Jun 11 - 02:52 PM

Why would you sing something you didn't "believe"?

Unless they were paying you a lot of money, of course. Then you'd just be a "professional."


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: lefthanded guitar
Date: 16 Jun 11 - 01:34 PM

To JHW - you put it better than I could..when you believe the singer IS the person in the song, that's the music I want to hear.

And sing.


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: John P
Date: 08 Jun 11 - 12:38 PM

Yes, there are some songs that are so despicable in their message that no amount of historical relevance or interesting turn of phrase would induce me to actually sing it. We used to introduce a song that had moderately offensive lyrics by saying, "the opinions expressed in the lyrics of this song do not reflect the views of the band, their management, or sponsors." It was usually good for a laugh and set up the audience for hearing the song lightly. I wouldn't want to say that very often, though.


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 07 Jun 11 - 07:57 PM

I was just listening to a recording of Pete Seeger singing the Leadbelly song Ain't It a Shame (to beat your wife on Sunday). It's certainly an interesting song, but I can't bring myself to sing it. I wonder how Pete did.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Tootler
Date: 07 Jun 11 - 05:46 PM

I think "believing" is a bit strong but I think that having some sympathy with the sentiments expressed or the characters in the story helps.


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 07 Jun 11 - 05:23 PM

Murray- I sometimes suffer from fat-finger syndrome.
If you want a prime example of fine gospel singing by someone who never believed in the words, listen to Helen Schneyer's recordings. Her comment? "Whatever you believe, sing Baptist!"


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: JHW
Date: 07 Jun 11 - 05:17 PM

Some notes on my website say
'The multiplicity of variants of traditional songs fascinates me but I sing anything whose content feels right. The song must be worth the effort, worth the singing for its story or message or emotion. I sing some well known songs but only if something there has grabbed me.'
I have to 'believe' in the song even though I may know it is fiction; akin to watching a film or reading a novel. When I sing a ballad I'm watching it happen because if I can't picture it how can my audience. I have to believe IN it.
If you're lucky enough to hear Alan Prior sing 'The Star of the Bar' you will believe HE was the man in the song he is singing. HE drank his way down Rose Street in Edinburgh! Listen to Jon Boden sing 'Courting Too Slow'. I believe HE was the man who lost his love to the sailor.
By no means can every singer put across a tale like this but for starters you must believe it yourself.


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 07 Jun 11 - 04:35 PM

(QUOTE)
Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: dick greenhaus - PM
Date: 07 Jun 11 - 01:01 PM


you have to believe in the mu8sic, not necessarily in the message
(UNQUOTE)

I have to believe that there is a huge meaning in the mu8sic, but a meaning which is not yet apparent to me ...


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: John P
Date: 07 Jun 11 - 04:16 PM

Hmm, Needing to believe what you sing, outside of the necessary emotional involvement with the song while you're singing it, would mean that a huge amount of traditional folk music would be off limits. I, for one, prefer singers to not share too much of their personal beliefs in their songs. It's sort of like reading a novel where nothing happens that didn't actually happen to the author. Give me a good story-teller any day -- I'm smart enough to know fiction when I see it.


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: lefthanded guitar
Date: 07 Jun 11 - 01:14 PM

This may be an odd time to quote Harrison Ford, but I once heard him lecture on the process of creativity (regarding acting) and he had an insight I never forgot. He said that basically if you want your acting (aka art) to be successful, you have to be true- your art must stem from something real and genuine. You can't 'fake' it or it will be fake.

I agree with that outlook, and for me, I can only sing a song I believe in and empathize with for it to work. If I am singing gospel that stems from a fundementalist viewpoint (which is far from my own) I may tweak a verse or word, but I truly believe in the uplifting and/or spiritual aspect of the song. It moves me. Or why else would I sing it?
And I have heard atheists who say they are moved by spiritual music, because there is something so fundamentally touching jmho in talking about the creative spirit of the universe, however you view it.

