Mudcat Café Message Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafeawe



User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Karen Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues (285* d) RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues 13 Nov 17


Hello Everbody.

Brian Peters states that there is an Irish version from County Clare which mentions St James, as if this if proof that the words St James had origins this side (ie the European side) of the Atlantic. If this is the case, it would be nice to have a reference and date, as anything post the Armstrong may well have been influenced by it. It may be like the story of the folklorists who went to Africa and found a chap playing blues and said This proves the blues came from Africa but it turned out the chap was a big John Lee Hooker fan and had been learning his stuff.

re Ironhead, this post dates the Armstrong and is likely to have been influenced by a song that was so famous. It does perhaps show how linked the Cowboy's lament and St James were in people's minds even if they were not folklorist 'experts'! That is my view.

Richard Mellish guesses that the search the whole world over may have crept in from another song. I believe Harwood has tracked the song down and mentions it in his book: I think it was in a Harvard songbook early 20th century. Oh, this is discussed higher up in this thread.

Lighter asked about Lodewick. The Folkways liner notes are mentioned above. These have a mini bibliography and a 1955 article by Kenneth Lodewick is one of the references. You can obtain this free of charge online if you register for JSTOR. I have a couple of points about this article:

1) Lodewick has misread or misremembered one of his sources, and states that the fragment My Jewel My Joy was collected in Dublin. The source clearly says Cork. Goldstein reproduces this error in his liner notes, which as this thread demonstrates have been actively used as if a reliable source all over the place.

2) Lodewick states, with no reference, reasoning etc that the name St James refers to a hospital in London, England. This appears to be where Goldstein got the idea, and again, as we have seen, Goldstein's ideas are taken as gospel. I understand Goldstein became a teacher of folklore, and I have to say he appears to have had skill in *creating* it!

3) Because Lodewick uses 'The Unfortunate Rake' as a generic title for variants regardless of their original titles or words, he states that the Unfortunate Rake was known in Dublin (but he should have said Cork). However, the article is clear that he is referring to the fragment collected in Cork and named My Jewel My Joy. Like the Such Broadside, this has nothing about a hospital. My own view is that we cannot be certain that this is a variant; there is only the last verse to go on, and the whole tone of it is different.

4) Lodewick makes statements about British broadsheets, while making it clear that he has not seen any.

5) Lodewick is relatively bad at providing evidence for his assertions, so some of what he says is difficult to check. The point of references in an academic article is to allow readers to check your information, but I don't think this journal was one that followed this approach. Some of his sources are song collections which are not thought to be authoritative sources of information about originals. People often edited the songs they published in collections.

One of Lodewick's sources (Belden) is dated 1940, so it is a long time after the Armstrong version . One would need to check with the original to find what was collected when I guess, but I have not a copy and don't feel inclined to buy one just now. Interested to know if anybody else has seen one.

I have found an online bibliography which includes comment on the 'reliability' of such collections. Others may find this helpful.

http://www.csufresno.edu/folklore/BalladSearch.html


Thank you for reading.


Post to this Thread -

Back to the Main Forum Page

By clicking on the User Name, you will requery the forum for that user. You will see everything that he or she has posted with that Mudcat name.

By clicking on the Thread Name, you will be sent to the Forum on that thread as if you selected it from the main Mudcat Forum page.
   * Click on the linked number with * to view the thread split into pages (click "d" for chronologically descending).

By clicking on the Subject, you will also go to the thread as if you selected it from the original Forum page, but also go directly to that particular message.

By clicking on the Date (Posted), you will dig out every message posted that day.

Try it all, you will see.