Mudcat Café message #1589257 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #77564   Message #1589257
Posted By: Barry Finn
23-Oct-05 - 06:50 PM
Thread Name: Contemporary song in folk music
Subject: RE: Contemporary song in folk music
What a refreshing thread, thanks

I've always loved some of the songs of Laura Nyro & considered her to be an inner city folk singer & songwriter. Being born & raised in an inner city myself she sang directly to & of my environment. To many, by any description, she probably wouldn't be considered a folk singer (when was the last time you heard any of her songs being sung at any form of folk venue, outside of NYC) but she is to we. She had her own style, didn't try to conform herself, sang & wrote meaningful songs of her times & her environment & I watched as she got herself booed off the stage at a 60's Newport Fest, so there you go. Then you're got some one like Martin Graebe who's all but unknown (as far as I know, anyway) outside of Britain who wrote "Jack In The Green", taken by many (including myself) to be a traditional song & is IMHO headed to drawer marked Traditional Songs. A few reasons 1) his name, sorrowfully, is becoming forgotten as the writer (see Sharp on this issue) 2) it's spawned a few different versions since it was first collected from it's (known) writer (see Child, Bronson & again Sharp) 3) it's a song that's BY THE FOLK (maybe only 1 folk, but isn't he of THE FOLK?), FOR THE FOLK & OF THE FOLK (see agricultural songs in the collector's files). Then there's Ewan MacColl/Peggy Seeger, A.L. Loyd & Pete Seeger (among others) all collectors of traditional songs & writers of contemporary folk songs whose had a song or 2 mistaken as traditional music & MacColl accordingly to himself collected a song of his own writing. My thought is that folk music is so vast in it's definitions in to today's folk world that to pin it down is futile & would think of it in terms as a universal & at the same time a communal entity. Maybe a combination spirit & mind maybe guided by a feeling if you will. I'm not trying to put a label on something that (IMHO) can no longer be labeled except for commercial purposes. Today someone could be considered a trash collector or an environmental engineer or a sanitary worker or some else that would cover the distance in between. Here in the US the last of the traditions that spawned traditional music died off in the 1960's. The prison work songs, the songs from the Menhaden Fishing, the West Indian whaling songs & the Georgia Sea Islands songs (surprisingly all from the black tradition, gives reason to ponder, eh?) which are purposefully being kept alive rather than continuously living for the sake of necessity' (at this point I'd to thank A Lomax for his collections in some of these areas). So I guess it boils down to is what one or all would consider a folk song? What makes a contemporary song a folk song as opposed to say Nancy Griffths songs which maybe falls under an umbrella of C&W, Pop/Folk/Rock or just under some label like just singer songwriter? I'd tend to follow history as the judge on what enters the traditional repertoire. With folk it's likely that there will be only opinions. Mine of which would be tend to go heavily with trying to keep a finger on the pulse of both the past & the present folk community's spirit & on their universal DNA code & to try to stay in tune with that same spirit that has guided us from the birth of folk music to the present & if acknowledging that we may find the same benefits that will continue to keep contemporary & traditional folk music alive into the future. A bit more than my 2 cents worth's but surly enough already from me.