For me it comes down to - is music a true expression of the heart, or is it just decorative wallpaper. In truth, there's no right or wrong, no grade on it; but I prefer music from the heart.


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 07 Jun 11 - 01:06 PM

You don't have to believe what you sing. But it helps.


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 07 Jun 11 - 01:01 PM

you have to believe in the mu8sic, not necessarily in the message.


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Ebbie
Date: 07 Jun 11 - 03:43 AM

Of course you don't need to. No more than you have to be in love when you sing a love song, or a widow when you sing a song of loss or homesick when you sing of home.

But in the moments of that song you do. As someone above mentioned, you respond to the sentiment that the writer felt and to the environment you find yourself in and the empathy that fills you.


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 06 Jun 11 - 04:56 AM

One of my favourite songs is "Cat O'Nine Tails", which advocates the return ofthe cat o'nine tails as a punishment for juvenile delinquents. I sing it because it is catchy and the sentiments reveal a lot about the feelings of the older generation towards British Teddy Boys. "The judge and juries, can settle this thing easily. I say that one thing to cool down this crime is to lash them with the old-time cat o'nine".
I certainly (as a 17-year-old) don't share the "spare the rod, spoil the child" sentiments, but I would have no problem singing it as a demonstration of adult attitudes to juvenile delinquency.


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Frankham
Date: 21 Mar 03 - 09:32 AM

To me, context is everything. Why are you singing it?
We tell our audience that history presents the facts of what is was like to live in that time. Songs present the feelings of the people of that time.

Do I believe the words of "The Bonny Blue Flag"? No. But we sing it because it tells us something about the nature of the American Civil War. Same goes for "Unreconstructed Rebel".

There are a lot of songs that do not reflect my personal philosophy of life that we call folk songs. Songs of violence, murder, protest, anger, revenge, misfortune, sadness, and happiness and funny songs all that reflect the range of the emotions of people.
These are important not because you believe wholeheartedly in the message or it reflects your "deep philosophy, religion or convictions about life" but that it is as Shakespeare says, "A mirror to reality".
That's what good theater is about. The actor doesn't believe he is the character he portrays but he gives us an insight into another's world. This is good because we begin to suspend our judegements of people and allow their views to be heard. We can comment on them.

When we sing "Flag of blue, white and red, a man's got a right to earn his bread", we present it as an anti-union song and the way certain workers felt about being forced into taking sides. I personally am pro-union for the most part, particularly when it comes to the rank and file, not the execs. But in order to understand what it means to be pro-union, I believe that it's necessary to show the other side and let it be as convincing as it wants to be.

This is the case for me when it involves religious songs as well. How can you understand a play-party song unless you understand the music of a hard-shell Baptist?

A great actor is showing us humanity. It's the "mirror of truth" to reality.

This is an important thread because it means that people who listen to these songs can learn to appreciate them.

Sorry to be so long-winded but I think it's important to explain why we sing folk music.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Sam L
Date: 20 Mar 03 - 07:01 PM

The acting comparison is interesting to me because it's something I need to improve on. How to set off in the right tempo, have the feel, the tone, conjure it up and go in loaded. I can get thrown by the environment and what's going on. You might want to play to that, to some extent, adjust to the mood of the room, the occasion, but I'm thinking that firmly projecting the tone is primary, adjusting it is a greater grace. I'm a pretty poor actor, my wife is quite gifted.


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Beccy
Date: 20 Mar 03 - 10:22 AM

I think that in order to be convincing, you need to believe it at least while you're singing it... It's like acting. I've done it many, many times! For that short period of time, convince yourself that you believe it. I'm sure a bunch of you have done a theatre piece where you had to either pretend you loved someone for whom you have no romantic feelings or convicingly kiss someone who repulsed you.

