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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Karen Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues (286* d) RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues 15 Nov 17

Hello Brian

I do have a theory, of sorts, but it is a theory about how a story about its origins has been built up to the extent that it is widely regarded as fact.

The story is that the song is a descendant of an English, or in some versions of the tale, Irish, or Anglo Irish, song called precisely 'The Unfortunate Rake.' Mostly, the story claims that this was a 19th century broadsheet. The main source of this story appears to be liner notes to a Folkways LP compiled by Kenneth Goldstein, which I find cited as an authority time and time again.

At the risk of repeating myself, shall we say, even more often, I have been looking for 'evidence' to support this story. But not finding any so far.

You would imagine, well I can't speak for others, but I imagined that by following back the references cited on those notes, one would arrive at the eviden?e. Perhaps you could try it and see if you get any more success. What I found was where some mistaken information on those liner notes came from.

In particular, it would be interesting to know if anybody has found an early, by which I mean actually dating from the nineteenth century version of the song - not a tune - a song which at that time had the actual title 'The Unfortunate Rake'.

Thank you for reading :)

PS I foresee a discussion about what constitutes 'evidence', having often wondered while reading 'folklore' magazines what they taught about this at Harvard, where Philips and Mackenzie learned it.

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