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GUEST,SteveG Harry Clifton again (16) Harry Clifton again 09 Nov 11


Billy Weekes recently sent me an article on Harry Clifton's life, by the late Dr Kathleen Barker. Reading it rekindled my interest in his life and work and I present one or two thoughts here for discussion.

One interesting anomally, perhaps even irony, is that in his own time he was a very Victorian artiste in that his audiences were very much middle class/respectable and his songs often reflect this, lacking any immorality unlike the songs of the Music Hall proper: And yet of all the artistes/writers of his era c1850-1872 more than any other artiste his songs lasted in oral tradition internationally well into the 20th century. Yes, other writers like Tommy Armstrong of Durham, and the Geordie, Cockney and Scots writers also wrote songs that lasted in tradition but for them it was more localised rather than international.

I here suggest a few reasons for this anomally.
Firstly although he was not of the Music Hall proper he became immensely popular and his sheet music mainly published by Hopwood and Crew sold well and widely. He also toured around Britain and spent long periods in Glasgow, Dublin and Sheffield performing songs set in all the places that he went to. his songs were also popularised (sometimes plagiarised) in America by other artistes. His songs went through a revival in the 1880s well after his death in 1872. he often set his lyrics to already popular tunes like Root's Tramp, Tramp. His great p;opularity in the cities meant much reproduction of his songs by the metropolitan broadside printers. it is probably this last fact that helped most to ensure the songs survived in oral tradition.

More anon.


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