Beccy


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: JulieF
Date: 19 Mar 03 - 12:05 PM

I would choose not to sing a religous song when it is my choice. However, I will join in if they are being sung to contribute to the atmosphere. In a similar way if I go to church for an wedding, funeral etc I will sing to the best of my ability as I am singing for whoever it means a lot to.

Similarly I would not sing certain Irish (or even some Scottish) songs round the English folk clubs because although I way enjoy them they would not be appropiate.   

I find it hard to relate to singing as acting. Probably because I don't see myself that way yet. I'm only just getting used to people asking me to sing! However, although some songs mean a lot lyrically to me it is the tune that matters most.   I don't now if this is atypical of most singers or not.

Julie


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 19 Mar 03 - 11:20 AM

a) Most people don't need to believe in the background to a song, its "input" as it were; but they have to sympathise, at least while they are singing it, with the message it projects - its "output". So one may well sing a religious song without being religious.

b) Or you may be able to sing a song because you sympathise with some of its message; this enables anti-hunt supporters to sing hunting songs, for example, if they can find some love of the countryside (say) in them.

c) Or you can sing a song in whose message you totally disbelieve, by suspending your belief temporarily, because you like (for example) the tune but not the lyrics.

So, any song, hymn, or national anthem becomes "fair game" - it just depends on the amount of integrity the singer has or wishes to portray. I would defend their right to sing it, in any case - but not necessarily in public, because...

...how about the listener? Some are indeed offended to hear their favourite hymn set to (in their view) inappropriate arrangements; or to hear their national anthem sung inappropriately by Roseanne. The singer cannot ignore such offense he/she gives. Because at the end of the day singing is a communication medium. If the sender and receiver do not agree on the style and content of the communication, then it shouldn't, cannot, happen.


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Orac
Date: 18 Mar 03 - 11:01 AM

Of course you don't.. just be convincing. Otherwise we are suggesting that anyone who plays Hitler or Charles Manson in a film has to believe in the things they did which is clearly rubbish. You may well enjoy singing a great song that extols the joys of cocaine ... or hunting without agreeing with its sentiments. Over the hills and far away is a great song ... but its a recruiting song for the army.. you can be a pacifist and still enjoy singing the song.... this wouldn't make you a "hypocrite and a liar" as was unkindly suggested above.


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Nathan in Texas
Date: 18 Mar 03 - 10:13 AM

One point that hasn't been made yet. Folkies are generally people who enjoy and appreciate other cultures. We listen to and applaud music that is sometimes alien and even annoying to those around us (ask my children!). We look upon other cultures as having the right to do things their way, even if their customs include things we personally find objectionable or even repugnant.

How about having the same view of the fundamentalist site linked above. It's a chance to look into the mind of, understand (okay, maybe not understand!), and get a taste of what people outside of our own little circle of friends think and believe in fervently. Would the negative comments and name-calling done above have been there if the site had been a non-christian religion? Sometimes our personal prejudices are too close to us for us to recognize

Nathan

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." --Jesus (John 13:31)


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Sam L
Date: 18 Mar 03 - 09:29 AM

Well, I wouldn't even say I don't like songs with a message, it's just not usually what I like about them. I like some songs in languages I don't know, and though I don't have any idea what they mean, I can't help feeling I know what they SHOULD mean. I respect G.B. Shaw's idea that beauty is the bi-product of other activity, it makes more sense to me than to suppose something is good because it's true, or because I agree with it. And often, the more I share the sentiment, the more critical I am, especially with movies, which so often seem cynical, like commercials.

(I'm afraid when I said "maybe sometimes" artists are postal workers I was merely thinking of the painter Rousseau, who was a mailman, and the fact that I work at UPS.)


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 17 Mar 03 - 07:37 PM

You're absolutely right, Fred... you don't care much for songs with a message. When you said "artists aren't postal workers," i guess it ook that to mean that they shouldn't be delivering messages, but you also qualified it by saying, well, maybe sometimes." I think any singer worth his salt (or her) needs to respect their audience. There are songs (gospel and otherwise) that I wouldn't do in certain settings. But, at the same time as you said, sometimes it's important to express a view that might not be shared by your audience, because you never know what the lasting effect of music is.
But, I don't believe music normally converts anyone to a different view, whether it's politics, religion or environmental issues. and too often, it only turns people more against whatever message you're trying to deliver.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Sam L
Date: 17 Mar 03 - 06:02 PM

Jerry, I don't remember who said songs shouldn't carry messages. I just said that it wasn't what interested me. There's no need to get rid of any songs in that. You can appreciate a piece without taking it's message to heart, but, you may never really know how much the message it carries might have somehow inspired the very qualities you like in it.


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 17 Mar 03 - 06:15 AM

You said it right, Reggie. I don't agree with people who say that music shouldn't be used to carry a message. If that was the case, you'd get rid of all gospel, and all protest songs. If people have a problem with gospel carrying a message, I wonder how many of those same people have gone to peace rallies, or see music as a way to work to preserve our environment. It's more a matter of being sensitive to your audience, and adjusting your music to meet their tastes. But then, if you're not sensitive to who your audience is, you won't find youself up in front of one very often.

My gospel group is the Gospel Messengers, not the Gospel Actors.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: paulo
Date: 17 Mar 03 - 05:07 AM

Gareth,
No I don't came from the valleys - but I do come from the North East (of England that is).
But as it happens I now live in South Wales!

Paulo


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Thomas the Rhymer
Date: 17 Mar 03 - 12:08 AM

Well said as usual reggie!

I'm not generally into changing lyrics... unless I wrote what I'm singing... but sometimes I'll get it wrong when I learn it, and then it's a struggle to 'make it right'... The problem I have with changing lyrics is basic... the song speaks for itself, and when we sing it, we are presenting someone else's experience and message. If you really need to change the lyrics in order to sing it, why not just write a new song that more explicitly describes your 'take' on things?

which brings me to the 'point'...

I can't 'be' someone else, but I can present a song that recreates a possible scenario, for the learning experience... The songs many of us sing about intolerable situations are, for me, moral scenarios and lessons that enlighten us about the 'inevitable' consequences brought about by unseemly behavior... curb those righteous feeling passions, you animal!

It is not condonement that I feel, but the powerful warning that empathy and disgust provide. You be the judge... you decide... each and every one... I strongly believe that these songs can stimulate a deeper questioning with which to cleanse our moral fabric, and come to terms with our own individual views. Catharsis. Each and every one of us can do it! ttr


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: toadfrog
Date: 16 Mar 03 - 11:34 PM

Gareth: I couldn't agree more. That's a song with spirit, all right. And on this side we have:

I was born in old Kentucky
In Kentucky I was bred
But since I joined the NMU
They call me Rooshian Red!

Come join the CIO, boys,
Come join the CIO!


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: reggie miles
Date: 16 Mar 03 - 11:29 PM

There are as many reasons to sing songs out there as there are songs that have been written. Songs need to be sung or they become resigned to obscurity. It's our lot in life to sing them, we who choose to research, find, write and/or play them. If a song isn't sung who will hear it's message, whatever that message may be. The message can be read but then is it a song? It may be poetry. What if no one recites the poem? We give an essential spirit, a piece of ourselves that becomes part of the telling or singing, to that which we sing or recite. Without that spirit the words can still be read but some of the meaning can be lost or misinterpreted. Do we need to exactly mimic an authors intent or belief in our interpretation of any given work? Well I think that depends upon the work in question and who is doing the interpretation. The truth is there are no hard and fast rules to any of this. All an author can do is give birth to his work. No one can or should try to control it beyond that. Trying to do so will only invite disappointment. Any and all messages can become warped or twisted for good or bad by interpretation. Case in point, our religious institutions and their dogmas.

I say sing what you want and laugh at life's attempts to get the best of you.


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Blues=Life
Date: 16 Mar 03 - 10:20 PM

Jerry, I agree with you. And I think Keb Mo is saying exactly that: I've got the blues because I was framed. However, I'm not sure that the protagonist of Folsom Prison Blues has no remorse. I think that he killed in cold blood, and now realizes a) that he deserves what he got and b) that he wishes he hadn't done it. This song, as written, has so much depth, and I wish Keb Mo had sung it as written. And yes, I can believe it and sing it, even though I haven't experienced it.


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 16 Mar 03 - 07:13 PM

I sing the line, "I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die," and don't confuse the song with my own personal beliefs. I think it makes the song more believable. The alternative sounds like the comic Rodney Dangerfield should sing it and say "I wuz framed!" If people can sing about Christ's crucifixion and not believe, why can't you sing about a killer who has no remorse?

I'm not promoting curiosity killing..

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Gareth
Date: 16 Mar 03 - 06:19 PM

WeeeeeL, I've come to this thread a little late, But I've heard "The Blackleg Miner" Sung with gusto and feeling in Ystrad Mynach in 1983, and the "lads" wern't joking. (Paulo - are you from the valleys ?)

And I've heard Boyce's "In our Little Valley" sung with tears rolling down cheeks of hardened colliers, sorry ex-colliers, but no you don't have to believe it but it helps.

For my own part (thanks to a County Cork Granny) I can sing the "Ploughboy" or "Kevin Barry", with the same verve as the "Sash" and neither represent my belief.

It may help to beieve it, but IMHO it is more important to understand the origin and the motivation.

Gareth

Now, don't go near the Seghill mine.
Across the way they stretch a line,
To catch the throat an' break the spine
O' the dorty backleg miners.


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Felipa
Date: 16 Mar 03 - 04:20 PM

any more thoughts on my final questions?


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Blues=Life
Date: 14 Mar 03 - 08:14 AM

You know, this has turned into a very interesting thread. Felipa raises an interesting point, about changing a song so that you CAN sing it. I sing Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" as a blues song, not as country, and marvel at what may be one of the most evil lines ever written:

"When I was just a baby, my Momma told me, "Son,
Always be a good boy, don't ever play with guns."
But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die."

I recently saw a special on a compilation album of Cash's work, where other artists were asked to interpret his songs. Keb Mo was asked to sing Folsom Prison as a blues song, so of course, I was fascinated to see how he did it. (Very well, of course!*g*) But his response was, "I can't sing it like that." The producer (who I believe was Ricky Scaggs) told Keb, "Johnny won't mind, make it your own." So he sang:

"When I was just a baby, my Momma told me, "Son,
Always be a good boy, don't ever play with guns."
They say I shot a man in Reno, but you know that was a lie."

Was this a right thing to do? Well, his version is well worth listening to. (Keb Mo is always worth listening to!) But I still sing the song as written. Although I have never shot a man in Reno, Lord knows I've been tempted a time or two. I CAN put myself into the shoes of a man who feels:

"I know I had it coming, I know I can't be free"

and therefore I can "become" that person while singing the song.
A great blues song, one of my favorites, and one that always gets a strong response from listeners.

Blues


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Subject: almost believing - essay
From: Felipa
Date: 13 Mar 03 - 08:44 PM

Intro
Like many respondents on this thread, I do sing songs that don't represent my own beliefs. There are many variables and personal decisions over which situations I sing particular songs in, whether I sing them myself or just join in when other people sing, omitting or changing particular lines or verses, etc. Although I would sing a few songs tongue in cheek, usually I try to get an understanding of and feel for the song.

Changing songs
At times I change a song to make it more suitable to me personally, but often I see myself as the carrier of a song which tells someone else's tale. If it's an old historical song I will probably not make changes to suit my own beliefs and emotions. I heard Dick Gaughan say he gave up singing the old ballads which were all about royalty. I have no problem about songs about Kings and Queens and the like; in fact they are much brought down to earth in the soap-opera like ballads about their affairs! But I am uncomfortable with the analogies to monarchy in hymns, God is King and Lord!

I think the question of religious songs has been dealt with well enough. Another aspect which I won't discuss now, but would like to suggest to the rest of you, is any discomforts with gender-linked attitudes in songs (esp, but not only, sexist/chauvinist attitudes). Meanwhile, I'm going to discuss some points about political songs - particularly when you partially believe in the song.

violence in political songs
The Blackleg Miner has been mentioned a few times. There are songs like this which express more violence and hatred than I would like, but I can understand the hatred; in this case yes I would sympathise with the strikers even if I'm not comfortable making snide hints about the scab meeting his death. I could sing it.

I'm more comfortable with the somewhat ambivalent bystander attitude to the mob in "Italian Red Wine", a W Guthrie song about Sacco & Vanzetti. On the night of their execution, "I thought that the crowd would tear down the town, and I was hoping they'd do it just to change things around." I feel strongly (not ambivalent) about capital punishment and miscarriages of justice, so that's a song I can sing with conviction (pun wasn't intended).

Ireland
I live in Northern Ireland, where historical songs about past injustices can be very close to the bone because we still have political and sectarian violence. But while my heroes would be more in the Land League than in the Fenians, the famine song 'Skibereen' seems incomplete without the last verse in which the son of the emigrant tells his father that "the day will come when ... I'll be the man to lead the van beside a flag of green, and loud and high we'll raise the cry, revenge for Skibereen".

There's a somewhat similar song which I can feel a lot of empathy for: 'Come all You Bold United Men'. In Skibereen I think I could probably rewrite the last verse and put the emphasis on justice rather than vengeance. '... United Men' doesn't lend itself to such re-working. The narrator sees the family home seized and burnt by the bailiff, parents die in famine, is sent to the workhouse from which his only escape is to join the British Army and shoot Sepoys.

I told these sins to Father Ned, the murder the robbery
They are not sins for you he said, you only did your duty
So when my duty here was done, the journey home I made,
To find my friends were all dead and gone, so I joined the Pope's Brigade


Finally, the soldier returns to Ireland and joins the Fenians and feels for once he is fighting a just cause, but the Fenians were excommunicated. The song ends

Why should we be by Pope's decree, scorned, outlawed and banned
Because we swore one day to free our trampled native land.


I think the song helps us understand a group resorting to violence. I often sing it to myself, but I still wouldn't feel comfortable about performing at the local folk club"!

Dylan's 'Masters of War" did go down well at the folk club. I've been singing it a lot. I want it to be personal, so I sing 'you might say I'm naive' (I'm not all that young now). To be contemporary I sing 'will oil buy you forgiveness'. The last verse CAN be omitted but I feel angry enough to sing it, softened just a wee bit
'One day you'll die, I hope that day's soon ... stand by your grave til I'm sure war is dead.'[the original can be found in Mudcat threads]

Beyond belief
Nobody has mentioned believing in a song, but not feeling you deserve to sing it

- singing religious songs if you believe but don't feel you observe your faith well enough

- singing 'If you miss me at the back of the bus' if you've lived a life of comfort

The song I feel like that about is Holly Near's "It could have been me, but instead it was you..."
I do my wee bit of demonstrating and campaigning, but mostly I observe, learn and sing. I like to sing the song, yet I don't feel I'm either radical enough or activist enough to sing it.

Do you ever think/feel like that about songs?

Is the answer that you sing the songs in order to inspire yourself (and others) or that you shouldn't sing campaigning songs if you aren't fully committed to them?


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Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
From: Mark Ross
Date: 13 Mar 03 - 01:17 PM

I believe it was Dave Van Ronk who said, "I CAN TELL A LIE BUT I CAN'T SING ONE!'

Amen to that

Mark Ross


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